No one will ever have to persuade me to read Jane Austen as I will always do it willingly. The fact that my classic literature book group chose Persuasion as our July novel pretty much sent me over the moon. Now here’s the big reveal for this blog post: I’ve never read Persuasion. My only experience with this particular novel is the 1995 Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root movie by the same name.
Still, having viewed the movie and possessing a basic understanding of the premise of the story, I found the romantic tension Jane Austen managed to write into her slim volume to be unexpectedly amazing and toe-curlingly satisfying. Without smut or foul language, Persuasion is every bit as intense as the feelings one endures when watching the love of his or her life walk into a room and believing he or she completely out of his or her reach. Because, after all, this is exactly what our heroine, Anne Elliot, believes of the dashing Captain Wentworth.
Another point I found quite remarkable is that for a small novel it had quite a cast of characters all with diverse and interesting lives intricately woven into the tale. Jane Austen does this exceedingly well, and I never lost track of a single character. I’m not sure if Charlotte Bronte’s comment of “very incomplete and rather insensible” is toward all of Austen’s works or Persuasion in particular, but I have to disagree with her.
Of course there are always the villains at whom we boo and hiss and wish upon them more of a comeuppance than they receive, but the character of Anne Elliot with all her selflessness and caring far outshines any of the unpleasant people in the book. And, if we’re willing to admit, we should all be a little more like Anne and not wish these people ill.
While I’m usually the first to give up on a character for being a simpering doormat, Anne Elliot never comes across this way. Her heart, although broken, is made roomier to care for the people in her life whether or not they love her in return. She isn’t an unbelievable do-gooder, but rather an example of the quality of character to strive for.
The romantic in me believes Anne and Captain Wentworth live happily ever after despite any threat of war that would take him away from her or the notion that they had to wait for him to be rich enough to be worthy of a baronet’s daughter. Regardless of the mindset of the society in which they were born, raised, and lived, I believe the fundamental strength of who they are at heart is the true source of their happiness and love for each other.