Lady Russell: Good Intentions, Bad Judgment

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Kandiss Anderson
English 121 Jones
25 October 2010
Lady Russell: Materialism over Inner Worth
Social class is a temptation and persuasive tool for deciding whom to marry; however, the inner worth and value of a person can be a much better factor for the longevity and happiness of marriage. Throughout Persuasion, the author, Jane Austen, illustrates that the traditional way of marriage is to marry in the same class or a higher one, regardless of the chemistry between two people. In this story, Lady Russell is a prominent character that holds great influence over whom Anne should marry. Although Lady Russell believes she is acting in Anne’s best interest, her judgment is not always the best about marriage prospects and disregards Anne’s true feelings. Social rank carries much more importance to Lady Russell than the personality and heart of a person, which is a main concern in the entire novel. Throughout the story, Lady Russell emphasizes the importance of social rank versus the inner worth and value. This character flaw is magnified by her care for Anne, which is seen in her advice she gives for Anne’s attachments and her quick change in opinion of people based on their situation and position in society. Social rank plays a big role throughout Persuasion and a big part in Lady Russell’s character, which we first see through her opposition to Anne and Wentworth’s first relationship. Early in the book, the narrator describes Lady Russell as having a “prejudice for ancestry” where she judges people based on their affluence and rank (9). In chapter four, the audience observes this prejudice firsthand through her reasoning for her dislike of Wentworth through a reminiscent background story. Lady Russell thinks Wentworth has “nothing but himself to recommend, no hopes of attaining affluence…and no connexions…” which is not suitable for Anne in any way (19). Through this narrative, one assumes that Lady Russell is only focusing on the outer worth of Wentworth rather than on his emotional and loving connection with Anne. Furthermore, the narrator also shows that Lady Russell saw Wentworth’s wit and headstrongness as “dangerous character” that she has no taste for (19). Lady Russell does not like Wentworth because he is not like her, which continues to add to her bias of not favoring him for Anne. This leads the audience to believe that Lady Russell is so blinded by her prejudice and biases that she cannot regard Anne’s feelings in the situation. The narrator also describes Lady Russell as having a “mother’s love;” however, Lady Russell’s actions frustrate the audience, because she is looking out for Anne according to her own lights (19). It is her selfless caring for Anne that magnifies her character flaw, but she has good intentions at heart. This situation shows one aspect of Lady Russell’s character where her propensity for material possessions, wealth, and rank overwhelm her judgment and Anne’s own feelings. In the latter half of the book, the narrative provides the audience with a great perspective into the superficiality of Lady Russell as well as her desire for Anne to have the best. It presents two sides of Lady Russell, which make the audience not only frustrated with her but also gracious and thankful toward her. Lady Russell proves her concern for affluence and social standing over inner worth, which blinds her to the pitfalls of Mr. Elliot. Based on Lady Russell’s previous attitude toward Mr. Elliot, the narrative sets up the readers to anticipate when they meet again in chapter sixteen. However, the second meeting ends with a surprising result that has Lady Russell viewing Elliot as the most “agreeable or estimable man” she has ever met (96). She continues to describe him as having “good understanding, correct opinions…and a warm heart” who is steady, observant, moderate, [and] candid” (97). All of Lady Russell’s previous opinions and notions about Mr. Elliot’s rudeness and inadequacy have disappeared once his...
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