When I finished the last post on Persuasion, I did a little happy dance in my head because I thought I was done. However, it is a rainy, yucky afternoon, my husband is watching The Matrix movies AGAIN, so I find myself with the luxury of “chewing” on Persuasion a little more. There are things that set this book apart from the others and there are questions that I want to think about a little more. Here are some of my random “chewings”:
- Was Lady Russel right about Anne & Frederick’s young romance? – This presents a unique conundrum for me. The answer is yes and no… At the age of twenty, my answer would have been a resounding NO! How dare she keep them apart? They were clearly in love and regardless of social class or financial status, they should have been allowed to marry and have a shot to live happily ever after! (This delivered with the utmost contempt and indignity.) When someone is twenty, her view of life is often clouded with pride and the need to demonstrate to the world that she is self-sufficient enough to make her own decisions and, thereby, destroy her own life! I have walked that path and can appreciate that response. However, as someone whose twenties have rapidly faded in her rear view mirror, my answer would have to be that I agree with Lady Russel’s assessment of Anne and Frederick’s engagement. Lady Russel is no villainess. She has been around long enough to know that two people cannot “live on love,” and although there is Frederick’s confidence that “he should soon be rich,” he is described as somewhat of a bum. He’s a spendthrift and isn’t exactly the kind of man we want our daughters to marry – certainly not in a time where the wife’s fate was directly dependent upon the husband’s success. Was it the right call? Undoubtedly. Frederick’s career in the navy was made possible because he was an unattached man with nothing to lose. His success was to due to his own bravery in the face of danger and commitment to his profession. Anne would have been a distraction at best and a hindrance at worst.
- Who is Anne? – Anne is drastically different in her situation than the other heroines Austen has given us. All of our other Austen ladies have been in the blush of youth (17-21 years old), inexperienced, and at the entrance of adulthood. Anne Elliot is a completely mature twenty-seven and already schooled in lost love and the disappointments of life. She knows regret and sorrow and has truly given up on finding love in her future. Her personality is very measured and contained. She isn’t exuberant or impetuous like Elizabeth or Emma; however, she isn’t a wilting violet like Fanny, either. She’s already learned the lessons that Austen’s heroines often face. Is Anne a representation of Austen’s hopes for herself? Was she looking for a more mature love? Or is this a reflection of her sister, Cassandra, who possessed a very reserved nature and maintained a devotion to a lost love?
- Where did this very romantic story come from? – Maybe it’s just me, but this novel seems much more romantic that the others. It seems that other characters must learn the hard lesson that there is more to a successful relationship than attraction and romance. Most of the happier marriages are made through additional connections (family or longtime friends). While Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s relationship has a romantic tone, there is still more going on there than simple devotion. They are from the same social class and their personalities seems to compliment one another – (he’s an ass and she doesn’t let it bother her). Some of her other novels highlight that the “torches” carried by lovers fade relatively quickly – Edmund Bertram’s fascination for Mary Crawford disappears quickly and Marianne forgets Willoughby to be perfectly happy with Col Brandon. Yet, here Austen gives us this twenty-seven year old woman, in the “autumn” of her life, who is able to regain her youth and, by the end of the novel, is granted a new spring and a fresh bloom.
These are just a few thing tumbling around in my head today. I can’t wait to get to class and hear what others have to say! This one is going to be one of my favorites, not because I love the characters, but because it feels like such a departure from the other books. What might Austen have given us next if her death hadn’t taken her away so soon?