Ken-ichi's Reviews > Persuasion

Persuasion by Jane Austen
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's review
Dec 17, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: classics, xmas2009
Recommended to Ken-ichi by: Akemi Ueda

** spoiler alert ** Another beautiful trip through the Austenverse, replete with Jane's stock cast of regulars. We've got The Heroine: can perfection be personified? Why yes, yes it can. The Dude: so awesome his awesomeness (almost) blinds him to the commensurate awesomeness of The Heroine! The Interloper: you know he's bad because he seems more awesome than The Dude, which science has proven to be physically impossible! And the usual string of caricatures Austen arranges, pinata-like, so that she might eviscerate them, ninja-like, with her katana wit.

I feel Jane scowling down upon me from beneath her bonnet in 19th century heaven (where everyone is ... happily married? But Jane still enjoys making fun of them?), so I'll relent and admit that like most of Austen's books, this one had me laughing, concerned, anxiously flipping pages, my only source of discontent the rapidly approaching back cover.

Once finished, however, and I began considering the titular theme of the book, and I had concerns. Anne gets into her screwed up situation because she allows herself to be persuaded not to marry Wentworth, way before the novel even begins. Wentworth gets into his screwed up situation because a) Anna reneged, but more importantly b) he was obstinate in his resentment despite continuing to love her, and never tried to re-establish ties even though he had the opportunity to do so, thereby deceiving himself and perpetuating the unhappiness of them both. Austen set that up pretty early and I predicted Anne would show some willfulness in a bold admission of her feelings, and that Wentworth would get angry and then eventually melt and see the error in his ways. By the end, Wentworth learns "to distinguish between the steadiness of principle and the obstinacy of self-will," (p. 239), but has Anne grown a backbone? I thought not. She never makes the kind of bold gesture or speech I might have expected from Lizzy Bennet, and instead continues to be reactive. Her fate, while influenced by her own virtues, remains the product of the will of others, i.e. if Wentworth hadn't resolved to go to Bath and determine if he still had a chance with her, nothing would have happened. That bothered me. I like it when heroes benefit from their own actions.

However, the Everyman's edition (many thanks, Ak!) has an excellent introduction, which addresses this very point: "The task of the novel is not [...] to show Anne's moral growth. [...] But we do see her change. She achieves authority." The introducer goes on to point out that Anne progresses from being persona non grata among her blood relations to taking (and deserving) command at the novel's moment of greatest physical urgency (Louisa's injury), and to subtly asserting herself as the intellectual equal of any man in her crucial conversation with Capt. Harville about the relative capacity for feeling between the sexes. She also points out smaller actions Anne takes, including several attempts to place herself in Wentworth's way, and addressing him directly in the presence of her family, who she knows do not entirely approve. If these are indeed Austen's way of demonstrating the transformation I expected to see in Anne, then I guess I buy it. As a guy reading these books in the 21st century, there's a part of me that's impatient with the endless dalliance, thinking, "Would you just make out with the guy already?!" I wish all books had good intros like this.

Words & Quotes

"Freckles do not disgust me so very much as they do him: I have known a face not materially disfigured by a few, but he abominates them." (p. 34)

"Yes, here I am, Sophia, quite ready to make a foolish match. Any body between fifteen and thirty may have me for asking. A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy, and I am a lost man." (p. 60) I feel the need to make this my profile on an online dating site. This inclination goes a long way toward explaining my singleness, I imagine.

pelisse (n): an outer coat worn by women (this one might have been Jane's). (p. 63)

"...she thought it was the misfortune of poetry, to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly, were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly." (p. 98) I was extolling the virtues of language in The Wire the other night to the point of general aggravation, and while I might not "estimate it truly," I may try to "taste it but sparingly" in the future for the sake of my uninitiated compatriots. Thanks for the tip, Jane.

plaister (n): plaster (I was really hoping for something better) (p. 125)

sedulous (adj): diligent, assiduous. (p. 132) I distinctly remember this on a high school vocab list. Curse my sieve of a memory.

cavil (v): to nitpick. (p. 153). Also learned in HS, I think.
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Reading Progress

December 17, 2009 – Shelved
December 17, 2009 – Shelved as: classics
July 26, 2010 – Started Reading
July 27, 2010 –
page 34
13.08% "Oh you Regency ladies, always hatin' on the freckles."
July 28, 2010 –
page 90
34.62% "I wonder how many novels turn on conversations overheard while hiding in a bush."
July 29, 2010 –
page 142
54.62% "As usual, Austen's expert derision is the best part."
July 30, 2010 – Shelved as: xmas2009
July 30, 2010 – Finished Reading

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