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Old 01-25-2013, 10:40 PM   #31
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How delightful! Where I struggled greatly through the first half, the second half seemed to flow more for me. I think it was possibly the combination of two things: I had become more accustomed to the prose and the story became much more interesting.

Towards the end, I noticed no difficulty in reading Austen's prose. I was swept into the agonising misunderstandings and misfires of Anne's and Captain Wentworth's romance. I was intrigued by the eventual revelation of Mr Elliot's true character. I was amused by by Sir Walter's vanity even as it appalled me. But Mary, I wanted to hit with a brick. Apologies to all for my vulgarity, but to me she was painful to observe at every encounter.

If this was a slightly less approachable example of Austen, I have to say I'm somewhat heartened by the thought. I will be putting Pride & Prejudice and Emma on my list of must reads.

One of the saving graces of my earlier trouble with this novel was Anne herself. When I read of most romances (because I rarely actually read them), I find the female protagonist painful. Not so for Anne. I really enjoyed this character and I liked Captain Wentworth as well. Finally a relationship where some self-loathing woman is not completely smitten by a cruel and undeserving cad. Anyway - enough to say that I really enjoyed them both and was hopeful of a good outcome.

I'm glad I did not skip this read.
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Old 01-25-2013, 10:41 PM   #32
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I read it as being Sir Walter Raleigh, not Sir Walter Scott - who I think would have outlived Jane by quite a bit, wouldn't he?

I'm an idiot. Of course.
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Old 01-25-2013, 10:44 PM   #33
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I think that's true. Pride and Prejudice is flat-out funny with a host of comic characters, and while Persuasion has its moments (all of Sir Walter's mirrors!), it's not a comic novel, which P&P is.
I remembered your comment when I came to that part and have to confess that I giggled.
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Old 01-26-2013, 02:46 AM   #34
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For those, who read this or any other Jane Austen book for the first time: Persuasion initially had another ending how Anne and Capt. Wentworth finally found together.

You can read it here: http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/pcanchap.html
but her manuscript was not easy to read!

I find it highly interesting to compare these different versions and I love the actual ending much more. You pierce my soul!
Thanks for that link!
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Old 01-26-2013, 03:29 AM   #35
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To me, that was one of the most realistic parts of the book and I think Auden was on the side of Anne's being right to listen to Lady Russell. At 19, with no knowledge of the world and a lover who was all talk and bluster as yet with no real expectations, prudence dictated caution and advice from someone in loco parentis was not to be ignored. Lady Russell was wrong in her dislike of Wentworth and therein lay the problem. Someone more understanding and sympathetic might have advocated patience and a long engagement, except that Lady Russell thought Anne could do better. And in Mrs. Smith we have the example of just how wrongly "the world well lost for love" could go.
I like and agree with this view.
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Old 01-26-2013, 11:37 AM   #36
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ary

Lady Russell seemed to value Anne as her sisters valued themselves; they thought that as baronet's daughters, they were the bee's knees. Yet despite trips to London, Elizabeth couldn't catch anyone and the best that Mary could do was a gentleman farmer. Mary's insistence on her precedence over her MIL tells us all we need to know about her. As the widow of a mere knight, Lady Russell was presumably dazzled by a hereditary title. This is part of what makes Persuasion Austen's masterpiece; manifest absurdities in earlier books is much more subtle.

In all Austen's books that society is somewhat more fluid than appearances indicate initially, with denizens of the middle class achieving gentry status and some in the upper reaches greatly reduced in circumstances. Still no hope for the submerged tenths, admittedly.

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I remembered your comment when I came to that part and have to confess that I giggled.
Glad you got your giggle in the middle of all that wistfulness.
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Old 01-29-2013, 03:46 PM   #37
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The characters in Persuasion have a depth that I feel is directly owing to their problems in evaluating the moral roots underlying their decisions--giving their characters a consequent moral ambiguity. Thus, as issybird mentions, Lady Russell has a problem with class distinctions and the respect due to titles. It is no wonder that she sees Mr Elliott as the solution to Anne's problems. And it would seem that Mr Elliott actually does value Anne and would treat her well.

Mrs Smith--the most complex morally ambiguous character in the novel says:

"Well, my dear Miss Elliot, I hope and trust you will be very happy. Mr Elliot has sense to understand the value of such a woman. Your peace will not be
shipwrecked as mine has been. You are safe in all worldly matters,
and safe in his character. He will not be led astray; he will not be
misled by others to his ruin."

And even after her revelation of Elliott's true character she states:

"He is no hypocrite now. He truly wants to marry you. His present attentions to your family are very sincere: quite from the heart."

I find Mrs Smith to be one of the most interesting characters in the novel--certainly the most interesting of the secondary figures. She has fallen on hard times and very much appreciates the visits and help of Anne. But she is willing to let the marriage with Elliot take its course because it is the surest way she can receive the value of property to which she is entitled but unable to gain without assistance. It is only when Mrs Smith realises that Anne will certainly not marry Elliott that she reveals his true character. Indeed, Anne is herself astonished that Mrs Smith not only did not reveal Mr Elliott's character earlier but even seemed to promote the marriage.

The reply given to Anne is a revelation of a character whose cynicism is such that she is willing to let Anne take her chances and she makes no apology for doing so:

"My dear," was Mrs Smith's reply, "there was nothing else to be done.
I considered your marrying him as certain, though he might not yet
have made the offer, and I could no more speak the truth of him,
than if he had been your husband. My heart bled for you,
as I talked of happiness; and yet he is sensible, he is agreeable,
and with such a woman as you, it was not absolutely hopeless.
He was very unkind to his first wife. They were wretched together.
But she was too ignorant and giddy for respect, and he had never loved her.
I was willing to hope that you must fare better."

And Anne realises that Mrs Smith's assessment is by no means impossible--particularly with Lady Russell maneuvering in the background.

Off-hand, I can think of no other minor character in Austen that has as complex a psychology as Mrs Smith. And her presence is another reason why this novel has significantly more psychological depth and realism than any of the others.

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Old 01-29-2013, 04:29 PM   #38
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Thanks for that. I also found Mrs Smith to be quite interesting. It looked to me like she fully intended to subtly blackmail Mr Elliot by showing her connection to Anne and when it looked like that would not be effective, she played the protective friend.

I was always a bit unsure about her in the end and it coloured all my first impressions of her in the story.

But it's nice to have one of those characters that you can't paint black or white by the end of the book.
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:32 AM   #39
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I have been rereading Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion for about 25 years now, and only yesterday connected the similarities between the two Elizabeths. Both are fascinated with rank, both have considered an entail held by a cousin as a lure to matrimony, and both are their father's favourites.

Neither have interest in or accomplishment in household management, but have sufficient social skills to be confident in public. Why then do I laugh with Elizabeth Bennet and wince at Elizabeth Elliot?

Perhaps if Mary Bennet was the protagonist, Mr Collins would have looked less ridiculous and Mr Darcy more so.
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Old 02-08-2013, 06:25 PM   #40
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I have been rereading Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion for about 25 years now, and only yesterday connected the similarities between the two Elizabeths. Both are fascinated with rank, both have considered an entail held by a cousin as a lure to matrimony, and both are their father's favourites.

Neither have interest in or accomplishment in household management, but have sufficient social skills to be confident in public. Why then do I laugh with Elizabeth Bennet and wince at Elizabeth Elliot?

Perhaps if Mary Bennet was the protagonist, Mr Collins would have looked less ridiculous and Mr Darcy more so.
That's a great insight! I've never noticed the parallel links between the two Elizabeths. It's as if the Elizabeth of Persuasion is a kind of dark mirror of the character in P&P.
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Old 02-15-2013, 04:21 PM   #41
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Hi fantasyfan, I agree with you that Persuasion is a morally complicated world, while P&P is playful.
Elizabeth Bennet sees Wickham's victims as deserving of what they get (like Mary King), an attitude she later decides is owing to her undue preference for him. It is a comedy because unlike Mrs Smith she can reflect from the comfort of her parental home, rather than face the rigours of married life to an unreliable man.

Legally, marriage meant subordination for women. Sir William Blackstone (Blackstone Law Reports) summarized in 1753 that: "By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being, or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs every thing".
I found an interesting website which discusses a few different options an Eighteenth Century woman could take. http://www.umich.edu/~ece/student_pr...way/index.html

Despite this loss of an independent legal identity marriage was more often chosen over the alternatives. But as the Austen sisters can attest it was possible to earn your living if you pooled your resources. But without independent financial means, women trod a tightrope of deference and defiance to maintain the household.

The alternatives to marriage were occupations in household service and prostitution. Sharpe, Pamela. Adapting To Capitalism: Working Women in the English Economy, 1700-1850. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

What makes Persuasion so compelling is that Austen is able to put social expectations and hypocrisies to the test. The plotting and characterisation is all the better for it, because of her wit and perceptiveness.

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