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Jane Austen's Persuasion: Anne Elliot's Coming Out The writings of Jane Austen are often considered to be the representation of an excessively conservative era. Though this may truly be the case especially in regards to the formal and informal interactions between the opposite genders. A woman's reputation could be made or broken by a simple turn of events. The challenge of maintaining these standards for conduct, where even the minutest misunderstanding might cause years of disassociation seems to be as formidable as any. The story is one of the personal growth of the heroine Anne Elliot. She branches out into a world, limited by her position but much less so than before.
Though waters of social understanding were often murky the reality of Persuasion is such that the heroine, Anne Elliot is assuming the role of "director" of her own life. Austen is telling the story of a woman learning that listening to others unfailingly on matters of the heart does not ensure happiness or security. Anne's experience of seven years of unrelenting heartache over the sacrifice of her one true love to propriety has not served her and she believes she would have been happier and wiser to listen to her own heart and believe in the ability of her love to become a success.
She was persuaded that under every disadvantage of disapprobation at home, and every anxiety attending his profession, all their probable fears, delays, and disappointments, she should yet have been a happier woman in maintaining the engagement, than she had been in the sacrifice of it; and this, she fully believed, had the usual share, had even more than the usual share of all such solicitudes and suspense been theirs, without reference to the actual results of their case, which, as it happened, would have bestowed earlier prosperity than could be reasonably calculated on. (Austen 21)
Anne was quietly justified by knowledge she gained through the media that her love had made a success of himself at no expense of their failed match. His sureness of character had not failed him and though he may not have been a match in status as her genealogy he would surely have ensured her lack of fear in an economic sense.
All his sanguine expectations, all his confidence had been justified. His genius and ardour had seemed to foresee and to command his prosperous path. He had, very soon after their engagement ceased, got employ: and all that he had told her would follow, had taken place. He had distinguished himself, and early gained the other step in rank, and must now, by successive captures, have made a handsome fortune. She had only navy lists and newspapers for her authority, but she could not doubt his being rich; and, in favour of his constancy, she had no reason to believe him married. How eloquent could Anne Elliot have been! How eloquent, at least, were her wishes on the side of early warm attachment, and a cheerful confidence in futurity, against that over-anxious caution which seems to insult exertion and distrust Providence! She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning. (22)
She has watched his career with passion and interest and without the confidence of anyone to share it with. She has decided that everyone was wrong about him and she was led by the wrong advice.
The sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant class associations that dictate a proper social interaction and more importantly proper marriage ability seems to be an all consuming contest for married and unmarried women, alike. Though these interests may be a literary intrigue rather than a real life reflection of the times, it might seem unlikely because so many contemporary authors suggest that the former rather than the later is the case. Yet the main meaning of this text is not so much Anne's growth of self-determination but that from this growth and a little luck she gains opportunity to become much more worldly and independently decisive.
In a strange turn of events her family loses economic favor, as her father is highly motivated to maintain his station as Baron and seemingly incapable of doing so with economic prudence, because of his unflagging vanity. Sir Walter Elliot finds no ability to live in Kellynch Hall without all the luxuries that befit it and the family must quit Kellynch and take up residence at a more economically prudent location.
Anne Elliot and her other unmarried sister Elizabeth are then whisked off to Bath. Anne first has the opportunity to stay with friends and family near Kellynch Hall before her departure, giving her the opportunity to then meet and befriend the sister of her lost love, who as providence would have it has married an Admiral in the Navy and has now become the new tenant of Kellynch.
The moral of the story so to speak is that you can become what you choose to become. Anne is initially seen as a dispensable member of the Elliot household. She is often denigrated and slighted by every member of it. Yet, she has a sort of quiet background knowledge that does have value. Her opinions are worth consultation and it takes the families removal from Kellynch and the more worldly exploration it affords to bring out Anne's value and character. Anne's character not only oft degraded by her family, but also she is almost completely neglected by the compassion of a confidant.
Anne's youngest sister Mary is married to a local man of report and her older sister Elizabeth seems to have no desire to gain her confidence. Though there is true obligation between sisters for the sort of thing that Anne needs her older sister chooses a confidant outside of the family to bestow her trust on. When she faces the challenge of healing from the loss of her suitor, she faces it alone and only time heals her wounded heart.
More than seven years were gone since this little history of sorrowful interest had reached its close; and time had softened down much, perhaps nearly all of peculiar attachment to him, but she had been too dependent on time alone; no aid had been given in change of place (except in one visit to Bath soon after the rupture), or in any novelty or enlargement of society. No one had ever come within the Kellynch circle, who could bear a comparison with Frederick Wentworth, as he stood in her memory. No second attachment, the only thoroughly natural, happy, and sufficient cure, at her time of life, had been possible to the nice tone of her mind, the fastidiousness of her taste, in the small limits of the society around them. (20-21)
Anne has spent the last seven years as a near shut in. She has found no new companion and no second love and much of the basis for this is the simple fact that the circle of her life in the country was reliant on the comings and goings of other people. It seems that those people never came nor went. The protective nature of her status and her remote location in the country left her with no outlet for finding any greater happiness.
When the family is removed from Kellynch everything seems to change for Anne. She begins associations with people outside of her immediate circle. She communicated with men whom she has never known before.
Anne found Captain Benwick getting near her, as soon as they were all fairly in the street. Their conversation the preceding evening did not disincline him to seek her again; and they walked together some time, talking as before of Mr. Scott and Lord Byron, and still as unable as before, and as unable as any other two readers, to think exactly alike of the merits of either, till something occasioned an almost general change amongst their party, and instead of Captain Benwick, she had Captain Harville by her side. (76)
Anne had gone from the company of almost no one, excluding the widow Lady Russell, the doting best friend of her deceased mother to the company of many. This excursion took place in Lyme a seaside town near Uppercross, her sister Mary's estate.
Captain Benwick was a young infirmed widower and Captain Harville his married benefactor. Benwick's presence served to complicate Anne's life a bit but just meeting him and conversing with him helped her expand her own ideas.
Though Anne's scope was definitely broadening to a degree that might serve her ability to find her well-deserved happiness the best way to describe the change in how she was seen by her acquaintances is to quote the impression her father first gives the reader.
Elizabeth had succeeded, at sixteen, to all that was possible, of her mother's rights and consequence; and being very handsome, and very like himself, her influence had always been great, and they had gone on together most…[continue]
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