by Jane Austen
Thanks to Jenna of The Lost Generation Reader for hosting Austen in August reading event.
"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." (p 33)
In Jane Austen's last novel, Persuasion, which was not published until after her death, Austen created a strong, mature, and independent heroine, Anne Elliot. One might consider this an autumnal work which emphasizes the flow of human sympathy and charity. Austen's attention to the sensibilities of her characters has been honed over the course of her preceding work, notably in Emma which she completed not long before beginning Persuasion.
Anne Elliot is characterized as having "lost her bloom". She is depicted as having a resigned melancholy due to her relations with her family who regard her as a "nobody" and her lack of having someone close to turn to. Her mother was no longer present, having died when Anne was fourteen. Having foolishly broken off an engagement eight years earlier to Frederick Wentworth, a penniless naval officer, Anne at the age of 27 has remained unmarried--and secretly devoted to Wentworth. The novel captures the poignant and seemingly hopeless situation of Anne by sharing the depth and subtleties of her emotional life. This is the essence of the book and its strength. Austen adopts a more metaphorical approach in her story than in preceding novels and, through Anne's feelings and the counterpart of nature, we see Anne coping and perhaps for the optimistic among us there is a possibility of hope in her future.
Major changes in Anne's life result from the move of her father to Bath while she remains behind in Uppercross with her younger sister's family. Thus begins a series of events that bring Wentworth, now a Captain, back into Anne's life. An unfortunate accident leads to Wentworth to begin re-examining his feelings about Anne. The changes that occur over the remainder of the story yield the expected classical ending; however the changes also suggest that the world of Kellynch Hall that Anne was raised in has been left behind for a new life that is not quite as expected.
This novel rivals Emma as my favorite of Jane Austen's novels; along with Pride and Prejudice it forms a trio of novels that I read again and again with growing joy and understanding.
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