Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts: Persuasion by Jane Austen

SPOILERS AHOY!

I first read Persuasion when I was sixteen, and, thereafter, declared it as one of the most romantic books in existence. Five years later, at almost twenty-one, I like to think that I am now less (although not completely) susceptible to romantic fantasies. The main point of Persuasion hinges on the constancy of both men and women when it comes to love, and, before I started reading the book again, I was a little scared that it might not be as wonderful as I first thought it five years ago.

Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth were engaged years ago, but she was persuaded by friends and family to break off the engagement. Her status in society was too high, he was too poor without any tangible prospects. Seven and a half years later, they meet again. She is considered a spinster who has lost the bloom of youth, and he is now a rich naval officer ready to settle down. In his own words, “any body between fifteen and thirty may have him for asking. A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy, and he is a lost man.” He only has one rule. Any body between fifteen and thirty may, in fact, catch his attention, except for, of course, Anne Elliot. The scene is ripe for regret and bitterness.

I could not even begin to describe how much I loved this book. Perhaps, I have more love for it now than when I first read it. This might be too much information, but I lacked the experience of getting my heart broken to fully understand it at sixteen. There were so many passages that are still so relevant today when it comes to matters of the heart, like in this passage:
Once so much to each other! Now nothing! There had been a time, when of all the large party now filling the drawing-room at Uppercross, they would have found it most difficult to cease to speak to one another. With the exception, perhaps, of Admiral and Mrs Croft, who seemed particularly attached and happy, (Anne could allow no other exceptions even among the married couples), there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.
Who hasn’t experienced this? You come across a person you used to love, who used to be everything to you, and lament the fact that you are now nothing to each other. That person you used to call at the end of the day to tell him about the annoying co-worker or even what you had for dinner, the person you used to share the minutest details of your life with. That person you don’t speak to anymore. I know there’s no proof of this, but Jane Austen must have been in love at least once in her life to know these feelings, to describe them so accurately.

When I first read Persuasion, I remember being annoyed that Anne seemed to be the one who chased after Captain Wentworth, that it seemed like he didn’t care for her at all until the very end. That isn’t the case now. The book is so subtle, but you can’t miss the little things that show that, yes, Captain Wentworth is still very much in love with Anne Elliot. Even his bitter statements are proof of that. The fact that he thinks any woman between fifteen and thirty can have him, except Anne Elliot, is proof that he still loves her.

And that love letter in the end, when he asks her to marry him again. I think I’ll just pop that into this post for the sake of posterity:
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men.
WHO CAN POSSIBLY RESIST THIS?!?!

In the first part of this post, I declared that I am now less susceptible to romantic fantasies than I was at sixteen.

I TAKE THAT BACK NOW.

18 comments:

Zibilee said...

So glad that you loved this one! I skimmed your review, as this is the next Austen that I will be reading, and I want to go into it blind, but fear not! I will be back!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I just skimmed this because I've not read it yet, but your review has definitely convinced me that this needs to be the next Austen that I read.

Laura said...

"You pierce my soul." *sigh* SO ROMANTIC! I love Persuasion a lot lot lot, but I've only read it once! I might need to change that pretty soon...

moshimoshinekobookreview said...

I was not a big fan of Pride and Prejudice *gasps all round*, but I really enjoyed Emma and have Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion on my 2012 to read list.
Really liked your review - makes me want to read Persuasion! :D

Trisha said...

Okay, this may have to be the next Austen I read for my classics project.

Vicky B said...

This is definitely one of Austen's finer works, although, personally, Emma is my favorite. This one was the last of hers that I read, and when I finished it, I just felt so warm and fuzzy inside. It's a truly beautiful novel.

Kailana said...

I really need to read some Austen. I haven't read anything but P&P and that was a while ago...

amanda @ simplerpastimes said...

Oh, I so need to reread this! I barely remember reading it at all. Sigh. I'm glad you still loved it.

Megs said...

That letter makes me melt. Austen certainly knew how to write an irresistible man, didn't she?

If the movie "Becoming Jane" can be trusted, Austen DID have some firsthand experience with love and heartbreak.

Kristen M. said...

This one definitely holds up to re-reads. You've put me in a mood to re-read it yet again!

Cassandra said...

I know you'll all call me a lunatic weirdo, but I really have to confess something- don't shoot me- okay, here it is: I hate Jane Austen passionately and with all my heart!
That's it. I hope we're still friends.

Now, to be fair: Her only book I've ever read is Pride and Prejudice but that has traumatised me for life.
I forced myself to finish it, but those were the worst hours of my life. I mean, seriously: hundreds of pages all about "Oh, Mr Darcy, I love you!" "Oh, Elizabeth, I love you!", I don't see why that is considered one of the best books of all times. In my opinion it is plain boring.

Anyway, now to the praise: should I ever recover enough emotionally to give the oh so great Ms Austen another try, I will read this.
There seems to be at least a little bit of story (contrary to P&P...) and from your description it seems as if this novel was more serious and less kitschy than P&P.

I like romance in fact, and perhaps you've just set the first stone of my Jane-Austen-Love :)

Jillian said...

I adore this novel, and Wentworth, and Anne. This one is so delicate, like lace.

I tend to read Jane Austen through a feminist lens -- I'm not sure why. I have this feeling that she was quite independent. I'm not sure she was saying anything "political" in her books, but it's interesting to read something by an 1800s woman who had no idea where history would take women, when she wrote. So one of my favorite passages in this novel is the conversation Anne has about feminism with somebody's father. (Ha - I forget who she's talking to in the conversation. I just remember thinking YAY AUSTEN! I need to reread.)

But anyway, such a delicate story. I read this one hoping to fall for Austen after a let-down when I read P&P. I wasn't disappointed. Then I reread P&P, and now I LOVE Austen.

:)

Charlie said...

I really wasn't keen on Persuasion when I read it, but reading your review I feel I missed something.

As far as I remember, Jane Austen was thought to have been in love at one time, so yep, there's some accuracy there!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Persuasion is my absolute favorite Austen novel. I love them all, but this one has a depth that surpasses the others. I'm so glad you loved it too!

Rebecca Reid said...

beautiful write up. As someone else above said, I wasn't keen on Persuasion when I read it last year. But I think I just wasn't in the mood for it (a stressful time when I was reading it). I definitely need to revisit it and I hope I fall in love with it too!

Teacher/Learner said...

Your review makes me want to read this next! I've read 3 other Austens but not this one. Thanks for this :)

Espana said...

This book is one of my favorites of all time. Many people dislike it or don't like it as much when compared to Pride and Prejudice or Emma, but there are many reasons why Persuasion should not be compared to Austen's other novels. This novel was the last one that Austen wrote before she died. It is a more mature novel, dealing with many issues not found in Austen's previous novels. One reason why people find faults with the book is that Anne Elliot, the heroine, is not as spunky or witty as an Elizabeth Bennett or an Emma Woodhouse. There is not so much wit flowing in the dialogue between characters, or even dialogue in general. But these differences between the novels make this one so unique.

Scott Becker said...

So glad that you loved this one! I skimmed your review, as this is the next Austen that I will be reading, and I want to go into it blind, but fear not! I will be back!

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