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Discussion - Persuasion 2010 > Themes and Motifs in the Novel

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message 1: by Megan (last edited Sep 03, 2010 03:58PM) (new)

Megan I dug out my class notes from college (which I admit was in the days where term papers were done on typewriters - you do the math) and found notes from the first time I read Persuasion for an English Lit class.

We were taught the themes of the novel were:

Class Rigidity/Social Mobility;
Persuasion;
Separate Lives conducted by men (public = business/financial/legal) and women (private = domestic); and
the Changing Ideal of the English Gentleman (born aristocrat v. self-made man).

We were also taught that the most common motifs in Austen's novels were marriage (the pursuit there of and the mostly bad ones written about v. the very few happy ones written about) and walking (when Austen wants something to happen, she often sends her folks out for a walk as a vehicle to reveal their thoughts).

And your thoughts?


message 2: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I was just commenting back to Birdie in the "Beginning" thread and I just wondered if what I am trying to get at really doesn't deal largely with social rigidity. We were talking about Anne and the persuasion story have a beginning that is distinct from other Austen novels. One main thing being that Anne has passed these years, realizing that her decision about Wentworth was a mistake (that is how I perceive her thoughts anyway).

From there, Persuasion is so distinct too because we really become part of the mind of Anne -- we are exclusive in her thoughts the whole time, she never reveals all or honest thoughts to anyone else (except to one person at the end NO SPOILERS haha).

So I thought why was that? She did have people around her -- forget Sir Walter and Elizabeth and Lady Russell for obvious reasons -- but her extended family at Uppercross were well-meaning and cared for her. So in my opinion, much of why Anne had to live all this inside was because of the class rigidity. Of course as we have said young Wentworth had no money and no definite prospects, but also he was not defined by the Elliots as a gentleman. Remember the discussion about leasing the house to Croft, and Walter was confused because they said Croft had been connected with a gentleman who had lived in the area. Walter laughed that away and said "oh, I thought you meant a real gentleman, etc.,etc.

It seems that also kept kind of a stigma on the whole subject of Anne's love affair. Of course she would have been very emotional to talk of it, but maybe she kept her thoughts to herself mainly because her beliefs were just different. She didn't go along with the snobbery and realized there was more to the world and to people than how she had been raised. Her mind had grown outside that of her family, probably even the family at Uppercross.


message 3: by Robin (last edited Sep 04, 2010 08:19AM) (new)

Robin (robin1129) | 306 comments I wonder if it was the social stigma/snobbery aspect that kept Anne silent.

I agree with you Sarah, that she had most likely grown to see beyond her little circle(s), but remember too, no one knew of her short engagement except Sir W, Elizabeth and Lady Russell -- not even Mary. So, since everyone else (i.e., the family at Uppercross, who weren't even that close at this time) was in the dark, she had no person -- and no person like-minded regarding the social aspect -- to whom to confide all her feelings. Apparently the secret was to be kept, so she couldn't even whisper it to her little sister. Her father and elder sister disapproved, so there's no sense talking to them.

And that leaves Lady Russell.

Which makes me wonder -- how much did Anne consider her as a foster-mother, most especially after she broke off the engagement? Wouldn't she, if they had been so close, wouldn't she have cried on Lady R's shoulder -- even once? Don't you think she would have wanted to talk about it, vent, seek comfort in the person closest to her? But it seems she didn't.


message 4: by Lani (new)

Lani (lani14) | 57 comments Robin
Lady Russell seems the stiff upper lip/keeping up apperances type. I don't think Anne would have cried on her shoulder even if Lady R hadn't been the one who persuased out of the relationsip.


message 5: by Megan (new)

Megan Lani wrote: "Robin
Lady Russell seems the stiff upper lip/keeping up apperances type. I don't think Anne would have cried on her shoulder even if Lady R hadn't been the one who persuased out of the relationsip."


I agree Lani. Anne just doesn't feel like the kind of person who would "let go"- to anyone. In her immediate family, the constant disregard of her would not make any of them inviting confidants.


message 6: by Rachel, The Honorable Miss Moderator (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 674 comments Mod
You all are so correct--Anne is really shut off from anyone to let it all out to. Which makes me feel even more sympathy for her. I admire how she doesn't feel sorry for herself at the same time.


message 7: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum I would imagine that Anne learned at a very young age that her family (with the exception of her mother) was simply not interested in her. I'm sure that they yawned when she spoke, or interrupted her sentences or completely forgot what she may have said earlier. That kind of rejection would take a toll on anyone's willingness to confide, and especially on a reserved, quiet girl. Lady Russell, too, was so decided in her character that Anne would have known (especially after the broken engagement) that she would give quick, immediate advice and not give Anne the time to reflect. It's hard to confide in people who advise you almost before your words are out of your mouth!


message 8: by Amalie (new)

Amalie Hi! I'm a new member & I'm glad I found this group right on time because this is my favourite of Austen's. This book depicts exactly why Miss Austen is a great writer. Without her satirical voice or parodies she still comes out brilliantly.

Speaking about themes hasn't anyone noticed her famous recurring theme or issue of "Ludicrous Parents"?

Sir Walter although not so humourous is not so different than Lady Bertram or Mrs.Bennet or even poor Mr.Woodhouse. Sir Walter is silly and ignorant and had transferred his "qualities" to both Elizabeth and Mary. Though Anne has escaped these she too pays for Sir Walter's irresponsibility. I feel only thing what we don't find is sharp humour. But it's also still there hidden beneath. Think about the absurdity of Sir Walter's mirrors and his reading of his favourite book "Baronetage".


message 9: by Em (new)

Em (emmap) Too true, there are a number of silly parents throughout Austen. Even just within this book, Mr Elliot is self obsessed and dismissive of two of his daughters, Mary is hopeless too. Also, whilst less silly even Mrs Musgrove sports some rose tinted specs when talking about her deceased son. He was clearly far from perfect so it seemed to me she was re-writing history so to speak!


message 10: by Em (new)

Em (emmap) Not that I blame her!


message 11: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum Maybe silliness is a trait that intensifies as one grows older if not checked. Well, probably all traits do! And of course, when one is silly it's probably very hard to change, because the need is never noticed.


message 12: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) Yes, no one checks silliness at the door, so to speak. Others see silliness but the silly ones are oblivious.


message 13: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (last edited Sep 27, 2010 10:49AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I believe that one of the connections I have with Persuasion relates to the physical sort of feel of the story. The story carried out with publicly-restrained emotion and limited means of communicating verbally, but what makes it such a powerful story is this presence of these two people throughout. I found an article that talks about the physical embodiment of the two main characters. It is not a quick read necessarily, but you might be interested. I am not CERTAIN this link will work, because I actually linked in through my local library, so you may have to do the same.

http://www.accessmylibrary.com/articl...

Anyway, whether you read it or not, it says such interesting things about how Anne and Frederick become re-aware of each other and the physical has a lot to do with it.

One thing is that Anne has lived a disembodied life. She doesn't feel she has existed physically. Her family has dismissed her physical importance, her grief over loss of her mother and then of Frederick has made her pale and shadowy. So when she and Frederick re-encounter each other, they both experience emotional distress again, but they kind of grow in physical presence to each other over time.

Physical awareness and her own physical embodiment comes back to Anne when Frederick touches her by removing her nephew from her back and then later helping her into the Croft's carriage. Then Frederick completely becomes re-aware of Anne (or she more physically re-enters his awareness) when he sees William Elliot noticing her beauty.

The author also talks about a cool symbolism of Wentworth missing Louisa's hand during the fall from the steps, so their unthinking attachment ends.

I don't know if Austen's intentions would have traveled in exactly these lines as she created these scenes, but I do think she created a real atmosphere of longing and re-emerging emotions. And as the story goes along, the characters really name their emotions. Anne states them and so does Wentworth in the letter.


message 14: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum Isn't it odd that Anne, who at first glance seems to be so prim and proper and thinking, is in reality a very physical being? Because she keeps herself in such rigid control, we don't see the longing and the passion she has in her heart. Her connection with Frederick is of course emotional and mental (Anne wouldn't be attracted to anyone without those two connections), but she reacts to him with pure physicality. The terror she feels at the realization that she'll soon be seeing him in the flesh, the eagerness she feels for a glimpse of him in Bath, the relief she feels when she realizes that he does indeed care for her: these are all very physical reactions to her inner thoughts. Anne is not at all cold and passionless; she is instead self-controlled and driven by her sense of what is right.
I like the idea, too, that Frederick missing Louisa's hand is driven by his idea that maybe, just maybe, he doesn't want her hand in his forever, that he doesn't want to be eternally responsible for her impetuousness.
The very articulateness that Anne and Frederick show in naming their feelings certainly shows their characters, doesn't it?
Thanks, Sarah, for giving us such good things to think about!


message 15: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) Karlyne, you expressed it so eloquently what Anne feels for Frederick and for us in the here and now it would probably be the same, you don't want to chase after the man, but you want him to know that you care. I like that they longed for each other when they were separated him by the sea, and she still held on to her feelings, and they got back together in the end. Love does conquer all.


message 16: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) As far as Sarah stated earlier, at the beginning of the novel, Anne is just Anne, the physical attributes are to Mary, and when Anne goes to Lyme that's when people notice that the sea air worked wonders for Anne's complexion. And also, Anne was reaquainting herself once again with Wentworth, and her bloom was showing so to speak. it is funny how one is made to feel invisible when her love for Wentworth was real when she first knew him priior to meeting him again. They usually say when people are in love they have a rosy glow about them. Maybe that is what Anne had, it was easy to dismiss Anne before, but she is always the one who takes care of her nephew when he gets hurt, and stays with Louisa Musgrove when she has a contussion. And in the latter part of the book when it is raining and her sister says that she'll take the carriage, that Anne doesn't mind walking.


message 17: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum Robin, you just made me think of how Anne, before Capt. Wentworth reappears, was always in the background and seemed to be somewhat content with staying there. And so she didn't mind taking care of her nephew and missing the party, or nursing an invalid; her entire life was in the background already! But, when she realizes that perhaps Capt. Wentworth is interested in her and could even still be in love with her, she is very quick to move to the foreground. If there's a chance that her love for him could be reciprocated, then she'll do whatever her conscience and good taste will allow her to do. She'll make sure that she's not overlooked in the background of the concert, for instance! The focus of her life changes very suddenly; she is no longer a bystander but a participant in life.


message 18: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) So true, I think Austen was very observant in that way. And no one said that Anne was pretty until she realizes that people men in general are noticing her, first her cousin, Wm Elliott, and then of course Capt. Wentworth became the focus of her intentions. It is funny that at one point of the book, that different people were thinking that Anne would end up with Elliott, even her friend, Mrs. Smith, everyone came to that assumption and it took her friend to set Anne straight about the character of Elliott, when in fact Anne had no interest in Elliott. Good observation, Karlyne.


message 19: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum For all of the class consciousness (snobbery) that is rampant in this book, Anne is never affected by it. Ever her persuasion by Lady Russell to not marry Wentworth is based on the realization that it would be imprudent to marry with no money coming in, not on any kind of belief that she, as an Elliot, was socially more valuable than a mere Mr. Wentworth. But, as you say, Robin, everyone else thought that Anne would marry Mr. Elliot because he was socially acceptable, of her own class, and had plenty of money and a nice face. She was never interested in him, because those attributes did not interest her!


message 20: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) I think she went with the better man, but at one time Mr. Elliott was just starting out in his lawyering and did not have any money and was trying to get it through Anne's family and wanted to grab some of their riches, that is when he went to Lyme and didn't realize that this woman was in fact, Anne his cousin, and that is when his interests in her became more noticeable. And it seems persuasion is a very apt title because at first everyone was telling Anne to persuade such and such for whatever reason, since she was the sensible one. Good ideas!


message 21: by Amalie (last edited Sep 29, 2010 11:27PM) (new)

Amalie Robin and Karlyne, a great discussion! You've produced some great ideas. What Robin said in message 16: "Anne doesn't mind walking" reminded me of something else.

Haven't you noticed 'the walker' in Victorian or Jane Austen novels shows a great deal of independency such as 'Jane Eyre', 'Catherine Linton' etc in Victorians and Lizzy Bennet and Anne Elliot from Austen. I'm sure there's plenty more and "a journey" most the time carries a symbolic reference. But talking about female independence? Just a thought


message 22: by Em (new)

Em (emmap) That's so true Amalie, I've not thought of that before. I guess the women of the day were not generally that independent and all of these characters have an independent, defiant streak which sets them apart.


message 23: by Megan (last edited Sep 30, 2010 05:08AM) (new)

Megan I think that by the end of the novel, the Elliots (Sir Walter and Elizabeth) have come to realize that wealth is an important factor now in gauging social consequence.

8 years ago, Cpt. W was a nobody with no money. Now he is a Navy Captain and has quite the sizable fortune - much bigger that the Elliots squandered one. So suddenly Cpt. W is very acceptable.

I think there is something in the whole social order that has changed at bit in the 8 intervening years. There are "new" people in "high" society because of their money, not their "breeding" or "connections" and the Elliots have come to see that.


message 24: by Susan (new)

Susan | 106 comments Megan wrote: "I dug out my class notes from college (which I admit was in the days where term papers were done on typewriters - you do the math) and found notes from the first time I read Persuasion for an Engli..."

Megan, I too have been going through my old notes from university because I am trying to begin my graduate research and need to pin down a rough thesis. I did pull out an old paper I had written about Anne and her mobility, which is kind of related to all these discussions about physicality. I noticed that Anne, although physically disembodied, is very mobile in this novel. She moves from place to place with ease, and she is always the one to take action during the two crises that happen with both her nephew and Louisa. Anne is always the most capable person around, and I find it interesting to compare this idea with the life of Admiral and Mrs. Croft. They have lived at sea, always moving from place to place, and their marriage has survived through both rough and calm seas. I love to look at the Crofts and imagine how perfect Anne would be as a naval captain's wife, and how different she is from the members of her own family, whose own trifle worries mean really nothing in the wider scope of things.


message 25: by Megan (new)

Megan Susan wrote: "Megan wrote: "I dug out my class notes from college (which I admit was in the days where term papers were done on typewriters - you do the math) and found notes from the first time I read Persuasio..."

I totally agree with you. Very well said! "...trifle worries" is it exactly!


message 26: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Susan and Megan,
I have also thought about Anne's going out into the world in this novel. She did not necessarily seek to go -- we know she did not want to move to Bath -- but once on her way, encountering new people and reuniting with her friend Mrs. Smith, she moves completely forward, don't you think? And I think it showed that Austen wanted to write about something different too -- maybe about women who could reach out into the world away from their small village or estate and live anew.

And also what you said about the new social order in the prior comments is that she meets and respects different types of people. The Crofts are amazing. And not just Sophy, but the two of them. They are worldly yet down-to-earth practical, no-nonsense, no schemes. I love them!

Of course there is beautiful comic relief with them and their attitude and style. I am thinking of them as Anne is rescued from the long walk, riding in their buggy, and it is heading for the fence post. Read that passage again, it is great. And, don't forget the Admiral's comments on Sir Walt's mirrors (I pick on him every time, don't I?) when she and Lady Russell go to call at Kellynch. But my point is also they are very REAL people who Anne adds into her life, when she has been so used to the fakeness of her real family (just like Susan said). And aren't the Crofts just adding to our good impression of Frederick the whole time?


message 27: by Megan (new)

Megan Anne seems to try and enjoy life whatever it throws at her. She enjoys interesting people, no matter their "station". She likes the Harvilles even though they are very far removed from her experience. The Crofts are remarkable people and Anne sees and takes them as such. That they are closely connected to Cpt. W is just a bonus! The Crofts do reflect well on Cpt. W - they think alot of him as he does of them.


message 28: by Rachel, The Honorable Miss Moderator (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 674 comments Mod
Sarah wrote: "Susan and Megan,
I have also thought about Anne's going out into the world in this novel. She did not necessarily seek to go -- we know she did not want to move to Bath -- but once on her way, en..."


You are so right, Sarah--the Crofts are great, and I love that the scene of them in the carriage is famously indicative of their marriage. Definitely one of Austen's few positive married couples...well, outside of what we know the central romances will become. :)


message 29: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) You all write so eloquently of the "stations" in life, there was at the time different classes of people, and for Anne to go and mingle with various people of different classes, that was telling. Also in the Bronte's with Wuthering Heights and other Bronte novels, people walking on the moors to think private thoughts, or just to get away, Ii think people must still do that today. I find walking beneficial to my state of mind, and I can ruminate to my hearts desire.


message 30: by Shayne (new)

Shayne | 49 comments Yes, the Crofts are one of the loveliest couples in fiction, IMO. They're clearly friends as well as lovers, only happy when they're together, and with a wonderfully equal relationship.

Both the Crofts and the Harvilles (another fond couple) are warm and open. Soon after meeting the Harvilles, we're told "There was... such a bewitching charm in a degree of hospitality so uncommon, so unlike the usual style of give-and-take invitations, and dinners of formality and display...." This openness is being explicitly contrasted with the show and formality Anne is used to, and it's clear which she prefers!

I think that Sir Walter's love of mirrors not only shows his vanity, but also symbolises the importance of image, and of surface matters, to the shallow Sir Walter. The thought of the Admiral enlisting Sophy's help to heave the mirrors off into storage is a lovely one!


message 31: by Susan (new)

Susan | 106 comments Shayne wrote: "Yes, the Crofts are one of the loveliest couples in fiction, IMO. They're clearly friends as well as lovers, only happy when they're together, and with a wonderfully equal relationship.

Both the C..."


I guess I'll have to go back and read that passage about the mirrors. I do remember him mentioning how there were too many. Also, I need to look up the scene about the fencepost. What part of the novel is it? Although I really don't mind going through it again ;).

I love the Crofts, as well. They are one of the biggest reasons why I love Persuasion.


message 32: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Susan, in my edition the Crofts can be found heading for the fencepost at the end of Chapter 10 -- which is the chapter where Anne, the Musgroves, and Wentworth take the long walk.

Then my Chapter 13 includes the scene of Lady R. and Anne calling on the Crofts at Kellynch, this is at the conclusion of this chapter also, and discussing that "such a number of looking glasses" had been moved to storage by the couple!! Another reason I love the Crofts, the improvement the C's seem most proud of -- renovations to the laundry room!

Of course, you may have already rediscovered these great spots in the book, Susan, but I am like you too -- I didn't mind looking them up in the book again.


message 33: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) My version is from the library, but I remember the Crofts making improvements to the laundry room, they were wondering with all the girls why Anne's family hadn't improved it sooner.


message 34: by Susan (new)

Susan | 106 comments Sarah wrote: "Susan, in my edition the Crofts can be found heading for the fencepost at the end of Chapter 10 -- which is the chapter where Anne, the Musgroves, and Wentworth take the long walk.

Then my Chapter..."


Thank you, Sarah. You never know, I may end up reading the whole book again. Not hard to find an excuse!

That's great about the laundry room, and so fitting.


message 35: by Amalie (last edited Oct 04, 2010 08:58PM) (new)

Amalie Shayne wrote: "Yes, the Crofts are one of the loveliest couples in fiction, IMO. They're clearly friends as well as lovers, only happy when they're together, and with a wonderfully equal relationship.

Both the C..."


Good point about the Crofts and the Harvilles, both couples challenge the traditional gender roles and highlight Austen's Men Vs Women.

Both these couples have happy, ideal marriages, despite the short coming in their married lives.
(Harville’s injuries and Crofts childless.)

Admiral and Mrs. Croft and Capt. Harville and his wife take part in the other ones life. Mrs. Croft joins her husband on his ships at sea, and Admiral Croft is happy to help his wife in the chores around the home. They even share the task of driving a carriage.

Also both women are clever. Usually Austen shows us bad marriages in existing couples in her novels but here, we see good or great marriages for that matter.


message 36: by Susan (new)

Susan | 106 comments Amalie wrote: "Shayne wrote: "Yes, the Crofts are one of the loveliest couples in fiction, IMO. They're clearly friends as well as lovers, only happy when they're together, and with a wonderfully equal relationsh..."
I love that Mrs. Croft actually helped her husband lug the mirrors into storage. Perfect!


message 37: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum Amalie, you point out that both Mrs. Croft and Mrs. Harville are clever, and I think that's a really good point. A marriage of at least some equality in minds and temperaments is what Austen tells us is a successful one. The "unequal" ones are full of woe - or, when thinking of the Collins, at the very least a lot of boredom!


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