Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Persuasion – Jane Austen
Mallory Hutchings

Like many of Austen’s classic novels, Persuasion is a well-written account of a family of girls whose life goal is to marry well in society. The Elliot family is headed by Sir Walter, the sole parent of Anne, Elizabeth and Mary (after their mother passed away years prior). The Elliot family needed to relocate from their home estate of Kellynch Hall to a more affordable one in Bath due to low funds and the poor spending habits of Sir Walter. The couple that rent out Kellynch Hall from Sir Walter are related to Captain Frederick Wentworth, the ex-fiance of Anne Elliot. There was a lot of typical love triangles and what not, centered around Anne who is distraught after she believes her Frederick is no longer in love with her and she missed her chance. She then is pursued by her cousin who has alternate motives, and eventually ends up with Frederick when he confesses his love to her –much to the dismay of her cousin.

I would classify Persuasion as supporting literary evidence for the marriage and family theme for our class. Throughout the entire story, the question of worth and provisions only comes for the women through their men –hopefully husbands, but if you didn’t get married, you were relying on brothers, fathers, cousins etc. The decision to marry and the pursuit of family were not usually based on love and desire, for practicality came before those things. Anne loved Captain Wentworth and was engaged to him, but her father saw the match unsuitable because the Captain was not wealthy enough or of high enough status. Anne continued to love Frederick throughout the years apart, and she was lucky enough to be able to marry her love in the end. That was less often the case, women married of necessity, whether or not love was involved. Late-marriage societies offered more choice in marriage selection for women, they were more independent and individually resourceful.


  1. In Persuasion, I also think there is a theme of Gender throughout the book. There is a reversal of gender roles, for while women play a central part in the maintenance of both the family’s respectability and economic stability, they are also looked to in the moments of greatest crisis throughout the novel. For example, Lady Elliot managed to keep Kellynch Hall respectable for seventeen years. “While Lady Elliot lived, there had been method, moderation, and economy, which had kept Sir Walter within his income; but with her had died all such right mindedness”. The foolish mothers like Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Price, and Lady Bertram, have been replaced by a new version of woman overcoming the satirized conventional stereotypes of “wife” and “mother.”
    Anne is not allowed to take her mother’s place as the head of Kellynch Hall, however; yet she still acts to maintain the dignity of the family name by taking on a number of stereotypically male duties. In taking leave of the tenantry, Sir Walter offers a few “condescending bows” and retires to Bath. Anne does what her father should have done, assuming the role of the manor’s proprietor. Anne fills dual gender roles on several occasions during the novel (often in times of crisis), exemplified in her care of little Charles. Both father and mother use their gender as a way to divorce themselves from responsibility. Mary claims, “My being the mother is the very reason why my feelings should not be tried”, while Charles feels it is “a female case”. Anne steps in and fills the role of father and mother, emptying the binary gender stereotypes that both parents rely on to escape their obligation.
    Because of her entrance into the male dominated discourse of commerce, Mrs. Croft is perhaps the most striking example of a character who has transcended conventional gender roles. When the Elliots meet with Mr. Shepherd about leasing Kellynch Hall, he observes that Mrs. Croft “asked more questions about the house, terms, and taxes, than the admiral himself, and seemed more conversant with the business” She has entered into the world of business, asserting herself as more than just a domestic companion, but also as a “partner” taking on the responsibilities traditionally held by men. Like Anne, Mrs. Croft also maintains her composure during times of crisis, as we see her counteract the Admiral. Finally, the woman’s role as “student” and “companion” by Elizabeth Bennet and Fanny Price has been supplanted by a position of power and importance throughout the book as well.

  2. Thanks, that's a really good point about the theme of gender that I hadn't really thought about!