Thursday, 2 December 2010

Persuasion, by Jane Austen

Persuasion must be my favourite novel by Jane Austen. It was her last novel and was completed in 1816.

The books protagonist is Anne Elliot. Seven years before the events in the book Anne fell in love with the naval officer Frederick Wentworth. He is an intelligent young man and is in love with her as well. They plan on marrying, but her father and sister aren't happy about her choice in men. He is not of high enough rank to be a satisfiable match. Her aunt, Lady Russel, who has been like a mother to her since her real mother died, convinces her to break of the engagement. Wentworth doesn't know she has  been persuaded to leave him and has always loved him.

Now she is 27 and still not married, keeping Lady Russel company. Her father's spedning habits have led to their mansion, Kellynch, having to be leased. It is leased to Captain Croft. She is invited to stay with them and, to her surprise and terror, is joined by Wentworth, who is Croft's brother-in-law. He has become a captain and is now very wealthy. He still hasn't forgiven her for leaving him and the atmosphere is very icy. They are also joined by the Musgroves, a local family. Their daughters, Henrietta and Louisa are both attracted to Wentworth, but Henrietta is already engaged.

On a day-trip Louisa gets a concussion by falling down some stairs because of her childlish behaviour. This shows the clear difference between Louisa and the calm and composed Anne. She is the one who gives Louisa first aid, while all onlookers scream that she is dead and faint. During her recovery Louisa becomes more timid and attracts the attention of Wentworth's friend Captain Benwick.

Anne's family has moved to Bath, where they get back into touch with William Elliot, a nephew. He admires Anne and Lady Russel tries to persuade Anne into accepting him. Anne however has met up with old friends who know William Elliot and they enlighten her on the subject of his character and she refuses him.

The Musgroves come into town to buy weddingclothes for their two daugters, taking with them Wentworth and his friend Captain Harville. Anne and Harville have a conversation about faithfulness, while Wentworth sits close and writes a note to Anne, declaring his feelings. The following scene is incredibly romantic and Wentworth and Anne become engaged again. Her family also agrees with the match and Lady Russel has learned her lesson about persuading people.

Even though Anne is a very gentle and a very stereotypical Jane Austen-type of woman. But she developes in this book. She deals with her loss of Wentworth and tries to avoid seeing him. She ven makes her own decision by refusing William Elliot and by accepting Wentworth. Austen says that after breaking of her first engagement Anne lost her bloom, lost that beauty that made her special to men. Yet she regains this bloom when she gets back together with Wentworth.
Wentworth was my Mr. Darcy while reading the book. He was this broody captain, who kept to himself. He is still mad at Anne, because he thinks she played with him.

This novel is quite different from jane Austen's earlier novels. In Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense & Sensebility all the young women were "saved" by marrying someone who was wealthy and kind. In this novel the aristocrats, Sir Elliot and Anne's older sister seem unworthy of the status and respect they have. Anne is above their extravagant style of living and is in many ways probably what Austen wanted aristocrats to be.
And she chose Wentworth before he came to his wealth and new title. She chose a man based on love, not on wealth.

What is your favourite Jane Austen novel?

1 comment:

  1. I've only read three of Austen's novels: Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and P&P. So far, my favorite is still P&P but it's been a long time since I read it.