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Literature: Persuasion
All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.
Anne Elliot, Persuasion

Jane Austen's last completed novel, published posthumously. A much more contained, simple story than some of her more popular novels, it has as its heroine Anne Elliot, a 27-year-old spinster. Keenly intelligent, sweet, and selfless, Anne was considered very pretty in her youth and fell deeply in love with a young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, seven years before the novel began. However, she was influenced by family friend Lady Russell to reconsider her engagement with Wentworth on the grounds of imprudence — Wentworth being merely an ambitious young stripling with no real social status, no money and no sure prospects. Anne was thus persuaded to break it off.

When the novel opens, Anne is much reduced: unable to find love after Wentworth, and having rejected a match without love, she has grown faded and isolated, and frustrated by the machinations of her grasping, petty-minded family. Her father Sir Walter Elliot having squandered their fortune trying to live up to his inflated conception of a baronet's prestige, the family are forced to lease out their estate Kellynch to the Croft family. In so doing, Wentworth is reintroduced to Anne's social circle — he is Mrs Croft's brother. It turns out that Wentworth is now a captain in the navy and has amassed a considerable fortune through prize money (the novel is set in a lull between engagements with Napoleon).

Anne is forced to realise that she is still very much in love with Wentworth — and that he still harbours deep resentment towards her.

Ironically enough, having established himself comfortably both professionally and socially, Wentworth now has nothing more to wish for than to settle down and marry. Anne is forced to stand by and watch as he focuses his attentions on her brother-in-law's sisters, who are seemingly as lively and strong-willed as Anne once seemed weak and inconstant... but appearances can be deceiving, and as the autumn wears on everyone has something to learn about tempering romance with reason.

Meanwhile, Anne's cousin William Elliot, who will inherit her family's estate upon her father's death, has insinuated his way into her family circle and seems set on courting Anne, much to Lady Russell's approval; after all, he is charming, correct, the perfect paragon of respectability... everything Wentworth wasn't, all those years ago. So why does Anne never feel like she really knows him?

This being a novel by Jane Austen, you can guess how it all ends.

Though short, Persuasion is a thoughtful treatment of lost love, family fidelity, ambition, gender differences, and constancy in spite of adversity. Written toward the end of Austen's life during the advent of her fatal illness, it is tempting to read some authorial self-reflection into the story, and especially into Anne's character. Regardless, it is a subtle, emotionally sophisticated, and deeply affecting novel.

Made into a Granada miniseries in 1971, a movie starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds in 1995, and a made-for-tv movie (this time starring Sally Hawkings and Rupert Perny-Jones) in 2007.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Wentworth gets one of the most gorgeous in literature: "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope..."
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Averted: both adaptations thus far make sure Anne has her having-lost-her-bloom look, exactly as she's described in the novel, despite Amanda Root and Sally Hawkins being very attractive actresses in reality.
  • Alone Among the Couples: Anne is the only one without a sweetheart during a walk from Winthrop. Her former fiancé Captain Wentworth is with Louisa, Charles Hayter gets back together with Henrietta, and Charles Musgrove is with his wife Mary.
  • Artistic License - Ships: Discussed. Anne finds Admiral Croft bemusedly looking at a painting in the window of a print shop. When she approaches him he asks "What queer fellows your fine painters must be, to think that anybody would venture their lives in such a shapeless old cockleshell as that?" and declares "I would not venture over a horsepond in it." He goes on quite a bit about it, with a striking resemblance to a modern day geek ranting about inaccuracies in their particular area of interest.
  • Blue Blood: Sir Walter is a baronet and he takes a great pride in it. His daughters Elizabeth and Mary are similarly proud. Their great cousins, the Dalrymple are even more noble aristocracy.
  • The Captain: An abundance of them. Wentworth, Harville, Benwick, and (formerly) Croft.
  • Cool Big Sis: Mrs. Smith to Anne in their schooldays after Anne lost her mother.
  • Double Standard: Anne pointing out to Captain Harville that the reason all the poems and books he knows speak of women's inconstancy is... because all those books were written by men.
  • Eating The Eyecandy: Mr Elliot totally checks Anne out when he spots her in Lyme Regis without knowing who she is.
  • English Rose: Anne Elliot. She used to be a very pretty girl who has lost her bloom and still has modest beauty with regular features and mild brown eyes. She re-gains her appeal later. She's a sweet lady with an elegant and cultured mind who is admired and respected by people from her neighbourhood.
  • Expy: Many critics, e.g. C. S. Lewis, see Anne as a better-written version of Fanny Price of Mansfield Park.
  • Foil: Louisa Musgrove to Anne, as love interest for Captain Wentworth. Louisa is more spirited and cheerful than Anne, but she can't compare to Anne's intelligence. Captain Wentworth also compares them and thinks that while Anne was weak and irresolute Louisa's character is firm.
  • Foregone Conclusion: This is an Austen novel... Readers can guess Anne ends up being happily settled.
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: Mr. Elliot's recognition of Anne's beauty at Lyme strongly contributes to the renewal of Wentworth's attraction to her, by his own admission.
  • Happily Married: The Crofts. They spend most of their time together and Anne delights in seeing them, providing her the nicest picture of matrimonial happiness she could imagine.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Apparently, Richard Musgrove has not deserved another name than "Dick"...
  • Heir Club for Men: Sir Walter's estate Kellynch Hall is entailed and he has no son. His heir presumptive is Mr Elliot, a distant cousin to his daughters. The family wished he would marry the eldest daughter Elizabeth, but he married a low-born woman for money.
  • Hope Is Scary: Wentworth confesses this when he realizes he might win her after all.
  • I Do Not Speak Nonverbal: When Anne asks Admiral Croft if Captain Wentworth sounded upset in a letter he wrote, the admiral doesn't understand (even after she tries to explain) that she's asking about his tone and not just his words.
  • Ill Woman: Anne's best friend Mrs. Smith.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Sir Walter Elliot. He lead an expensive life and cared very little for his estate or money situation. At the beginning of the novel, he cannot be blind to the situation that he's deep in debts any more. His estate is let and he has to relocate to a smaller house at Bath.
  • I Regret Nothing:
    Anne: I have now, as far as such a sentiment is allowable in human nature, nothing to reproach myself with.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Lady Russell's primary motivation in the final chapter for finally approving of the marriage is that it will make Anne happy.
  • Kissing Cousins: Henrietta Musgrove and Charles Hayter. Their mothers are sisters.
  • A Lady on Each Arm: Captain Wentworth with the Musgrove sisters, for a while.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Mary's husband Charles was originally in love with her sister Anne, who is in love with Captain Wentworth, who flirts with Henrietta (whom Charles Hayter is in love with) and Louisa Musgrove, who eventually marries Captain Benwick, who also showed interest in Anne before Mr. Elliot did, and Anne's sister Elizabeth has always planned to marry Mr. Elliot, but he ultimately runs off with Mrs. Clay, whom Lady Russell and Anne feared had intentions of marrying Sir Walter Elliot. Whew — Miss Austen, you really outdid yourself this time.
  • Love Hurts: Basically the whole novel consists of this. Anne suffers terribly, and later we find out that Captain Wentworth has been heart-broken, jealous and desperate as well.
  • The Matchmaker: Lady Russell — she has a similar success record to Emma Woodhouse. She claims she is no matchmaker because she knows how tricky is to know anybody, but she tries persuade Anne that she and Mr Elliot would make a wonderful couple. She sees Anne in her mother footsteps, taking her place. The image is pleasing to Anne, if only there was no Mr Elliot, future Sir William, involved.
  • Missing Mom: Anne's mother is long dead before the novel opens.
  • New Old Flame: Anne and Wentworth used to be engaged, and after some very painful experiences, they are re-united.
  • Nobility Marries Money:
    • Mr William Elliot of the Kellynch family and a future baronet (Sir Walter's heir presumptive) married a low born woman from a butcher's family who was vastly rich. He wanted to be wealthy quickly and independent, and when he was young, he did not value the baronetcy and Blue Blood connections a lot. His wife is said to have loved him a lot, but he did not love her and it's implied that he treated her rather harshly, if not outright cruelly. From what is known he must have been at least emotionally abusive to her. It's probable that Mr Elliot did not mix with her family after her death, so her family gained very little from this marriage while Mr Eliot was all take and no give.
    • Anne Elliot fell for Captain Wentworth before the start of the plot. Her friends and aristocratic family tell her to reject him because he's poor. A few years on, he's risen up through the ranks of the navy and made quite a lot of money, while Sir Walter Elliot is deep in debts. However, the marriage of Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot relies on their love, and he doesn't care much for her coming from Blue Blood and she doesn't really care about his great wealth beyond being happy that they can afford to get married and have a comfortable income.
  • Old Retainer: The Musgrove's old nursemaid goes to nurse Louisa.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with Charles Musgrove and Charles Hayter. Charles and Mary Musgrove's eldest son is also named Charles. Mrs Smith's late husband was also called Charles, but he doesn't actually appear in the book.
  • Only Sane Man: Her family (both immediate and extended) being what it is, Anne gets to play this role a lot.
  • Pair the Spares: Louisa Musgrove marries Captain Benwick.
  • Parental Abandonment: Captain Wentworth was orphaned, which led to his staying with his brother, and so to his original meeting with Anne.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: A Parental Substitute marriage veto, anyway. Lady Russell was an emotional stand-in for Anne's dead mother - and she did think she was acting in Anne's best interests.
  • Playing Sick: Mary Musgrove, constantly. She mostly seeks attention. Usually she feels healthy if there a party or if there are some interesting visitors.
  • Plot-Induced Stupidity: Even fans of the novel have trouble understanding how everyone except Anne loses the ability to function when Louisa Musgrove falls off the wall, especially since nearly all of the men in the party are high naval officers that have been to war. It's implied later that Captain Wentworth at least was under the complete shock that (what he sees as) his encouragement of Louisa's impetuousness may have caused her death; the others' reactions might be attributed to the Bystander Effect, a phenomenon in which individuals hesitate to offer help to a victim when other people are present.
  • Poor Communication Kills: How fast does the rumor of Anne's engagement to Mr. Elliot spread, and to the people it can make the most miserable...
  • Proper Lady: Anne
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Anne claims Lady Russell's advice was wrong, but she (Anne) was right to yield to the advice of a friend regardless. Wentworth doesn't contradict her. Semi-Justified it was a time when Anne was more passive and felt the need for reason.
  • Regency England: The Napoleonic Wars provide the historical backdrop.
  • Rich Bitch: Elizabeth, full stop.
  • Romantic False Lead:
    • Mr. Elliot for Anne
    • Captain Wentworth also threatens Charles Hayter's relationship with Henrietta for awhile.
    • Half the book is spent trying to convince the reader that Wentworth has fallen in love with Louisa, which Anne is completely sure of until she is informed that Louisa is marrying Captain Benwick.
  • Scenery Porn: The Georgian architecture at Bath in the adaptations is to die for.
  • Self-Made Man: Wentworth perfectly exemplifies this trope, going from a young officer without status or fortune to a celebrated captain with the equivalent of several million bucks in today's money solely by working his way up through the ranks of the navy. He earns his position through his own merit — a marked difference from some of Austen's other romantic heroes like Darcy or Knightley. Fair for Its Day, as it's not quite correct to class Wentworth as a 'self-made man' in the modern sense of having started from nothing. While promotions in the Navy were earned, to get in as a midshipman - the starting rank for an officer - you had to be put forward by the right people. Wentworth isn't a commoner, he was born into the family of a gentleman; the usual background for a midshipman was that of an Impoverished Patrician or a younger son of nobility.
  • Settle for Sibling: Charles Musgrove wanted to marry Anne but she declined his offer, so he married her younger sister Mary who is considerably less pretty, less intelligent, less kind.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: The Musgrove sisters — Henrietta has a reputation as the prettiest and gentlest of the two, while Louisa has a reputation for being stubborn, spirited, and lively.
  • Signature Line: "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope."
  • Suddenly Suitable Suitor: The fact that "suddenly" takes seven years doesn't prevent this trope from occurring.
  • Temporary Love Interest: Mr. Elliot for Anne and Louisa Musgrove for Captain Wentworth, even though it's half-hearted in both cases.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: You can actually hear Captain Wentworth's heart break when he offers to walk Anne home in the rain with his umbrella, and the for-once-oblivious heroine innocently says she already has an escort — Mr Elliot. What's worse, the ladies in Capain Wentworth's company immediately start gossiping about Anne and Mr Elliot as soon-to-be-engaged.
  • The Unfavourite: Anne plays this role in her family, as she happens to be a lot less shallow and a lot more intelligent than her father or her sisters.
  • Unable To Support A Wife:
    • Wentworth had not saved anything from his naval career, and so had only hopes that he would be able to, leading to Lady Russell's objections.
    • Charles Hayter is trying to secure a position to enable him to marry Henrietta.
    • The reason Captain Benwick and Fanny Harville were still only engaged at her death was that his promotion did not come before then.
  • Weddings for Everyone: Three by the end.
  • White Sheep: Anne, the one level-headed member of a family full of fools.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Don't worry. They will.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: These elements are peripheral, but they're definitely mentioned.

Peter PanPublic Domain StoriesPride and Prejudice
Le Père Goriot 19 th Century LiteratureThe Pickwick Papers
Passage to NovemberRomance NovelPride and Prejudice
Northanger AbbeyCreator/Jane AustenLady Susan

alternative title(s): Persuasion
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