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Persuasion by Jane Austin

By McCann1 Apr 12, 2013 891 Words
If you heard Jane Austen mentioned you would probably think of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility”, that is, exceedingly romantic novels written in a way that is completely obsolete in the modern world of literature, and at the prospect of reading “Persuasion” - Jane Austen’s last completed novel – that is exactly what I had anticipated. However, upon reading “Persuasion” I realised, to a large extent, that these preconceived ideas of a long-winded, irksome novel were untrue. The novel was witty, frustrating and engaging. “Persuasion” deals with how a lack of communication within a relationship can lead to heart-ache for those in it, which Anne Elliot finds out when her ex-fiancé re-appears when his sister and brother-in-law, the Crofts, rent Kellynch Hall. It follows Anne’s struggle to overcome the communication barrier and tell Frederick Wentworth, Anne’s former fiancé, exactly how she feels. Austen makes you aware of Anne’s personality through clever use of characterisation. An author has a number of choices when it comes to character development and characterisation. Austen uses some of these techniques to develop Anne. We first get introduced to her when the narrator is describing Sir Walter and Lady Russell, who we later learn persuaded Anne not to marry Frederick Wentworth. This is where Anne is flawed as she let herself be persuaded into not marrying the man she loved. The narrator gives a fairly balanced view of Lady Russell’s interfering in Anne’s love life and Anne’s malleability in allowing herself to be persuaded not to marry a man with no status or wealth. We are able to follow Anne’s development from a ‘faded’, shy housekeeper through an almost omniscient narrator who sporadically upbraids Anne for wavering in her decisions. Most of the time, the narrator uses subtle hints of humor as we follow the failure of communication within Anne and Wentworth’s relationship. As the novel unfolds the narrator welcomes us to feel more and more frustrated the closer Anne and Wentworth get. Austen also uses the fairly modern technique of free indirect discourse. This technique reveals the thoughts and feelings of Anne as they happen by mixing direct speech with narration. This is a good way of subtly telling us how the character is behaving; this allows us to see the characters more clearly and with Anne shows the indecisiveness to her feelings towards Captain Wentworth but also her open heartedness to others. Throughout the novel Austen never seems to be critical of Anne as she is her heroine and portrays her as a victim of persuasion - taking into account that at the time the book was based written women had very little control over their own lives. Anne never shows off and takes centre stage in the novel even though she is the main character this is due to her father and sisters making her a ‘nobody’ within the family but during the course of the novel, Anne is slowly seen to become more confident, prominent and to an extent more beautiful as a result of being in love. This adds to our sympathy towards Anne and we are able to connect to her, we want Anne and Wentworth to get together. Austen also uses the plot to enhance our view and understanding of Anne. Fir example in Bath when Louisa’s reckless flirting causes her to fall of the Cobb, Anne keeps her head and manages the whole situation, sending Benwick to fetch a doctor rather than Wentworth as Benwick knows Lyme. Once in Bath, Anne suddenly finds she has two men casting their eyes over her, Wentworth and Mr Elliot. This causes a space for Anne to emerge as a beautiful young women rather than a tool for other peoples use. Austen uses Bath, a foreign place for Anne; this allows her to be able to start anew, she, step by step, gets closer to Wentworth and, a few times, almost tells him how she feels before being interrupted. This adds to our frustration as, by this point, we know exactly how both Anne and Wentworth are feeling and know that they love each other, but the failure of communication between the two prevent them from finding out how the other feels. We also learn a lot about Anne from other character’s views of her throughout the novel. These range from her father, Sir Walter, thinking that she is inferior to Elizabeth and himself, to Frederick’s view of her being the perfect woman for him. The techniques that Austen uses to develop Anne’s character enable us to connect to Anne. She invites us to feel sorry for her and to see her as an admirable figure that made a mistake, and has never forgiven herself. The use of free indirect discourse and her style of narration tell us how to feel towards the character. The level of relationship we form with Anne enables us to appreciate the novel and to learn from it. We learn not to make the same mistake as she did, and let ourselves be so easily persuaded against something we have our heart set on. Such an easy understanding of a novel written in 1817 is far from what I expected. But I ended up truly enjoying the text as a whole and appreciating the skill in which Jane Austen develops her characters.

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