If you haven’t read a Victorian classic in a while, or at all, Persuasion by Jane Austen is easy to put down. In general past eras of literature are different from what our modern reading palate is use to. So to take the Victorian novel and add an author like Austen, it creates a fascinating work of art—one that is easy to skip over if the readers not giving the novel a chance.
In short Persuasion revolves around Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth, who were engaged eight years prior. They parted after Anne was persuaded to give him up to do his lack of social and financial standing. Fast forward through the years, she’s regretful; he’s resentful (and successful). It’s a bit of a “will they or won’t they?”
Anyone who’s read Pride and Prejudice know that Austen loves giving a character or two satiric personalities. In Persuasion we’re treated to an opening scene of Sir Walter, Anne’s father, being extremely vain over his looks and pedigree. He’s ridiculous in a way that makes it obvious that he’s a character you laugh at.
The first few chapters are building blocks of characters, scene, and the beginning pushes of a plotline. Persuasion is intentionally full, with details being included for a reason we may not discover right away.
Anne is easy to look over. Her character can be mostly summed up with this quote, “But the usual fate of Anne attended her, in having something very opposite from her inclination fixed on,” (pg. 17.) And even so, she’s accepting of her lot in life. Resigned almost to whatever may happen.
I couldn’t help but continually compare Persuasion and Anne with other love stories and their protagonists. She’s seemingly dull and with no true confidant, but when you pay attention to the small details you find why characters are extraordinary.
I compare the drama of what many people deem love stories to the quiet passion of Persuasion. Where modern characters would yell, storm out, beg, the characters of Persuasion aren’t allowed. The era restricts it, but I found it refreshing all the same. Just the fact that even when found alone the estranged couple couldn’t talk openly because of propriety fascinating because that becomes the drama.
The secret longing and pain are what holds the reader’s attention to the characters.
The small details are always important in an Austen novel, and I think a part of that is because of the time period and the restrictions of it. Yet I admire Austen’s ability to be so clever in subtly. Whether that’s a glance or a turn of a phrase, they give power to a character who otherwise would be unable to do anything.
There’s a scene where Frederick is surrounded by friends, while Anne watches how they interact with one another. Anne, who is close to only one woman at the time, and is constantly reminded how unimportant she is to her family, watches and takes note that those friendships is what she would have had. She accepts this, and moves on. In that simplicity, I found Anne to be such a strong character.
Another difference in the writing is the use of dialogue. While reading Persuasion I realized how we tend to utilize dialogue to drive emotions, whereas I found Austen rarely did so. Even the “big ah hah moment” came in the form of a letter.
Although, one particular piece of dialogue I thought pretty smooth was, “’The name Anne Elliot,’ said he, ‘has long had an interesting sound to me. Very long has it possessed a charm over my fancy; and, if I dared, I would breathe my wishes that the name might never change,’”(pg. 169.) If you haven’t read Persuasion, he has the same last name (because they’re also cousins.)
It did bother me that some of the “good” parts would be glazed over. Like, dialogue I wanted to read between the couple. There was a lot of summarization over conversations and certain details that I would have wanted more from. But I think it’s only because it’s something I’ve come to expect. I’m use to my emotions being evoked through drama. Austen evokes them with the story—and like I said, the small things, which I think is more satisfying and memorable.
Side note: I didn’t clarify in my last review, or on the Book Club posts what I really meant by doing a review at the end of the month. Well, here it is: I have no desire to break down a story like a book report. If I give a summary it will be small. I’m here to talk about what I liked. I find I’m most intrigued by the form of writing and how something was conveyed.