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Literature / Persuasion

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"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

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, 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 a 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 Ciarán Hinds in 1995, and a made-for-tv movie (this time starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones) in 2007. Netflix released a "modern" retelling starring Dakota Johnson in 2022.

This novel provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Wentworth gives Anne one of the most gorgeous in literature: "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope..."
  • 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.
  • Black Comedy: The Lemony Narrator wryly describes how eager the townspeople of Lyme are "to enjoy a dead young lady, nay, two dead young ladies, for it was twice as fine as the first report."
  • Blue Blood:
    • Sir Walter is a baronet and he takes great pride in it. His daughters Elizabeth and Mary are similarly proud. Lady Russell is also the widow of a knight, and though otherwise sensible is noted to have a little prejudice towards ancestry.
    • Their great cousins, the Dalrymples, are even more noble aristocracy. Sir Walter and Elizabeth hang on their every invitation in Bath, and Anne is the only one who finds to be a pair of stuffed shirts with no personal charms or intelligence. (Mr. Elliot does agree with this when she politely indicates this opinion, but maintains that the people who gather around them may be worth knowing.)
  • The Captain: An abundance of them. Wentworth, Harville, Benwick, and (formerly) Croft.
  • Character Development: This has happened to Anne before the book starts. When she was younger, she was more impressionable and she let herself be persuaded not to marry Wentworth. Having spent the intervening period as an increasingly lonely and isolated spinster, she has become The Stoic, and the experience of managing the affairs of her entire family in the teeth of her idiotic dad's spendthrift tendencies has given her Nerves of Steel. The book is about how it takes Wentworth rather a long time to realise that she's not the inconstant girl she used to be.
  • Cool Big Sis: Mrs. Smith (then Miss Hamilton) took Anne under her wing 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 Eye Candy: Mr. Elliot totally checks Anne out when he spots her in Lyme Regis without knowing who she is. Anne quite enjoys the appreciation. Wentworth does not.
  • Exact Eavesdropping:
    • While on the overlong walk with the Musgroves, Anne takes a rest in a spot concealed by some hedgerows. Then Louisa and Wentworth walk by, expressing some rather passionate opinions on how deplorable it is to be easily persuaded and the story of Anne turning down Charles Musgrove's proposal, which Louisa attributes to Lady Russell's influence. This informs Anne quite painfully of just how angry Wentworth still is at her, and that she'll probably have to watch him marry Louisa.
    • She overhears a more heartening conversation later after Louisa's fall when Wentworth suggests that there is "no one so capable as Anne" to stay and help the Harvilles nurse their charge.
  • Excessive Mourning: The narrative actually pokes some fun at the elder Mrs. Musgrove when she mourns her son Richard, who died while under Wentworth's command, noting that although it's only natural for a mother to mourn her lost child he really wasn't worth it.
  • Facepalm: Captain Wentworth "passes his hand across his eyes" when he talks to Anne before the concert. They talk about Louisa's fall and he remembers that he failed to catch her.
  • Filching Food for Fun: Implied. Mr Shepherd, a lawyer, recalls an event when Mr Wentworth, a clergyman, consulted with him about some stolen apples from his orchard. Mr Wentworth decided not to take any legal action so it's likely it was a young kid who tried to steal some apples and made a stupid mistake.
    [I] knew the gentleman so well by sight; seen him a hundred times; came to consult me once, I remember, about a trespass of one of his neighbours; farmer's man breaking into his orchard; wall torn down; apples stolen; caught in the fact; and afterwards, contrary to my judgement, submitted to an amicable compromise.
  • First Love: Anne's early romance with Captain Wentworth had been scuttled by her family, but she never forgot him. Their paths cross again years later and she has to watch him court others before eventually winning him back.
  • Foil: Louisa Musgrove to Anne, as a 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 his only son was stillborn. 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.
  • Heroic BSoD: After Louisa falls from the Cobb, Mary and Henrietta immediately fall into a shrieking panic and her brother Charles is hardly any better. Wentworth, though an experienced captain, is struck with horror because he'd encouraged her to be impetuous and stubborn, which led her to attempt the unsafe jump, and Captain Benwick is similarly shocked into immobility. Anne is the one who keeps her head and takes charge of the situation.
  • Hope Is Scary: Wentworth confesses this when he realizes he might win her after all.
  • Hypocrite: Sir Walter complains about the Navy bringing "persons of obscure birth into undue distinction" and Mary, when speculating that Wentworth might be made a baronet, says that she doesn't think much of new creations. The Elliots are not only on the lowest rung of the ladder of peerage, their baronetcy would have been only a hundred years old when Sir Walter was bornnote  and was itself granted for loyal service as a borough's high sheriff.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Sir Walter Elliot. He leads an expensive life and cared very little for his estate or money situation. At the beginning of the novel, he can no longer be blind to the fact that he's deep in debt. His estate is let and he has to relocate to a smaller house at Bath.
  • Kissing Cousins: Henrietta Musgrove is courted by her cousin Charles Hayter. Their mothers are sisters.
  • A Lady on Each Arm: Captain Wentworth courts both of the Musgrove sisters for a while.
  • Long Last Look:
    • Anne is asked to visit almost everybody to say goodbye before the Elliots leave Kellynch for Bath.
      Anne: And one thing I have had to do, Mary, of a more trying nature: going to almost every house in the parish, as a sort of take-leave. I was told that they wished it.
    • Anne is solitary, pensive and sad as she looks around the silent, empty drawing room of the Uppercross House. And then again she looks at the place as she herself leaves to stay with her friend Lady Russell.
      [A]nd yet, though desirous to be gone, she could not quit the Mansion House, or look an adieu to the Cottage, with its black, dripping and comfortless veranda, or even notice through the misty glasses the last humble tenements of the village, without a saddened heart. Scenes had passed in Uppercross which made it precious. It stood the record of many sensations of pain, once severe, but now softened.
    • Captain Harville talks to Anne about how it feels when a naval officer takes a long last look at his family.
      Captain Harville: If I could but make you comprehend what a man suffers when he takes a last look at his wife and children, and watches the boat that he has sent them off in, as long as it is in sight, and then turns away and says, 'God knows whether we ever meet again!'
  • Looking Busy:
    • Anne dedicates her evening parties to playing the piano and providing music to others so she doesn't have to dance, and at one dinner party, she plays the piano to avoid talking to people and to avoid mortifying, painful conversation with her ex-fiance.
    • Charles Hayter takes up newspaper when he wants to avoid having conversation with Captain Wentworth because he's jealous. They both court Miss Musgrove... which Captain Wentworth doesn't know.
    • At the evening party at Sir Walter and Miss Elliot's, Anne and Captain Wenthworth pretend they admire displayed greenhouse plants. They actually want to talk in private.
  • 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 heartbroken, 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 to persuade Anne that she and Mr. Elliot would make a wonderful couple. She sees Anne following 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. They were alike in temperament, and Anne misses her affection and good sense keenly.
  • Mrs. Hypothetical:
    • Captain Wentworth befriends the Musgroves of Uppercross and both of the eldest sisters Henrietta and Louisa like him a lot. Mary and Charles Musgrove agree that he would be a great match for either but keep arguing over which one he prefers. It's even hinted that Captain Wentworth could become a baronet. Mary thinks 'Lady Wentworth' sounds very well.
      Mary: That would be a noble thing, indeed, for Henrietta! She would take place of me then, and Henrietta would not dislike that. Sir Frederick and Lady Wentworth! It would be but a new creation, however, and I never think much of your new creations.
    • Anne Elliot is courted by William Elliot, her distant cousin and her father's heir. Mr Elliot knows Anne loves her home and tries to use its charm to woo her, saying he hopes her name might never change. Anne's godmother and friend Lady Russell also brings it up and says she would love to see Anne as the future mistress of Kellynch, the future Lady Elliot. The precious name of "Lady Elliot" sounds wonderful to Anne, but Mr Elliot himself is not the man she loves.
    • Mrs Smith tells her friend Anne about hot gossip from Bath: Widowed Mrs Clay staying with the Elliots means to marry Sir Walter and hopes to be the next Lady Elliot.
  • New Old Flame: Anne and Wentworth used to be engaged, and after some very painful experiences, they are reunited.
  • No Accounting for Taste:
    • The marriage of Sir Walter Elliot and his late wife Elizabeth is described as a very unequal match; all Sir Walter has is good looks and an enormous sense of self-importance, and she is described as a woman of sterling qualities in personality, judgment, and conduct, "if they might be pardoned the youthful infatuation which made her Lady Elliot."
    • Charles Musgrove, after being turned down by Anne, married her younger sister Mary. The narrator notes that they might sometimes pass for a happy couple when Mary isn't being fussy and obnoxious and Charles isn't being passive-aggressive towards her. Unfortunately, these occassions are rare. Mary constantly demands attention, often by Playing Sick, and Charles isn't a man of great emotional resource so he spends most of his time in outdoor sport.
  • 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 independent and get wealthy quickly, and when he was young, he did not value the baronetcy and his Blue Blood connections a lot. His wife loved him very much, but he didn't love her at all. It's implied he treated her rather harshly, if not outright cruelly. Moreover, Mr Elliot doesn't mix with her family after her death, so they gained very little from this marriage while Mr Elliot 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.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: Lady Russell's advice and Anne's yielding to it eight years ago. On the face of it, Lady Russell had good reason to fear the result of Anne marrying Wentworth—he was a man in a dangerous profession, was enthusiastic rather than cautious, had already been spendthrift with prize money, and Sir Walter would have cut Anne off without a penny had they gone through with it. This gave Lady Russell a very real fear that Anne would be widowed young and left with no support from her own family. Anne didn't mind defying her foolish and arrogant father, but she couldn't bear the thought of disappointing the woman who had become her second mother. But in the seven years since, Anne has formed the view that she may have been poor but happier.
  • Old Maid: The concept is hinted to apply to both Anne and Elizabeth.
    • Elizabeth is pushing thirty which was at least borderline spinster age for a woman in this society. However, she is widely considered to be even more attractive than a decade ago, while both of her younger sisters are said to have their best years aside of them, in terms of looks. It's her personality and pickiness what keeps her from getting married and it's mentioned that Elizabeth is starting to feel self-conscious about her age.
    • Anne is 27 when the novel begins, and she thinks she will not get married at all because she still thinks of her first suitor and is sure she could never love anybody else.
  • 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.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Wentworth spends the beginning of the novel showing his resentment towards Anne by making snarky comments in her direction. The only time he directly helps her is when little Walter gets too rough playing with her while she’s taking care of the hurt little Charles.
  • Playing Sick: Mary Musgrove, constantly. She mostly seeks attention. Usually, she feels healthy if there a party or if there are some interesting visitors.
  • 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...
  • 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 as it was a time when Anne was more passive and felt the need for reason.
  • Put on a Bus: After the fall at Lyme, all the information about Louisa comes secondhand—she doesn't appear onscreen again.
  • Regency England: The Napoleonic Wars provide the historical backdrop. Although all the Austen novels take place during the war, it doesn't have much bearing on the plot. However, Persuasion is specifically set during Napoleon's first exile, which ends during the denoument and sends the naval characters back to war.
  • Romantic False Lead:
    • Mr. Elliot for Anne. He is suitable husband material, rich and noble, and appears to be sensible and worthy of superior Anne. She enjoys his attentions at first and really likes the idea of being the next Lady Elliot like her mother was, but she realizes she does not love him, and he is later revealed to be a villain.
    • Captain Wentworth 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, of which Anne is completely sure until she is informed that Louisa is marrying Captain Benwick.
  • 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. Although becoming a midshipman in the navy required being put forward by the right people, men could more easily rise through the ranks through actual ability and end their careers in a significantly higher social position than they began—as Wentworth did.
    • This is hinted at for Admiral Croft through his somewhat unpolished manners, lack of pretention, and willingness to do things like drive on his own and move his own furniture.
  • 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.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Lady Russell shipped Anne/Charles Musgrove and lamented that Anne had refused him. We hear later that the Musgroves also supported the relationship and they actually think that Lady Russell persuaded Anne not to marry him.
    • Sir Walter ships his daughter Elizabeth with his heir presumptive, Mr. William Elliot. When Anne meets him, she thinks it is not such a bad idea. One of their motives is that their property is entailed, and thus it could stay in the family through marriage.
    • Mary Musgrove ships Henrietta and Captain Wentworth.
    • Charles Musgrove ships Louisa/Captain Wentworth and Henrietta/Charles Hayter.
    • Lady Russell ships Anne and Mr. William Elliot.
  • Shipper with an Agenda:
    • Sir Walter supports his daughter's Elizabeth's pursuit of William Elliot because he's his heir presumptive. Thus their entailed property can stay in the family. In addition, Elizabeth is his favourite daughter and he thinks she should marry someone noble, and a future baronet from their own family is the best option in his eyes.
    • Lady Russell ships Anne/William Elliot. She thinks they would be a good match and cute together, but she also thinks of the Kellynch Hall and the entailed property that could stay in the Elliot family, and actually at the hands of the more deserving daughter who would become the next Lady Elliot, beloved by people just as her late mother (the former Lady Elliot) was.
    • For a brief moment, Mrs. Smith pretends she ships Anne and William Elliot. It's because she thinks the deal is done and that they are already engaged, and she wants to use Anne's influence over her husband. She is his former close friend who fell in harder times (financially, socially, health-wise) and wants his help. When Anne insists she doesn't love him and that their marriage is out of the question, Mrs. Smith reveals Mr. Elliot's true character and says her heart bled for her when she spoke of their future happy union.
    • Mrs. Smith jokingly implies that Nurse Rooke ships Sir Walter and widowed Mrs. Clay as she hopes to get a job of delivering a baby and providing her with post-natal care.
      Mrs Smith: And, indeed, to own the truth, I do not think nurse, in her heart, is a very strenuous opposer of Sir Walter's making a second match. She must be allowed to be a favourer of matrimony, you know; and (since self will intrude) who can say that she may not have some flying visions of attending the next Lady Elliot, through Mrs. Wallis's recommendation?
    • Louisa ships her sister Henrietta with Charles Hayter — though perhaps only because Captain Wentworth seems to be courting both sisters and she wants him just for herself.
    • Mary Musgrove ships Henrietta/Captain Wentworth because she dislikes the idea of Charles Hayter marrying her sister-in-law. She considers the Hayters a lowly connection.
  • Shipping Torpedo:
    • Before the novel begins, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth got engaged, but Anne broke it off. Her family was against their marriage, especially her dear godmother Lady Russell whom Anne loves and respects very much.
    • The Musgroves think that Lady Russell persuaded Anne not to marry Charles. It's not actually true as she would have been over the moon had Anne wanted to marry him and settle near her.
    • Mary Musgrove disapproves of her sister-in-law Henrietta's suitor, Charles Hayter. She thinks he's too poor and from an unsuitable family.
    • Widowed Mrs. Clay tries to charm Sir William. Almost everybody sees this possible relationship as evil — Anne, Mary (his adult daughters), Lady Russell (a family friend) and Mr. Elliot (his heir presumptive). Only his eldest daughter doesn't see it — she thinks her father would never fall in love with a woman who is not strikingly beautiful. The relationship is supported only by Mrs. Clay's family (they let her stay with him in Bath and take care of her children) and by Nurse Rooke who hopes to take care of her during a possible pregnancy and delivery.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: In-universe. Mary Musgrove thinks that Henrietta should leave Charles Hayter and marry Wentworth, while Charles Musgrove thinks Louisa should marry the good captain. It causes some ill-feeling between them since Mary's opinion is predicated on her snobbery—she thinks Hayter, a country curate, would be a shamefully "bad connection" for her to have to put up with, and her husband is insulted because Hayter is a cousin.
  • Sibling Triangle:
    • Henrietta and Louisa Musgrove are crazy about Captain Wentworth, and he happily flirts with both. Louisa then manoeuvres Henrietta away to her original suitor and seems to have Wentworth for herself, but he ends up with neither Musgrove girl.
    • There are sisters Elizabeth and Anne Elliot and their potential marriages to their distant cousin William Elliot who is their father's heir. Elizabeth would love to marry him very badly, but he does not see her as wife material, but she continues to see his politeness and friendly air as courtship. He would like to marry her sister Anne who is interested in him at first and for a brief moment likes the idea of becoming the next Lady Elliot, but does not trust him and does not love him. He ends up with neither of them as Mrs. Clay becomes his mistress and they settle together, Elizabeth remains single and Anne gets married to her one true love.
  • 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. Anne and Frederic were always suitable (they are both members of upper-middle-class, although Anne is of more noble origin) and loved each other, but Frederic was not rich enough to be able to support a wife and family. He gets vastly rich during his naval career.
  • Suicide Watch: Captain Frederick Wentworth does not leave his friend Captain James Benwick for a week after he's told that his fiancee Fanny Harville died. It's implied Captain Benwick suffers so much that he could do something very desperate. Readers hear of it from Captain Harville who tells Anne.
  • True Companions: Captains Wentworth, Harville, and Benwick. Harville was Wentworth's first lieutenant in the Laconia and Benwick was engaged to Harville's late sister before his own promotion. Wentworth says that he would drop everything to do any favor asked by Harville, and Harville's family has had Benwick as a guest in their house since their mutual bereavement.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: You can actually hear Captain Wentworth's heart breaking 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 Captain Wentworth's company immediately start gossiping about Anne and Mr. Elliot as soon-to-be-engaged.
  • The Un-Favourite: 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 do so in the future, leading to Lady Russell's objections.
    • Charles Hayter is trying to secure a curate 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.
  • Wartime Wedding: Mentioned by Admiral Croft when he and Sophy wonder why Wentworth is waiting so long to marry one of the Musgrove sisters. The Admiral says that Wentworth's hesitation comes of the peace; if it was still wartime, it would have been settled already. He also mentions his and Sophy's Fourth-Date Marriage.
  • Weddings for Everyone: Three weddings 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. Austen had two brothers in the Navy, and so the discussions of the service are well-informed. (One imagines that the Admiral's fault-finding with a painting of a boat was something Miss Austen heard herself at some point.) One major element brought out is how the Navy's actions during the Napoleonic Wars brought about some social upheaval, as reflected in Sir Walter's complaints about persons of low birth achieving "undue distinction" and the Musgrove girls gushing over the dashing Wentworth, with Henrietta forgetting about her respectable clergyman beau. The system of prize money allowed middle-class men to become landed gentry, not always to the approval of their neighbors, while news of their courage and victories in battles against the French inspired widespread admiration. Notably, all of the naval officers in this book are portrayed in a positive light.

Tropes appearing in the adaptations:

  • 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.
  • Adaptational Dumbass:
    • Mary Musgrove of the book is a self-absorbed, whiny woman constantly seeking attention, mostly by playing sick. She's certainly not the sharpest tool in the box, but nothing in the book suggests that her intelligence is below average. In the 2007 version, she's absolutely, utterly idiotic and honestly behaves like a mentally deranged person, always twitching and jerking about, speaking with a nasal voice and laughing and whining all the time and manages to embarrass herself at every opportunity.
    • Charles Musgrove is a fairly intelligent and friendly chap in the book. In the 2007 version, he's a stupid, ditzy guy who doesn't seem to realize how embarrassing his wife is and behaves like a dimwit. For instance, unlike in the book, he doesn't seem to realize that his wife only pretends to be ill.
  • Alliterative Name: Captain Harville, whose first name in the 2007 adaptation is Harry Harville.
  • Scenery Porn: The Georgian architecture at Bath in the adaptations is to die for.