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Persuasion > Chapters 20-22

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 26, 2014 04:32PM) (new)

Party at Camden Place


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 108 comments Mod
Chapter 23: I'm a little dubious about some of the claims in the argument between Anne and Capt. Harville, but that letter is so moving. And the subsequent discussion between Anne and Wentworth goes right to one of the points discussed in our earlier thread:

(view spoiler)


message 3: by Hana (new)

Hana | 78 comments Mod
The letter! So romantic :)

I found the scene at the concert quite wonderful. Anne's frantic attempts to get back into conversation with Wentworth were painful but comical. Mr. Elliot hovers, buzzing in like a wasp, then brushed away. His smarmy comment about 'not changing her name' doesn't even register.

Chapter 21 at Mrs. Smith's worked less well for me. It was a little contrived and made Mr. Elliot's past (view spoiler) Poor Anne doesn't confide in Mrs. Smith, or in Lady Russell--she still seems so cut off from everyone.


message 4: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 102 comments I have always had a hard time with Mrs. Smith, but, as I realized this time around, it's because I'm judging her by Anne's standard, and she's not as intelligent or rational as Anne is. In fact, even though she is Anne's friend, her primary driving force is self-interest. What other reason could she possibly have for not warning Anne away from Mr. Elliot? The whole idea that she thought Anne already loved him and was going to marry him, and saying that gave her an excuse for not revealing his character is weak at the very least. She did hope, in her heart, that Anne would marry Mr. Elliot so that she herself could get some relief in her situation. No doubt she did try to convince herself that Anne would improve him over time, but I'm afraid I don't buy it. After all, Anne's mother may have kept Sir Walter's idiocy in check while she was alive, but she certainly did not alter his character!


message 5: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 102 comments I have such a hard time with The Letter! I never want to continue reading, because I know the book is almost over, and I just don't want it to end. Sigh, it's over, again.


message 6: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 102 comments Hana wrote: "The letter! So romantic :)

I found the scene at the concert quite wonderful. Anne's frantic attempts to get back into conversation with Wentworth were painful but comical. Mr. Elliot hovers, buzz..."


Definitely a distraction, Hana! It seems so important at the moment, but is it really?


message 7: by Samanta (new)

Samanta   (almacubana) Karlyne wrote: "I have always had a hard time with Mrs. Smith, but, as I realized this time around, it's because I'm judging her by Anne's standard, and she's not as intelligent or rational as Anne is. In fact, ev..."

I had that same nagging feeling about Mrs. Smith upon this reading. She was just too "dodgy" for me.


message 8: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 48 comments Karlyne wrote: ". What other reason could she possibly have for not warning Anne away from Mr. Elliot?"

Because if Anne had pledged her word, the warning would only have given her pain. You can't break off an engagement that lightly.


message 9: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 102 comments Aha! I just figured out what really bugs me in Mrs. Smith: she didn't have to congratulate Anne and strew rose petals of love and joy over her. She could have just quietly asked her if the engagement was indeed a fact, because, if so, Anne could help her.

But there I go again, judging Mrs. Smith by Anne's right conduct!


message 10: by Hana (new)

Hana | 78 comments Mod
Mary, that makes sense, but I'm still not liking her.

Karlyn's comments about Mrs. Smith's ulterior motives for wanting an Anne-Mr. Elliot connection seem entirely likely. Mrs. Smith is also remarkably self-absorbed in this conversation. She recognizes that Anne is in love with someone other than Mr. Elliot, but then wouldn't any woman immediately ask: "Who is it? Who is the special man?" But no, she launches into the whole big reveal about her past and Mr. Elliot.


message 11: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 69 comments Ch. 20 notations:
Gratitude played a large role in early 19th c. debates about love and gender. An influential advice book A Father's Legacy to His Daughters (1774) insists that what women commonly call love is actually gratitude. When a gentleman formed an attachment to a young lady who was his friend, and she perceived it, she was filled with gratitude. in Austen's novels, gratitude leads to love. Wentworth thinks Louisa and Benwick's relationship would be stronger if it had originated in gratitude. However, his and Anne's courtship does not begin with gratitude. Persuasion is the one novel where "intensity of feeling moves nearer to the center of the book's professed values. It is Jane Austen's one romantic novel: the one book in which love is not the product of gratitude." (Laurence Lerner, 1967)

Mrs. Smith's property in the West Indies implies involvement in the slave trade, which was abolished in Britain in 1807. This would have played a role in her impoverishment during her widowhood. Slavery was still legal in the British Isles until 1833.

Mrs. Clay and Mr. Elliot's clandestine meaning is full of significance. A handshake between a man and a woman was a highly suggestive gesture. It implied a degree of intimacy and shows that the Elliots are blind to what is happening under their noses.


message 12: by QNPoohBear (last edited Nov 13, 2014 01:19PM) (new)

QNPoohBear | 69 comments My thoughts:
Wentworth learned his lesson: don't trifle with young ladies and don't mistake headstrong spoiled girls for young ladies of determination.

The concert scene is painful. Anne is trying to be nice to her slimy cousin and flirt with Wentworth at the same time. It does spur Wentworth to jealousy but what if he didn't get over it? Mr. Elliot behaves childishly "I know a secret! Someone has been talking about you!" is a game kids play. Then he makes a sort-of-kind-of-half-hearted attempt at a proposal "I hope your name may never change." She doesn't even know what he means by that. His moves are not very smooth for all his polished manners. Then he turns out to be a self-interested gold digger who wants to sell Kellynch and make himself more money. This part of the novel isn't even necessary because Anne knows she doesn't trust him and would never marry him anyway.

I never liked Mrs. Smith. Was she interested in seeing Anne to renew old friendships or was she only interested in what Anne could do for her? I hate how gossipy her nurse is and though I feel for Mrs. Smith being an invalid and needing to participate in the social whirl vicariously, I would feel uncomfortable having a nurse that gossiped so much.


message 13: by Marquise (new)

Marquise Mmm . . . not the best part of Persuasion. The whole Bath setting is in general not my preference, and this added another reason as to why.

I found the Big Reveal of the Bad, Bad, Bad Man scene between Anne and Mrs Smith terribly executed, and in my opinion it's the novel's lowest point. For a start, its plot relevance is little to null. Was it really necessary to write this into the narrative? Was it needed to have Mr Elliot be the Bad One to this extent? Wasn't it enough to neutralise him as a rival that Anne doesn't have feelings for him and that her feelings for Frederick are resurfacing? Did Austen really need to bring the rival down by making him look like a bonafide rascal that can't hold a candle to honourable Captain Wentworth? No! And, in my view, it made Anne's choice too "easy" and robbed it of gravitas: now she doesn't have to go through the dilemma of having to choose between one somewhat smooth but essentially good-natured gentleman and an equally good-natured naval captain, as was happening during the concert scene where she struggles to please one and the other and ends up driving one to jealousy. Now, with the revelation of what a sleazy piece of work Mr Elliot is, she doesn't have to bother to solve her dilemma at all, it's solved for her with a very convenient reason. She doesn't have to make any effort anymore, because there's only one good choice now, and she'd be a complete idiot not to.

Then, if Austen was going to make Mr Elliot the bad one, then at least make him actually bad for a very solid reason, and don't pile up. He married a woman for her money, it makes him no good but not terrible either. But they you have him first wanting to sell Kellynch and the baronetcy as soon as Sir Walter gives up the ghost, and then wanting to meddle to prevent a new marriage for him, and then suddenly he wants to keep the baronetcy so he can be another pompous baronet? Meh, that paints him as a silly man and ambitious as best. But it wasn't enough, he had to be badder, so we have Mrs Smith saying that he "encouraged" her and her husband to spend beyond their means, so they were ruined. Seriously?! How is that exactly his fault when he didn't have their money himself nor spend it himself. At best, he can be accused of giving poor and malicious advice, but not of being part of the ruin of the Smiths. That lies wholly on the Smiths, and if Austen wanted this to be credible and William to be real bad, she could've had him be a swindler, to have been active part of their ruin, as in if he actually got their money, gambled it and lost, etc. Something! Mrs Smith's motivation to tell Anne at the eleventh hour rings unbelievable, and I'd even venture that there's an element of resentment in this and of self-delusion. Why? Because if she truly cared for Anne's well-being, she'd have found a way to warn her when she thought Anne was going to marry William, and not after when she knows the marriage won't happen. Sure, the excuse can be that Mrs Smith didn't want to appear like she was badmouthing Anne's future husband, but why tell her only after it doesn't matter? And how is that going to help? Plus, she told the whole tale in a way that, as Anne observed, avoids blaming her husband for being spendthrift and herself for the same. They were the ones responsible.

My, did it stink. :(

Back to the Elliots, I was right in thinking Sir Walter's attitude towards Wentworth had softened, and that he, unlike Elizabeth, has manners and never wants to offend on purpose. Whilst his daughter continues to be ungracious or grudgingly acknowledge Frederick as if she were being forced at pistol-point, he's polite. I especially loved this bit of conversation between him and Lady Dalrymple that Anne eavesdrops:

“A well-looking man,” said Sir Walter, “a very well-looking man.”
“A very fine young man indeed!” said Lady Dalrymple. “More air41 than one often sees in Bath.—Irish, I dare say."

Considering that for one's good looks are of crucial importance, it is indeed the highest compliment Anne's father can give Frederick! Nice to see that the Dowager Viscountess doesn't seem to be snobbish at all, and even seems to be using the "Irish" comment in a praiseful manner, like saying he's handsome, he must be Irish. :D



message 14: by Georgie-who-is-Sarah-Drew (last edited Oct 23, 2015 03:13PM) (new)

Georgie-who-is-Sarah-Drew (sarahdrew) Marquise wrote: "Mmm . . . not the best part of Persuasion. The whole Bath setting is in general not my preference, and this added another reason as to why.

I found the Big Reveal of the Bad, Bad, Bad Man scene be..."


Yes, I see your point - it's a very clunky scene, and however often I read Persuasion it always grates. And Mrs Smith's delay in telling Anne is not helpful. But I think this scene is here for other reasons.

The way I see Mrs Smith is as a Manga Anne - i.e. she's all Anne's qualities writ large and poster-like. Look at the parallels:- Mrs Smith shares Anne's background at school. She's been emotionally deserted by her family. She had an early attachment that is now over (albeit her husband died). She's ended up in Bath with few resources. Lady Russell approves of her. In spite of her vicissitudes, she remains positive and tries to help all around her. She knows Mr Eliot and when she first met him, she liked him.

Anne moves in the book from Kellynch to Uppercross to Bath, and with each move, her sphere of influence and congenial company diminishes. By the time she gets to Bath, Mrs Smith is effectively her only friend, and certainly the only person to whom she speaks openly. I see her as Anne's alter ego - an amplification of Anne. So Anne says, explicitly, that she would never dream of marrying Mr Eliot, and Mrs Smith chimes in with all the good reasons why Anne is right. Mrs Smith provides external and validating evidence to underpin the rightness of Anne's unconscious decisions. So the scene is not about removing Anne's choices - it's actually about building up Anne's moral authority. "Look at Anne - even without the evidence (which we now present) she sussed Mr Eliot out."

What is interesting is - as you note - that Jane Austen almost can't help but make Mrs Smith more than a mere cypher: her unwarranted (and hypocritical?) defence of her husband humanises her.

And as for Mr Eliot's sin - I'd agree he has committed no legal crime, and the Smiths were largely authors of their own misfortunes. But in Jane Austen's eyes, I think his real failing was in abandoning the Smiths in their hour of need, when he could have afforded to help them - whereas Anne has stood by Mrs Smith. Another parallel, and Anne triumphs again!


message 15: by Marquise (last edited Oct 23, 2015 04:12PM) (new)

Marquise Georgiana wrote: "The way I see Mrs Smith is as a Manga Anne - i.e. she's all Anne's qualities writ large and poster-like. Look at the parallels:- Mrs Smith shares Anne's background at school. She's been emotionally deserted by her family. She had an early attachment that is now over (albeit her husband died). She's ended up in Bath with few resources. Lady Russell approves of her. In spite of her vicissitudes, she remains positive and tries to help all around her. She knows Mr Eliot and when she first met him, she liked him."

"Manga Anne." Hahahahahaha... Very funny! :D

You make a great point, Georgiana! That's one thing I am loving about this buddy read, that the old-time readers provide their input for contrast with those of the newcomers like me.

Though I'd noted the parallels between the two women early on, I'd not seen Mrs Smith as a counterfactual parallel. Through that lens, I would add that then the resentment-as-motivation aspect I'd thrown in as a possibility looks likelier now if she thinks Mr Elliot deserted them in their hour of need, and it again takes away much of the supposed selflessness of the act of telling Anne this. And once more, I am by no means convinced that it was wholly well-meaning because of the timing and the non-usefulness. What exactly can Anne make out of that? I don't believe I said that her choice is taken away from her with this revelation, but it certainly is made easier, and she didn't need this at all. We'd already seen her puzzle out William on her own with no external help, and we readers can already see for ourselves both through her and from scattered hints what Elliot is like. We as readers didn't need a blatant confirmation of Anne's choice being the right one, and she's deprived of the chance to contend with the choice between two men of more or less equal standing, if one slightly less lily-white, and instead she has to make the choice between a sleazeball and a upright man. And that's my major objection to the whole thing, there's always a bigger struggle between two things of similar standing vs. God and Lucifer.


message 16: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 69 comments Wow the newcomers are adding so much to the analysis of this novel. I am not fond of Mrs. Smith and her gossip vine. She heard from her nurse who heard from this lady who heard ... That's too much like the game of telephone for me. I think this type of introduction to the villain might be very 18th century, showing the influence of Austen's favorite novels on her writing. I don't know that for sure, not being fully acquainted with 18th century literature.

I did eat at Pizza Hut in the Westgate buildings in honor of Mrs. Smith though. The area has been gentrified and the building now houses shops and restaurants.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 70 comments Georgiana & Marquise, both of you bring up points that I didn't pick up on as I read.

I think Anne's dilemma would have been more interesting, now that you've pointed it out, if Mr. Elliot wasn't so sleazy, if he had been a mostly good man.

I couldn't help but giggle that after Elizabeth all but snubs CFW, she now sees that his presence at her evening party would add style and flair--help to make it a success.

Is there anything she won't stoop to after her rudeness to CFW?

I realize all of you noticed Elizabeth's hypocrisy--goes without saying. I just had to mention how it made me giggle.

If Elizabeth had been an acquaintance of mine, I would blush for her bad taste.

QNPB,

I love when you tell about your trip to Bath. :)


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 70 comments I had another thought about Elizabeth too.

She certainly doesn't have the character as does Anne, to make up her own mind based on evidence about people.

It's almost if Lady Dalrymple's approval was an inspiration for Elizabeth to invite CFW to the party after her own rudeness to him.


message 19: by Marquise (new)

Marquise Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder wrote: "I had another thought about Elizabeth too.

She certainly doesn't have the character as does Anne, to make up her own mind based on evidence about people.

It's almost if Lady Dalrymple's approval ..."


I suspect it might be so. Or her father's attitude too, because she was forced to acknowledge Frederick after initially ignoring him when her father acknowledged him politely.

If you think of it, the only two truly irredeemably obnoxious ones are Elizabeth and Mary, because even Sir Walter does show flashes of possessing at least one good quality.


message 20: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 69 comments Wentworth is accepted by the Musgroves AND he's super rich so Sir Walter doesn't have much of a choice but to acknowledge Frederick. Times were changing with the Industrial Revolution too and those with money were not necessarily those with lineage dating back to William the Conqueror or Henry VIII.

Elizabeth is so obnoxious I find it hard to feel sympathy for her but as the eldest and unmarried sister in my family, I do feel a little something for her. I actually like Mary. Not because she has any redeeming qualities but she's an amusing character. She reminds me of my drama queen sister sometimes.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 70 comments I guess of the two, Mary is sillier than Elizabeth and perhaps amusing as a drama queen.

There's a meanness about Elizabeth that Mary doesn't have except about Harriet marrying CHayter.


message 22: by Marquise (new)

Marquise Yes, indeed. The acceptance of the Musgroves and the opinion of Lady Dalrymple, their social superior, certainly contributed, but more so for Elizabeth than Sir Walter, I'd say, because he'd already been willing to treat Frederick politely the first time he saw him in Bath after years and before he'd know what the mentioned people thought. So, in that, I'm giving Sir Walter due credit. :)

I also agree on the point about Mary. Some characters can irk you mightily, but when they lack malice it's easier to take them as merely irritating. The meddlers, busybodies, nosey-parkers, etc., also belong in this category.


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