“What does persuasion mean — a firm belief, or the action of persuading someone to think something else?” (Dr. Elaine Jordan)
Oh, that Jane Austen. Persuasion was the last complete novel Austen wrote, and it was published posthumously in 1817.
After watching a BBC rendition of Persuasion with my friend Brandy, who is quite the Austen fan, I decided to tackle the book since it has been collecting dust on my shelf. Had I not seen the film, I’m not sure I would have followed the characters and plot as well as I did. Thanks, Brandy.
In Persuasion, we meet our heroine Anne Elliot. A lady of 27, unmarried, without a mother, “Anne Elliot had been a very pretty girl, but her bloom had vanished early; and as even in its height, her father had found little to admire in her, there could be nothing in them, now that she was faded and thin, to excite his esteem.” (5)
Anne is but an afterthought in her family, but not with Lady Russell, the family friend who became Anne’s maternal influence. As with any good Austen tale, we have our poor lady, now we need a wealthy, handsome male to make the story complete. Enter Captain Wentworth. As a young naval officer, pre-wealth and esteem, he asked for Anne’s hand. Under Lady Russell’s direction, Anne refused.
Eight years pass, and what do you know? Captain Wentworth returns; he’s got the title, he’s got the funds and all the ladies are vying for his attention. What will the reunion bring? Does Anne still love him? Can he forgive her for the heartbreak? Through quite the turn of events, the reader must wade through social order, pride, elements of surprise, family ties, accident and restricted circumstances. It is a quick read, and once the reader can remember who’s who, you cheer for Anne’s happiness the whole way through. Without giving the ending away…I’ve got to give it away; it’s the best part.
“She was deep in the happiness of such misery, or the misery of such happiness, instantly.” (180)
“The revolution which one instant had made in Anne was almost beyond expression. The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to ‘Miss A. E–‘ was evidently the one which he had been folding so hastily. While supposed to be writing only to Captain Benwick, he had been also addressing her! On the contents of that letter depended all which this world could do for her!” (185)
“There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their reunion than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment, more equal to act, more justified in acting.” (189)