Persuasion by Jane Austen

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Paperback, 236 pages
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Persuasion by Jane Austen (on Kobo) is her final, full manuscript, and it is one of the most mature of her works. Anne Elliot is the heroine of this novel, but often in the beginning of the novel she is in the background as an observer, as she is talked about or looked over by even her own father and older sister. She is 27, unmarried, and by all appearances, a wallflower, who loves to read. Through the influence of Lady Russell, a friend of her deceased mother, Anne broke off an engagement with Frederick Wentworth because the match was imprudent as he was not yet established in a career and was not of the same social standing as the Elliots. Lead by her friendship with Lady Russell and a sense of duty to her family, Anne broke the engagement and suffered for more than eight years, though she did have other prospects. Austen seems to remind us that when love is true and deep, it can cut us just as deeply when things end poorly, but it also can continue to live inside of us, even when all hope is lost.

“A few years before, 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, (so totally different were her delicate features and mild dark eyes from his own); there could be nothing in them now that she was faded and thin, to excite his esteem.”  (page 7)

The contrasts set forth by Austen in this novel between the Musgroves and the Elliots is almost as wide as the Grand Canyon, and yet, Anne finds herself easily swept into either family — adaptable to any situation — but she seems to feel the most comfort when surrounded by the jubilant Musgroves.  Her adventures with her younger sister, Mary, and the Musgroves bring Anne a stroke of not only luck but happiness when she is reunited, if only in proximity, to Captain Wentworth.  Although she spends a great deal of time making excuses to be absent from gatherings where she knows he will be present, she eventually has little choice but to be in his company, finding that it is not as horrible as she imagined.

“Doubtless it was so; and she could take no revenge, for he was not altered, or not for the worse.  She had already acknowledged it to herself, and she could not think differently, let him think of her as he would.” (page 57)

Austen’s tale of a second chance at love is more about the anxiety that can plague new love and acquaintances, but also the reunited lovers who misunderstood one another’s motivations in their youth.  There are missteps to be sure, as Wentworth unwittingly finds himself engaged to another without explicitly making his intention to be so known and Anne is led to believe that Mr. Elliot has his eye set on her.  These characters are more mature in their motivations, while there are still some who are a bit ridiculous — from her father’s obsession with status and how handsome he still is to Mary’s constant complaining and hypocritical behavior — most of the characters are mature enough to know their own desires and to seize opportunities when they are presented.  Persuasion by Jane Austen is a fine novel, less about Anne’s initial persuasion away from Wentworth and more of her persuading herself that he still loves her and that hope lives.

About the Author:

Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature.

9th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge(Set in England)





14th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Persuasion, A Final Tearoom Chat

Anna and I are chatting about Persuasion by Jane Austen this month.  We hope that you’ll join us. 

Today’s discussion will be about the final part of the book — Vol. 2, Chapters 7-end.

Today, I’m drinking Orange and Cinnamon Spice tea, and Anna is having some water.

Serena:  The rain comes to Bath and there is some disagreement about whether Anne Elliot or Mrs. Clay will ride in Lady Dalrymple’s carriage.  Mrs. Clay seems to be motivated to walk with Mr. Elliot, but Anne seems as though she too wants to walk with him.  Is this a subtle rivalry for Mr. Elliot’s affections?

Anna: That’s how I took it, and it makes sense given what you find out about the two of them later. I thought it was interesting that there was even a discussion about it, but to me it also highlights Anne’s unimportance within her family. Mrs. Clay is no one to Lady Dalrymple, and Anne is a relation and definitely ranks higher than Mrs. Clay in social standing, so why was there even a question as to which one of them would get to accompany Elizabeth?

Serena: That’s what I find funny because in this situation, it wouldn’t matter what Mrs. Clay would want, Anne is of higher social standing. I do see this as the most blatant fore-shadowing of Austen’s books — well the one’s I have read.

I do find it interesting that in this little shop there is a moment when her sister, Elizabeth, can recognize and shun Wentworth, and Wentworth in turn can recognize Mr. Elliot as the man from Lyme, and he’s subjected to further gossip about him and Anne. That must have made him sad. I like that Austen is showing more of her hero even when he is separate from his heroine. What do you think about this in terms of her other novels? Do you think she had been developing her craft to this point throughout her other novels, so that she could show both sides more clearly?

Anna: From what I can remember, there is more about Captain Wentworth’s feelings, etc., than the other heroes. It may have been a sign of her maturity as a writer, to more effortlessly juggle both viewpoints, but I also think it serves as a contrast between him and Mr. Elliot. By letting the reader truly know Wentworth’s feelings and the way he handles himself amidst his jealousy and the awkwardness of their first meeting in Bath, you really get a sense of his feelings toward Anne being sincere, and it underscores the insincerity beneath Mr. Elliot’s charming facade.

What did you think of Mrs. Smith’s revelations to Anne about Mr. Elliot? I thought it was interesting how much she waffled about what to reveal. At first, she seemed to be saying nice things to Anne about him, and it was obvious she had an ulterior motive, and then as soon as Anne insists that she’s not going to marry him, then Mrs. Smith just lets loose.

Serena: I found Mrs. Smith’s waffling natural for not only someone of her position, but also of a dear friend. Friends always have a hard time telling the unvarnished truth to their friends because they don’t want to hurt their feelings, but they also don’t want their friends to be hurt by a scoundrel.

I think from Mrs. Smith’s point of view, the marriage was all but settled from the gossip she heard, which made her want to wish Anne well in her nuptials, even if it was to Mr. Elliot. And I’m sure her need for help with some land was also part of her motivation to say nothing bad about him, effectively turning her away from him on purpose, making him more reluctant to help even if Anne pleaded with him to do so.

I love when Anne and Wentworth meet in the Octagon room and they have a deeper conversation. I love that she finds strength in the stares from her father and sister. This is a true sign that she’s a stronger woman, ready to stand on her own, don’t you think?

Anna: I think you start to see Anne coming into her own almost from the moment that she finds out Wentworth isn’t engaged to Louisa, and as soon as she realizes Wentworth still loves her but that he’s jealous of Mr. Elliot, you see her go out of her way to try to let him know there’s nothing to worry about on that front.

I love Anne’s discussion with Captain Harville because, while Wentworth has made it clear in his references to Benwick and Fanny Harville that he still loves her, this is really the first time where Anne makes the strength and constancy of her feelings known to him. And of all the ways in which Austen’s heroes and heroines circumvent the rules limiting contact before marriage, the way in which Wentworth lets Anne know about his letter is by far the sweetest and most creative.

Serena: Anne in that conversation with Harville seems contrived to me. It’s almost as if Wentworth and he had a conversation about her and Harville helps him out by getting her to engage in conversation. But that could just be the skeptic in me.

I do know that their conversation incites Wentworth to write the letter to her, which is against social convention, and that it is a hurried letter. Even in a hurry, he’s very eloquent about his feelings for her. I do like how they are alone but not alone because he’s listening to her conversation and he is speaking to her in a letter. Austen must have loved that these two would go outside of convention to have this conversation.

I also love the contrast between the Musgroves and Anne’s own family — like when they unexpectedly show up to give everyone a card for an evening party at their place. It’s like an obligation that they all feel they have to comply with, and it’s surprising that Wentworth is given a card especially after how Elizabeth brushed him off in the shop. Why do you think he was given a card? Was that Elizabeth trying to get a better handle on his fortune so he could be a possible suitor, as Mr. Elliot seemed more interested in Anne?

Anna: I didn’t feel that way about the conversation. That may have been the case I suppose, but I took it as Harville, just like Wentworth, was surprised that Benwick was basically already done grieving for Fanny. I think Harville would take it even harder, given that she was his sister, and now he was tasked with getting the miniature that was intended for her framed for Louisa. Maybe I just got all wrapped up in the emotions, but I thought he was sincere about that, hence why Wentworth was taking care of the details and was at the writing desk in the first place.

Austen makes a point to show how the atmosphere in the room changes as soon as the rest of the Elliot clan arrives. They certainly suck the life out of the party. I don’t think Elizabeth was really interested in Wentworth; it was more that his social standing had risen and made him worth knowing, worth acknowledging, plus he also grabbed Lady Dalrymple’s attention at the concert.

I couldn’t help but notice at this point in the novel how very much the Musgroves, especially Mrs. Musgrove, enjoy having Anne around, even making a point to say that their box for the theater needed to be rescheduled so that Anne could for certain attend. I wonder what Elizabeth and Sir Walter would have said had they heard Anne so willing to skip the party at Camden-place to go to the theater with them.

Serena: Well I know what they would have thought, given how appalled he was that she went to see Mrs. Smith and not their “relative.” I love that they are so oppressive compared to everyone else. It makes me think that the Musgroves are the type of people Austen would have preferred herself, rather than the social climbers.

What do you think about the walk back where Anne and Wentworth get to converse?

Anna: What I find striking about their conversation after she reads the letter is that Austen gives them some privacy at first: “There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises … There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected…” And then there is the full accounting of what happened on his side so they can better understand one another.

Serena: Isn’t that true with most mature relationships. You already know who you are … more completely … and then you communicate with your partner and they understand you more completely. It’s like they loved each other, but Wentworth was not aware of how much, say, duty meant to Anne, for instance.

I like this more mature relationship, it’s better than that fairy tale that many expect.

This was fun! We’ll have to do this again for Northanger Abbey or Mansfield Park.

Anna: There’s a richness and fullness to their relationship that we don’t see in Austen’s other novels because they have a history. And while it’s painful to take this journey with them, especially at the beginning, I think they come out better for it. I think the maturity of their relationship is why this is one of my favorite Austen novels. After everything they’ve gone though, I can be confident that theirs will be a happy marriage. I like to think all of Austen’s couples lived happily ever after, but I’m most confident about Anne and Wentworth.

Yes, we definitely need to have another chat for another Austen novel down the road!

Serena: I agree, I am most confident that they will be happy as a married couple.

What’s your favorite Austen novel? Which do you think we should chat about in 2015?

Persuasion, A Tearoom Chat Week 3

Anna and I are chatting about Persuasion by Jane Austen this month.  We hope that you’ll join us. 

Click the button below for our 3rd discussion post of Vol. 2, Ch. 1-6.

Persuasion, A Tearoom Chat Week 2

Anna and I are chatting about Persuasion by Jane Austen this month.  We hope that you’ll join us. 

Click the here for our first discussion post of Vol. 1, Ch. 1-6.

Please see below for part 2 of our discussion for Vol. 1, Ch. 7-12

Today, I’m sipping a Mint herbal tea blend tea, accompanied by 2 Samoa Girl Scout cookies.  Anna had some lemonade.

Serena: Anne assumes that Wentworth has been avoiding her as plans change between the Musgroves and him for where and when they meet.  Do you think that’s the guilt and shame she feels or do you suspect his avoiding her?

Anna: Maybe he was avoiding her, but I noticed more that she was avoiding him, being happy to take care of little Charles so his parents could go to dinner with Wentworth at the Great House. I did get a sense of her anxiety about their initial meeting, and at least when it happened, it was over fairly quickly for her.

Serena: I found it ironic that she thought that he was avoiding her, but in point of fact, it was really the other way around. She wanted to nurse Charles or feign a headache more than she wanted to meet with Wentworth among company. I wonder if she was afraid of her reaction or his?

Anna: I think Anne has a good grasp of holding in her feelings, having lived with Sir Walter, Elizabeth, and Mary for so long and being neglected and isolated. I wonder after their initial meeting and learning that Wentworth barely recognized her, her having lost the “bloom” of youth and all, that it was his reaction she feared. It’s not long before she’s lamenting that they used to mean so much to one another, and now nothing.

Those passages really tugged at me. And throughout this section, as Anne meets Wentworth’s Navy friends, for instance, she’s struck by all that she’s lost. Do you remember anywhere else in Austen being so moved, or do you think this is a sign of Persuasion being a more mature novel, as it was written toward the end of her life?

Serena: I agree that Anne’s avoidance of Wentworth seems to be borne of the fear that he will react in a way that will unease her, and in fact, she does. And meeting those friends and seeing how in love the Crofts are, I think that too weighs heavily on her. As if she didn’t feel bad enough about her decision. I can’t recall anything so blatantly depressing as this in Austen’s other novels. Those still seemed to have a bit of the youthful play in them; this novel is not only more mature in feeling, but also in dramatization.

Anne is still in the background of most everything that happens plot-wise here, but she is in the middle of it just the same. She the observer, but she doesn’t merely observe because everything that happens affects her in some way, particularly when Wentworth enters the picture.

What did you think of her when she says that she could take no revenge because he was the same?

Anna: I think the Musgrove sisters are the youthfulness in this novel. A more elegant and better behaved Kitty and Lydia, even if they do get a little excitable over Captain Wentworth.

I agree that she is an observer and deeply affected as well. Of course, while we see all the emotions and sadness going through her mind, everyone else is oblivious to her pain. Austen does let readers into Wentworth’s head, if only a moment, early on when he’s first introduced, and then there are a few actions here and there that make you see his opinion of her is slowly changing. It’s obvious to us because we know their past, but it’s very subtle when you think that their companions have no clue.

I loved Anne for saying she could take no revenge because I know that I personally, even if just internally, would not have been that nice. That really emphasizes her strength of character and her kindness toward others. After Louisa’s accident, when they’re deciding which of the women will stay at the Harville’s, there’s a passage that indicates that she would care for Louisa for his sake. Imagine watching the only man you ever loved, whom you could have married, seemingly falling in love with another woman, and you would do that for him. Of course, she’s pretty much part of the Musgrove family, so that plays into it as well, but still.

These are things that make it obvious why Wentworth has never found another woman better than Anne. What do you think about him showing attention to both Henrietta and Louisa, without even really caring for either of them? Part of it must surely be his desire to make Anne jealous to an extent, but in that day and age, he was playing a dangerous game.

Serena: I’m not really sure that he was paying attention to them consciously. I think he was baffled by Anne’s presence there and really didn’t want to be rude to the Musgroves. But his attentions never seem overtly in favor of either girl, except when it comes to the incident at the Cobb. There is that one intimate conversation that Anne overhears between Louisa and Wentworth, but I think that was more Louisa’s machinations than his.

While maybe he enjoyed having the attention of two young women and his intentions may be to find a wife, I feel like he was still sorting through his feelings for Anne and not intentionally partial or even aware that he was demonstrating affinity for either of the Musgroves — in some ways, the perception that he is in favor of one or the other or even interested in either seems to be the ideas put forth by Mary, Charles and the Crofts without any real indication on his part.

Speaking of the Cobb, what do you think motivated Louisa to jump from such a height? Was she trying to prove something or was that merely youthful folly on her part?

Anna: Having been so long at sea, he may also just enjoy the sisters’ attention. But he does spend an awful lot of time at Uppercross, so it’s not wrong of those around him to wonder what he’s about, even if he’s not completely conscious of it. There are some things in that conversation he has with Louisa — and he doesn’t know that Anne’s listening — that if I were Louisa, I would’ve thought he liked me.

As for Louisa’s jump, there are several places in the narrative where it shows Louisa being more determined about doing things since that conversation with Wentworth, where he talks about strength of character and not being easily persuaded. So I think that played into it somewhat, but mostly, I think she was being flirty and playful and thought it would be fun. Even when I shake my head at Louisa’s folly, I actually do admire her high spirits.

Now I’ve been dying to know, my dear poetess, what do you think of Captain Benwick’s fondness for melancholy poetry? And what do you think about Anne telling him he should read more prose?

Serena: I knew you would ask me that question.

I think that Captain Benwick is wallowing in his melancholy and poetry — certain kinds of it — can help you do that. Perpetuate a state that you either find yourself in, helping you to see that its a universal feeling, but it also could be perpetuating a mood that he feels obligated to remain in given that he lives with the Harville family. He feels that his mourning should be palpable to them and that while he may be over his “fiance’s” death, he does not want to hurt the feelings of those he is staying with.

Anne’s remedy of prose could be her way of telling him that it has been long enough and that it is ok not to mourn anymore and to think about moving on with life. Whether prose would produce that effect, is another questions. I suppose if he were determined, he could find prose that would help him wallow too.

I find it interesting that Anne thinks about continuing her acquaintance with Benwick even as she’s still feeling saddened by Wentworth’s dismissive attitude toward her. What do you make of that? Is she becoming resigned? What does that say about her character?

Anna: I noticed that his grief seems overplayed, and he was excited to talk with Anne about something I’m sure no one else cares to talk about with him. He seems to want to get out and about more with people, which I thought was evident when the group leaves the Harvilles behind before taking one last walk on the Cobb, and Benwick goes with them.

I didn’t think Anne’s thoughts about Benwick meant she was resigning herself to anything. I thought maybe it was the first time in a long time that someone merely wanted to talk to her in a real discussion. Her sister and the Musgroves want her to just agree with them or to vent their frustrations about one another. She also understands Benwick in a way; they’ve both suffered a deep loss. One might argue that losing one’s fiance to death is more serious than a broken engagement, but he has the chance to find happiness again, and her prospects are dim on that front.

What were your feelings at the end of this section about how things had changed between Anne and Frederick? Do you think Anne has any reason to hope at this point?

Serena: I think that Austen wants us to think that all is lost for Anne, but I think there are enough glimmers — which Anne can see given how well she knows him — that she can still hope for some form of reconciliation. Perhaps a romantic reunification is a bit far-fetched given all that’s transpired with Louisa, up to this point, but I think she should have reason to hope that they could be friends again.

He clearly esteems her, and she clearly still admires him. While I think there are still obstacles to be overcome, many of these — like in most of Austen’s novels — of their own making. His abrupt departure of at the end of volume one seems to be very telling — like he’s now got a lot more to think about with regard to his future and about Anne. I think he’s seeing a more mature woman than he remembers.

What are your final thoughts about his exit? Seems a little like the end of an act in a play, doesn’t it?

Anna: Well, if Louisa’s carelessness was good for something, it was for Wentworth to see Anne take charge and show some of that strength of character he thought she didn’t have way back when. Austen also shows two extremes — Anne being persuaded to break their engagement and Louisa being determined to do something foolish and refusing to be persuaded otherwise.

Yes, it does seem sort of like the end of act. The characters showed some alterations, then of course they’re going to be separated for a time with everything still uncertain, and then the curtain closes.

I must say that I’m loving this book even more the second time around!

Serena: I cannot wait to see what happens in the next section, though I have seen the movies. There is a bit of a flare of the dramatic in this one, that I think was not as prevalent in her other novels. I do like that the characters are changing slowly, and that they have time to think about all that has come to pass.

We hope you’ll help us continue the discussion in the comments!

And please join us next Friday, March 21st, at Anna’s blog, Diary of an Eccentric, to discuss Volume II, Chapters 1-6! Grab a cup of tea!

Persuasion, A Tearoom Chat

Anna and I are chatting about Persuasion by Jane Austen this month.  We hope that you’ll join us.  Click the button below for our first discussion post of Vol. 1, Ch. 1-6.

Tea Room Chat: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Anna and I have decided to have a tea room chat of Jane Austen’s Persuasion this month.

It was Austen’s last completed novel, and I’ve been meaning to read it for at least the last three years.

The time has come for me to make it a priority, and Anna agreed to read it with me.  I hope you’ll join us.

We’ll hold discussions of the book on each Friday in March.

Check out the schedule below:

What books have you been meaning to read for a long time?