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Headscratchers: Persuasion
Anne's contradictory views of her decision 8 years ago
Shortly after the narrator relates Anne's and Captain Wentworth's history, we learn that Anne (unsurprisingly) regretted breaking off their engagement and would never advise anyone to do the same, right? Yet when she and Captain Wentworth finally get the chance to discuss it, she never apologizes for (what we were earlier told she herself saw as) her mistake (like, for example, Elizabeth Bennett did to Mr. Darcy) but defends her decision. Huh?
  • She doesn't see herself as having made a mistake — she was given bad advice, but her conclusion is that she was right to defer to her older friend, who was acting as a mother-surrogate. (She does, however, make very sure that Wentworth knows she now thinks of the advice as bad.) Besides which, she *hasn't* done anything to apologise for in the sense that Elizabeth Bennet did — she is not deliberately out to hurt Wentworth by her refusal, and she never has any misconceptions of him that need to be disabused. Wentworth himself concedes that he's as much to blame as she is, for irrationally sulking over her refusal instead of trying to understand, and renew his suit once the objections as to his wealth and position had been overcome.
    • So, he concedes that he was an unnacceptable husband until he was rich enough? Well, so much for this book's supposed defense of the Self-Made Man. Men, money is everything, and a girl who listens to advice to turn you down because you're not rich enough is completely justified! If she admits she would have suffered more being engaged to you, accept it; she should be perfect enough to be able to make such a priggish declaration of her own perfection without anybody questioning her right to do so.
      • Why shouldn't a woman (or a man for that matter) have the right to turn anybody down at any time for any reason?
      • The point of the novel isn't that Wentworth needed to be rich, but that he needed to be in a position where he could actually support a wife. That's why his reference to the Year 8, when he had some cash and the captaincy of the Laconia and didn't renew his suit to Anne is so important. She would have accepted him, because at that point, while no where near wealthy, he would have been in a much stronger position. As she points out, Lady Russell, however misguidedly, was trying to keep Anne safe, and as charming and handsome as Wentworth was, there were genuine dangers to the engagement. If he had died at sea, or been injured (as Fanny Price's father was), Anne could very easily (given that her father would have refused to help her) been left in a situation like Mrs Smith and Mrs Clay. Lady Russell's prejudices did play a role, but she was still keeping Anne from a situation that even Wentworth's sister acknowledges was dangerous. Wentworth had a career and other prospects - Anne didn't. Her marriage was her life, and if she chose badly, her life could have been ruined. Austen's point is that passionate love is important, but you have to be able to live as well - and it's Wentworth failure to understand that Anne's rejection wasn't about his lack of wealth at all but about the need to know that he could at least support her in addition to himself, that keeps them seperated for so long.
      • Too bad Anne doesn't see it that way; her justification in the final chapter isn't that it would have been unreasonable for them to marry under the circumstances 8 years ago (she says absolutely nothing about that) but specifically that she was right to take a friend's advice purely because it was a friend's advice - period. That's her justification: that it's a proper woman's duty to yield to persuasion. If such an unreasonable excuse was unnecessary due to other circumstances surrounding the engagement, that makes it all the more anvilicious. Plus, the reasonable response in such a situation is to tell someone to wait until it's more practical for the two of you to marry, not break the engagement; when Anne was 19, she didn't tell Wentworth they needed to wait until they were better off financially but unequivocally ended the engagement. The fact that Wentworth didn't come back two years later simply means that (like Mr. Darcy and Colonel Brandon) he knows how to take "No" for an answer. What, was he supposed to adopt Mr. Collins' translation of female behavior and not take a "No" seriously? How would it not be egotistical to assume his suit would be perfectly welcome an indefinite number of years in the future? Did womennote  still expect men to be mind readers 200 years ago?
      • Except Anne never says 'it's a woman's duty to yield to persuasion'. What she says is '...a strong sense of duty is no bad thing in a woman.' That it may have been a misplaced sense of duty, she doesn't deny- neither does she say that all women need one ('no bad thing' is a lot milder than that). Her 'duty' wasn't in doing as she was told by some big bad parental authority, faceless and ungendered, but in owing more to her mother-figure than to her boyfriend, or herself (that may seem dispassionate to you, but wasn't too far from what Jane Austen felt she had to do in real life.)
      • And the big thing is that the ADVICE was wrong. But listening to such advice wasn't. The person who gave the advice should have, by all accounts, been right. The engagement was, by all logical conclusions, a REALLY bad one for Anne. He was poor, going into a dangerous job, and could die at any time, leaving her all alone. Luck alone made it everything he, and Anne, could hope for. While Anne's and Wentworth's love was true, how would her mother-figure know that? Anne was young, and it's implied this was her first real offer. It's less, women should keep their head down and listen, but more, there are more points of view than your own, and an intelligent woman will listen to those points, especially when they're given by loving and caring friends who can, yes, be wrong. When making life decisions it's better to be cautious.
      • How does the plot itself illustrate this? It doesn't, so why is this novel so popular in spite of the Anvilicious handling of that moral?
      • It probably doesn't have to, for its original audience. Viewersare Geniuses, or rather, viewers do not live in a radically different society to the writer.
      • What about Louisa's accident, anyway? The jump goes well enough the first time- the time that it goes wrong is when she fails to perform a reality-check. Ergo, not 'do as you're told', but 'romance has to take place within the real world. It's not an appeal to the superego, it's an appeal to engage ego- which is totally within character for Jane Austen.
      • I still think you're insisting on reading the novel as something it isn't- that is, that it's supposed to be an instructional text that is to teach us something. Why should it be? While it's not explicitly said in this novel 'this book doesn't teach us anything serious so don't go looking for it' the Lemony Narrator of other books has given her opinion of such abuses of fiction, and she hasn't changed much.

Breaking the engagement was wrong both from the passionate and moral points of view. From a passionate point of view, it's foolish not to marry someone just because it would mean a decrease in luxury; Wentworth wasn't penniless 8 years ago, just not wealthy. Anne wouldn't have been in the position of, say, Henry James' Maggie by marrying him! From a moral point of view, it's wrong to reject someone just because of a difference in class and rank and the displeasure of a friend, and those were the only obstacles.
** Firstly, I think you're wildly misunderstanding the objections to Wentworth that were laid out in Chapter 4. His 'class' isn't a problem, because he and Anne are from the same 'class'- the Gentry. Baronettes are members of the gentry. So are officers of the Royal Navy. Wentworth's brother and father are clergymen. He's a gentleman. Secondly, his 'rank' isn't a problem because of the snob value of a bauble. It's rather more important- Navel officers who were not Commanders lived on base (on their ships, in fact), and couldn't take their wives to sea with them. They could be separated for months, years if Wentworth was posted overseas. That would be the 'dependence' that horrified Lady Russel- the dependence of having a husband who- unless he made big money and could buy his own house- she wouldn't be able to live with.
  • Wentworth's finances, while obviously it's part of the motivation to break up the relationship, actually don't figure in the means of persuasion used to break Anne. Here it is in the actual text:

  • She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing- indiscreet,improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it. But it was not a merely selfish caution, under which she acted, in putting an end to it. Had she not imagined herself consulting his good, even more than her own, she could hardly have given him up.- The belief of being prudent, and self-denying principally for his advantage, was her chief consolation, under the misery of a parting... And that's it.
  • So the chief means of persuasion was- it's implied- partly that it was immoral for them to marry, but partly that the marriage would have screwed up his career (might even have been true- lieutenants were expected to be single and one having a wife would have been a nuisance, and a man who's a nuisance with his personal life doesn't get promoted...) Does this satisfy your passion, morals, or whatever it is one is supposed to be making decisions with?
  • Leaving it a few years to marry may seem 'reasonable' to you, (would to me too, for that matter) but it wouldn't be treated that way in Regency England. (Look at the scandal a long engagement causes in Emma, and in Sense and Sensibility.) Engagements among the gentry were supposed to be made good of in weeks, not years; hanging around for long periods would be viewed publicly with extreme suspicion. (Why? Why anything? Why do politicians have to be married? It just was that way.) More importantly, it wasn't a case of 'when' Wentworth was better off. Most lieutenants never became commanders, still less Post Captains. (It's not quite 'We'll get married when his band gets a recording contract', but it's in that ballpark.)
  • The novel also discusses how long engagements are not desirable. Mrs Musgrove and Mrs Croft discuss how it's better for Henrietta and Charles Hayter to marry at once with a small income rather than have a long, uncertain engagement.

If Anne learned from her mistake (oh, sorry, Lady Russell's mistake - a distinction Anne makes very clear) like 4 of Austen's other heroines, it would have been admirable and romantic, but she only learns never to doubt her own perfection. Anne and Austen both blame Lady Russell and Captain Wentworth and go out of their way to acquit Anne. It's like Austen couldn't bear to make her heroine take responsibility for anything.
  • More like she learns... oh, see the bottom of the next answer.
  • I honestly do not know why Anne, a 19 yr old girl who listened to her mother figure, is getting so much hate. This deference to a parent figure over a boyfriend is treated like a terrible thing, when it's not, especially for the time. And at the end is more her coming to terms with that decision that has drastically shaped her life, not really being contradictory at all. The novel neither defends wielding to persuasion nor being super strong-willed, but, in my opinion, advocates a healthy mix of both. Anne is rather thoroughly "punished" over the 8 yr interval through the pain for being so easily persuaded (which she does know is partly her fault) and Louisa is "punished" for her carelessness and stubbornness. But neither are portrayed as awful people, and are treated rather nicely by the novel. Both of their primary personality traits are given their due and the pros and cons of both are examined. I would say that moderation in personality, rather than going to extremes, is a big portion of the novel (seeing as Anne figures that Benwick and Louisa are going to grow more alike in temperament, which is seen as a good thing for both of them). I personally think that her final resolution at the novel about her decision has more to do with recognizing that Lady Russell is not infallible (see, Parents as People) and that she can have her own opinions, which is a realization that she had to learn the hard way. She states that she would never give the same advice to anyone who asked her, because the advice was wrong. But she could not have known this, remember, it is stated in the novel that Wentworth was very lucky and that this was a decision that life afterwards was going to decide the merits of. For all she would have known, it could have ruined both of them, and she had been convinced of it by someone she respected. Remember, in the novel it is implied by her father that she would have gotten no help from him, but it is said that the engagement would have still endured if it hadn't been for Lady Russell (again someone whom she loved and relied upon and very much respected). So it's not much that Anne wielded because that's a woman's duty, because if she did her father's veto would have been enough, but rather because she loved and valued Lady Russell's opinion. But since that time she has learned that the advice she had received was incorrect and it caused her pain. Anne learns through her life that she can have very different opinions than Lady Russell and it is stated repeatedly that she has long since learned that they can have differing opinions because Lady Russell isn't perfect (PARENTS AS PEOPLE) and that she is in fact, a pretty terrible judge of character (reference how badly judged both Wentworth and Elliot) and Anne has realized this and has begun to make her own judgments on people (see how Anne is ALWAYS suspicious of Mr. Elliot, while most everyone else of her family and party love him immediately). I think that she has a rather strong mind and character and that it's come from learning all of the above lessons. At the end of the novel, remember that her father still doesn't completely approve and it takes time for Lady Russell to approve, showing that she has grown and is not so easily persuaded just on other people's opinions as she was when she was 19. She's learned that it isn't always a good thing to wield to others opinions BECAUSE EVEN THOSE YOU LOVE CAN BE WRONG WHICH IS HER LEARNING FROM HER MISTAKE. Wentworth doesn't really apologize at the end. He's has re-realized Anne's fine points during his time with her and has probably realized that she had made some good arguments (and like Anne, more regrets the time lost than anything else-as when he realizes that he could have written to her and she would have written back). He doesn't so much apologize for anything rather than disagree with her on following the advice. They both (by the end of the novel) believe that the other is perfection itself though, so this disagreement hasn't really done anything. Neither of them really apologize and neither of them really have to. On both sides no intentional harm was done and both, I think, are trying to make amends with a bad part of their lives in the best way possible. Wentworth doesn't see himself as ever have being unworthy (and as Anne has never seen his equal, I'm going to say neither did she) and saw himself as being ill-used (though early in the novel it is stated that he has also never seen Anne's equal, showing that he didn't see her as undeserving either-at least unconsciously). Frederick sees her as wrong as wielding to her Lady Russell (which, the alternative would have been wielding to him, which while more "romantic" would have been problematic as well. Personally, I'm rather a fan that Austen has a woman-woman relationship and a mother-daughter relationship outweigh a romantic attachment and I think it reflects how highly she valued family-which she did) and Anne sees it as right (at this point in time, they both regret the time lost, why make it more painful by regretting the action, which was, at the time and to the best of her judgment?). Neither EVER saw the other as undeserving (I literally just read this book yesterday, she references as never have seeing his equal and that all men just fail when compared-this view of Wentworth is enough to quench her desire to run her ancestral home, something that she really, really wanted. And guess what ya'll money was-and still is-an important factor into marrying and Anne and Lady Russell weren't stupid or greedy or selfish in worrying about this-it's not like women had an extraordinary amount of opportunity in this time and marrying could and did decide the entire financial future of a woman).
    • Sorry, this turned into such a long thing, but I think this hate is a little ridiculous and also WAAAAY over estimates the amount of power and control upper-class women had at this time and ignores that Anne is a subject to emotional abuse (just like Franny, though both are subject to COMPLETELY different situations and really shouldn't be compared to one another, or any of Jane Austen's other heroines).
    • TO CONCLUDE: Anne has come to the belief that a woman she considers her mother and whom she highly respects was wrong in her advice because this woman is a human being who is bad at judging character. Anne comes to terms with this by thinking that there was no fault in following the advice because she didn't know better, but has come to learn that Lady Russell was wrong (because she's shit at character assessment). She showed loyalty to her mother-figure, which she admits is no bad thing (cause it isn't), but she is realizes that the advice in itself was wrong
  • Besides, above all you've said all over this Wiki, I've looked at Wentworth's last speech, every which way, and I can't see an 'apology' in it. He's realised he could have stopped their unhappiness sooner than he did, and that Anne wasn't quite as shallow as he took her for, but it's not an 'apology'. He doesn't say 'sorry' or 'forgive me'; he implies that he should have maybe not have been as self-pitying as he was, but that's about it. Any 'apology' in that speech is an extremely subjective reading.
    • But he admits he was wrong for not taking Anne's "No" seriously and coming back as soon as he made some money. Anne never had to admit she was wrong about anything. The reconciliation is ridiculiusly one-sided; it's all Anne saying I Regret Nothing and Wentworth saying he does regret things.
    • Well, this isn't the reconciliation itself, is it? That's one of the scenes- which happen in all of Austen's novels- that she always leaves out. This is some days after that.

Can someone clear up this apparent fandom hypocrisy?
C. S. Lewis wrote in his essay "Notes on Jane Austen" that he's surprised the label of "prig" has been misapplied to Fanny Price rather than Anne Elliot, as Fanny never lectures anyone or tries to tell them how to behave or change, whereas Anne does. I'm with him. What do fans find so attractive in Anne that doesn't exist in Fanny: stoicism, The Unfavorite status, suffering, loneliness, high sense of morality, silent perseverance, knowing "the pains of tyranny, of ridicule, and neglect"? I sincerely want to know what crucial detail I'm missing.
  • I prefer Persuasion to Mansfield Park myself, but I think the detail you're missing is... fans can be idiots. There's no logic involved. See Misaimed Hatedom, etc.
  • That, and as a character Anne is at least *active* within her own story. Fanny spends the entirety of hers shrinking away from any dynamic engagement with life, and what she can't avoid she merely stoically endures. The contrast between her and the morally flawed characters is that they do things, while she refuses. Anne, on the other hand, is proactive in asserting her worldview — most notably when she takes charge after Louisa's accident at Lyme and later when insisting on her visits to Miss Smith.
    • Not the old "Fanny Price represents rest and passivity" picture again! Mansfield Park, Ch. 12: "...while all the other young people were dancing, and [Fanny] sitting, most unwillingly, among the chaperons at the fire, longing for the re-entrance of her elder cousin, on whom all her own hopes of a partner then depended. It was Fanny's first ball... It had, however, been a very happy one to Fanny through four dances, and she was quite grieved to be losing even a quarter of an hour." Not to mention her love of riding and grief over losing the freedom to ride, her grief to lose her active role as the big sister when she first leaves Portsmouth at age 10, her aid to Susan (financially and otherwise) as the sympathetic big sister in a dysfunctional household, and returning to help Edmund take charge when all Hell breaks loose at Mansfield (you take your brother, I'll take my aunt). Whenever Fanny is still and inactive, it's by compulsion, and she hates it (no doubt the plight of many a woman in those times...). Fanny insists just as strongly on her right not to marry Mr. Crawford as Anne does on her right to visit Mrs. Smith. Fanny is not only active but assertive, whereas Anne's greatest virtue is supposedly that she is not assertive, and yields to persuasion. The scene at Lyme that is supposed to show off her power and justify all her fellow characters constantly singing her praises thereafter is executed too absurdly to succeed in that goal. Anne's superior powers of judgement are praised for this scene, but Fanny's superior powers of judgement for seeing Henry Crawford for the Handsome Lech he proves to be are not = inconsistency. Hell, that very scene at Lyme preaches with the subtlety of a speeding freight train that "Women shouldn't be active, or they'll be brutally punished and physically restrained from ever being so active again!" Women must yield to persuasion, and men must be firm = Persuasion (evidenced by Wentworth stating he should have been more firm with Louisa - men have to be firm with women because they're too stupid to make their own decisions, unless their wise enough to always yield to others' judgement). Women deserve the right to make their own decisions regardless of males' persuasion = Mansfield Park. If Anne herself is active but preaches yielding to persuasion as women's duty (her final speech to that effect is too sincere to be ironic), she's even more of a hypocrite.
      • "whereas Anne's greatest virtue is supposedly that she is not assertive, and yields to persuasion." You make some good points, but I don't think this is one of them. She isn't a doormat: in the beginning of the book she's plays the part of Only Sane Man trying to rein in her relative's fiscal irresponsibility, and if she's not successful enough there, neither is Fanny successful at everything she tries; she doesn't just have that moment in Lyme, she also shows strength in the matter of Mrs. Smith. I really don't think that the book is trying to hit you with the anvils that you see, but I'm willing to say I haven't read it recently. And as to Fanny being very active— again, I think the fans are being just plain stupid when they ignore all her strength, but her love of riding, e.g., is not the same thing as taking an active part in shaping the plot. In some respects, she acts less as a protagonist and more as a witness to the character growth that other characters go through. I don't think she should be hated for this, but there you are.
      • But Lady Russell proposes she help with her family's financial planning and approves of her visits to Mrs. Smith, so those are okay because they fall under the umbrella of being persuaded by Lady Russell. Fanny's character growth consists of becoming more assertive (finding the courage to say "No"), which is different from the Break the Haughty development common to Austen heroines, but none of the others had an abusive childhood. Anne, on the other hand, learns nothing except never to doubt her own perfection. She tells Wentworth that her only mistake was thinking she made a mistake eight years ago, for crying out loud! She tells him that, as miserable as she was for eight years, being engaged to him would have made her more miserable. A practical moral in some contexts but the most unromantic moral, and much more stereotypically anti-feminist than defending a girl's right to make her own choice when it comes to love, as Mansfield Park does.
      • But didn't Anne make her own choice when it came to love when she chose to listen to her mother-figure (who didn't force her) and end things with her boyfriend?
      • 'Stereotypically' is the key word in that sentence- neither Fanny nor Anne is a 'feminist'; neither would be likely to teach Mary Woolstonecroft's writings to their daughters. Besides, what does Anne do that's so 'anti-feminist'? She puts her attachment to another woman- her only female friend, actually- before her own romantic fulfillment. It's not as if she went so far as to marry Charles Musgrove, who did have the family's approval.
      • I'm not averse to the interpretation that Anne loved Lady Russell more than Wentworth, but given Values Dissonance, I doubt that's what Austen had in mind... then again, given the eyebrow-raising passages of Emma, maybe it was, although I've truly never seen any of Anne's fans use that defense before.
      • Um, that's not Les Yay where this troper comes from, that's family loyalty and, well, female friendship, no Yay intended. Nakama, possibly, though not so melodramatic as that. (Of course, Emma does effect a similar imposition on Harriet. Obviously that's not much of an argument as Harriet and Anne are otherwise wildly dissimilar.) Without the Yay tinted glasses... well, it made perfect sense to me. Heterosexual female friendships can be pretty intense under such circumstances. Her ladyship presumably shaped Anne's mind (who else could have done?) much as Edmund shaped Fanny's. (Yes, I know we're back in shipping territory again, but, sheesh, not all love between women is Les Yay, certainly when you live in a very sheltered society where the sexes are very clearly divided in terms of who can talk to who about what.) (And I never identified as an 'Anne fan'- and definitely not anti-Fanny, the above wasn't me... just someone who wasn't insulted by Persuasion, as a whole or in bits, and had no desire to see the heroine punished for being so 'unfeminist' as to disappoint her boyfriend.)
      • Here's the Real Life history of Persuasion- in her early 20s, Jane Austen was made, and accepted, an offer of marriage from a man who had an ample fortune, who it is generally assumed she was not unfond of. The next morning she broke it off, saying that she couldn't leave her mother (recently widowed) and her sister (who had recently been bereaved of her own fiance)- reasons that seem to be genuine. She never received another offer; Persuasion was written when she was in her early 40s, and dying from a then-unexplained problem (adrenal gland failure, actually). Whether it's about that, is a little unlikely, but it just illustrates that Austen had female attachments- albeit by blood- that were that intense herself.
      • That's the first time I've ever heard the theory that Austen broke off her engagement of one night to Harris Big-Wither because of duty and not because she didn't love him; marrying such a rich man would have only made things easier for her family, after all. The danger of autobiographical reading aside, the most popular personal issues said to be at the root of Persuasion are Austen advising her niece not to marry a man who wasn't rich enough, and her sister's fiance of a long engagement dying before they could "afford" to marry. The former would make Austen Lady Russell, who curiously does undergo the humbling disillusionment and awakening common for Austen's heroines...
      • Also, all of Austen's novels are anti-romances in one way or another. The problem a lot of people have with Mansfield Park isn't really Fanny's sedentary and silent life (though Austen does sink into the common trap whereby it's extremely difficult to write about a boring life without making for boring prose) but because her happy ending- instead of being carried off into a busy and exciting life, she's taken away at a very young age to live in isolation in the country as the wife of her kind-hearted but unbelievably uptight older cousin who tells her what to think of everything. In your average romantic novel, that's the sort of fate that most heroines are desperately seeking to escape (or the prequal to a marriage about adultery, but not in this universe). [1] may well apply in that Austen manages to convince that this really is what the girl wanted... but Edmund is still a tough sell as a hero. And as for the 'unromantic' idea about not making a marriage that will pull apart the wife's family and put them under the joint stress of separation and her shame at what she has done... is that less romantic than Lizzie Bennett claiming to find Darcy so much more desirable when she'd seen his fabulous estate?
      • Besides, it's entirely appropriate for Anne's Character Development to be in the nature of self-acceptance than radical personality overhaul. Fanny (lesson: You Matter) is eighteen, Emma and Elizabeth (You Are Not Always Right) are about 20; Marrianne and Kitty (Life Is Not Like Books) are about 17. Elinor (... I don't know, Don't Give Up?) is about 20. Anne, on the other hand, is 27, an age where the personality is pretty much 'fixed'. (She's also probably had a bit of Break the Cutie to deal with anyway.) (It may also be why she has her fans- the proof that you don't need to be a teenager to get a happy ending.) The moral You Still Have A Lot To Look Forward To and You Are Who You Are So Learn To See the Positive Side of Your Characteristics is perfectly appropriate. (There is an emphasis in the novel on seeing the good and bad side of characteristics. Louisa's 'strong will' and failure to check against reality (like is a guy whose arms you want to jump into actually aware you're going to do so?) are positive and negative sides of the same characteristic. Anne tries to please everyone- which is impossible, especially when it comes to knowing her own mind, but she's not a bad person for trying. Anne thinks Lady Russel is a caring mentor- Wentworth thinks she's a Beloved Smother; neither are exactly wrong. And Anne adores Wentworth's charismatic, willful, daredevil personality- Lady Russel thinks he's got no hope of succeeding in the Navy because of it- or that it's going to get him killed- or if it doesn't, he's bad husband material, at least for a timid girl like Anne. And can you blame her? If you consider other men in Austen to whom the above apply, she's not even Wrong Genre Savy!
      • Also- Anne doesn't only 'yield to persuasion', as she's being persuaded on both sides- in the same paragraph in C.4 that describes Lady Russel's persuading, we hear that Wentworth was persuading her equally reverently to do the opposite. So the dilemma isn't whether to be persuaded or not- just who by, and she eventually goes for who she thinks deserves her loyalty more. If she decided that the first friend won- well, it may be unromantic, but in the real world she wouldn't be the first.

It's also compeltely absurd for Anne to claim that the giver of advice and not the outcome justifies heeding to it; Elizabeth Bennett thought otherwise once but eventually found herself wishing that Bingley had the strength of mind to follow his heart regardless of how close he was to the friend (Mr. Darcy) who advised otherwise. Friends, no matter how much you admire them, can be wrong. Talk about Protagonist-Centered Morality; whatever Anne Elliot does is right.
  • It's not the least bit absurd, or only right because it was Anne- it's a question of who she owed more to at the time, and who she had more reason to trust at the time. Plus, she was told that marrying Lt Wentworth would ruin his career (which may well even have been true). (And it's not as if we're supposed to despise Bingley for his 'weakness'. Or assume that Lizzie Bennett is always right, certainly not at this stage in Austen's career.
    • Exactly. Not to mention, going against Lady Russell's wishes might have resulted in losing her friendship, which would have been devastating to Anne. If you were nineteen years old and your surrogate mother, who was practically the only person in the world you really loved and respected, warned you not to marry someone you'd only known for a few months, what would you do?
    • So Lady Russell is the absurd, irrational, manipulative type of friend who would cut off all contact with her best friend or daughter because said best friend married someone of whom she didn't approve? She made Anne choose "Me or Wentworth"? I didn't get that impression, but if it's there, is such a friendship worth preserving?
    • Er, no. And yes. Manipulative, naturally (this is Jane Austen, what do you think?) Insanely possessive, not so much. Irrational? Absolutely not- far too rational, that's the problem. Absurd? Depends on your measures- plenty of people think most of Jane Austen's characters are absurd to some degree. As for cutting Anne off, I can't remember whether it was a threat played or not, though it seems to have been done far more readily in Georgian society than these days (possibly because it's easier to have no contact with people when staying in touch was more complicated)- but 'be heartbroken' was the main threat, and yes, Anne was certainly that frail and impressionable- then. Is Lady Russell a toxic friend? Possibly. Does she mean well? Almost certainly. (True, she doesn't like Wentworth much, but that's just being wrong.) Should Jane Austen heroines denounce their toxic friends as part of the happy ending? Maybe, though Anne wouldn't be the only one who ultimately never does. Where would Austen be without her heroines having toxic friends, though? The only difference here is that Lady Russell isn't shown as moderately intelligent and well-meaning. (Also in the novel, at the start of the Bath section, Anne is starting to privately have independent thoughts from- indeed, about Lady Russell. She still keeps them to herself.)
    • There's a world of difference between a Yandare ultimatum and suggesting that someone you raised has let you down badly. I've no problem with that. It could have worked on me. I can't think how to explain it any further.

Can someone help me understand why and how this fandom hypocrisy works in the first place?
I just don't really understand why this novel gets such a lashing when it seems to be the most minimalistic and digressive of all of Austen's works. Look, this is my perspective, and hopefully someone can tell me where I've gone wrong. Anne regrets a decision that she made eight years ago on the persuasion of a friend. She doesn't regret the advice she took, or blame the person who gave it, but she still finds the outcome painful, even though at the time she thought she was acting in everyone's best interests. She takes responsibility for that decision and accepts it as her own. However, both she and her partner are still hurt by this - Wentworth acting very coldly to her - and it takes them eight years to finally get back together, with both fully realising the mistake that she made. Neither of them apologise for what has happened because to apologise so long after the fact would be to trivialise the suffering they've gone through, and disrespect the diverging paths they've travelled to come to where they are. Saying sorry at this point is like saying "I broke the dam, here's a plank of wood to fix it" - no apology can be sufficient or exact so there's no point. Throughout the entire novel Anne is the definition-specific of the Proper Lady; she helps others out, keeps a clear head, and despite not being valued by those around her, she still helps them out and gives them advice. In no way is she idealised and perfect like Fanny Price, or strong and resilient like Lizzie Bennet, but no where does she fit the criteria of a Canon Sue; she has flaws and they are played out through the story. The entire novel is about the deconstruction of the idea of persuasion, what can count as advice, how much one person really has the right to influence another, and what does it mean for one individual to be influenced to change their mind. The vessel that is used for this deconstruction is the long-estranged love of Anne and Wentworth, showing that although persuasion is circumstantial, another's opinion cannot be counted on as a substitute for your own judgement... otherwise karma bitch-slaps you and makes you waste 8 years of your life. So... why is there such an upwelling of criticism? I'm not saying that this is Oscar Wilde, but it's still a decent novel, and I just don't know why all the hate? I just don't get it. In addition, this is I think the only Austen novel that analyses and lays bare the reality of English society for women, shown not under the faux-glow presented in the romanticised and glamorous-minded points-of-view of young women in their late teens or early twenties, who see only the shining attraction, but shown through the eyes of an older realist who sees the grit and dirt rubbed into a bourgeois society on the cusp of decay. This is the only Austen book that does this! Come on, people! Tell me what I'm missing here!
  • You're not missing anything. I think the problem is that people are judging a nineteenth-century novel by 21st-century moral standards. I would list all of the reasons why marrying Wentworth when he first proposed really could have been disastrous, but that subject has been pretty thoroughly covered above.
    • Hmm, okay. When I think about it that way it makes a bit more sense. There really is a lot of Values Dissonance between the three centuries so judging it by the standards of a different century is going to yield an entirely different interpretation of the source material.
  • Well, first of all, nothing could be more untrue than "She takes responsibility for that decision and accepts it as her own." Anne claims, "I have now, as far as such a sentiment is allowable in human nature, nothing to reproach myself with." She gives all the responsibility of the bad advice to Lady Russell and takes pride in taking bad advice like a best friend (or, possibly, a woman) ought to do, in her eyes. What I don't understand is the Double Standard - how a woman whom the text treats as a Proper Lady can be accepted, whereas Fanny Price is misinterpreted disowned because of that. If people like Anne, more power to them, but why not Fanny Price as well? Why praise one Proper Lady and not the other? Why like the book that deliberately, explicitly, brutally punishes the Spirited Young Lady (Louisa Musgrove) for being stubborn, lively, active, and unwomanly, but hate another book simply for having a heroine who is not a Spirited Young Lady? Responses will say the latter is disliked for other reasons, but that is the one people always mention first.
  • Then it's equally incomprehensible to do it the other way round- to hate Ann for being Proper Lady played straight and still getting lucky in the end, but to laud Fanny for being a similar character in a dysfunctional household? Ultimately trying to set up a war between two novels written fairly close together by the same author with no drastic shift in values expressed feels like Hate Dumb.
    • There is no fan war, there's just a completely unconscious Double Standard. 1 of Austen's Proper Lady heroines is her least popular, and the first reason given is because she's the Proper Lady rival of a Spirited Young Lady, whereas another of her Proper Lady heroines is still popular despite being a Proper Lady. Janeites can consider the context and Values Dissonance in the case of one but not the other. They see one as a nauseating example of feminine passivity and submission but not the other who actually explicitly advocates feminine submission.
  • I think people are confused about what unsettles them about Mansfield Park, really. (Actually, this is the only place where I've seen Persuasion get the sort of angry bashing that it does- okay, so C. S. Lewis didn't like it (and perhaps that's justification to some people...) but generally people just enjoy it, and if literature professors actually dislike certain moral ideas, then, well, if you're going to read classic literature you have to accept all sorts of moral ideas you find unpalatable. Possibly the popularity of the work actually brings in the sort of people who expect a 'good' book to be one where they agree with the heroine on every point.)
  • It's certainly the only place I've seen it demanded that one must like Anne OR Fanny Price (I mean, Persuasion AND Mansfield Park vs. Wuthering Heights, yes. Vs. Twilight, naturally. Vs. each other, wtf?) And that you have to make your choice based on the (perceived) moral stance of each heroine, rather than who you'd rather sit next to at a dinner party.
Mansfield ParkHeadscratchers/LiteratureJane Eyre

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