Persuasion by Jane Austen

 

Persuasion- 1995- from IMDb photo gallery

Persuasion– 1995- from IMDb photo gallery

In Persuasion by Jane Austen discomfort can be seen as a catalyst for the story as well. Firstly, in the novel Bath is portrayed as a silly, frivolous place that the main character, Anne, dreads. When Anne’s family moves she wishes desperately to stay in the country instead of moving to London or Bath, as her family decides to do. She “disliked Bath, and did not think it agreed with her – and Bath was to be her home” (Vol 1, Ch II). It is known that Austen herself disliked Bath. According to the prelude to the novel Austen lived in Bath for about 4 years. This is where her father died, and her family’s economic issues found their beginning. Additionally, when we visited bath and toured the fashion museum and assembly rooms we learned that Austen’s social life was not satisfactory while in Bathe either. Her brother would bring her to the balls and then leave her alone without introducing her to anyone, which at the time made socialization virtually impossible. Thus, it makes sense that Austen’s discomfort in Bath led to her writing about Anne’s dislike of the place. Anne dreads “the possible heats of September in all the white glare of Bath,” and avoids going there for as long as possible (Vol 1, Ch V). It is also interesting to note that in another of Austen’s novels Emma, Emma refuses to go to Bath, and the frivolous and obnoxious

Assembly Room in Bath Photo by Shannon Adams

Assembly Room in Bath
Photo by Shannon Adams

Mrs. Elton comes from Bath. This, coupled with Anne’s “very determined, though very silent, disinclination for Bath” suggests that Austen’s dislike for Bath served as inspiration for her writing (Vol 2, Ch II).

Another source of discomfort and motivation for writing in Persuasion is the social class and the upward mobility of the naval officer. We discussed in class that Austen was trying to imagine what the new England would look like, and speculation on the future is in itself an uncomfortable activity. Her support of class mobility also suggests that she is perhaps uncomfortable with the current social structure. Both of these discomforts act as inspiration for her writing. It is pointed out in The Broadview Anthology that as the “ terms ‘lady’ and ‘gentleman’ gradually lost their association with rank, socio-economic boundaries became increasingly difficult to distinguish, and novelists began to focus on the gendered and class behaviors of individuals for their narrative content” (117).  Austen focuses on the naval officer and the opposition to naval social mobility in characters like Sir Walter Elliot who says that ““The profession has its utility, but I should be sorry to see any friend of mine belonging to it,” and resists letting his house to an officer (Vol 1, Ch III).  Austen also shows how the officers are generally respectable and polite men like Admiral Croft and Captain Wentworth. Even the Musgroves find the Navy to be an acceptable career for their son Richard. Though Wentworth’s original marriage proposal to Anne was discarded because of his social status and lack of fortune, after some time passed and he made his name as a captain in the Navy he is accepted into higher society eagerly. The Musgrove daughters even say how “perfectly delighted they were with him, how much handsomer, how infinitely more agreeable they thought him than any individual among their male acquaintance” (Vol 1, Ch VII). The introduction to the novel points out that by marrying Captain Wentworth “Anne joins the wandering tribe of sailors and their wives; these are socially mobile figures who may or may not have any link to the settled upper classes.” Wentworth gains social worth with his time in the Navy, and when he and Anne get engaged her family does not protest again because “Captain Wentworth, with five-and-twenty thousand pounds, and as high in his profession as merit and activity could place him, was no longer nobody” (Vol 2, Ch XII). Austen’s allowance for social mobility suggests her support for the changing England she was living in, and illustrates how the developments and uneasiness of the time led her to write in the ways that she did.

Photo citation:

“Persuasion.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 13 July 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/media/rm263429376/tt0114117?ref_=ttmd_md_pv#&gt;.

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