Persuasion by Jane Austen

9:50 AM

I just remembered I never got around to writing about Persuasion by Jane Austen. I recently finished reading all her books and that makes me happy and sad at the same time. Happy because they are all amazing books and sad because there are no more Austen novels to read. Maybe it's time to start re-reading them.

I recommend reading Persuasion after Sense and Sensibility since they're a bit similar in tone. The plot is Austean, as always: pride - not individual pride as personified by Mr. Darcy, but family pride - is again a key element of the plot. As I've mentioned before, Mr. Darcy's pride in Pride and Prejudice is of a palatable kind (Lizzy and us learn to love and forgive him). The pride showed in Persuasion is much more realistic, ugly and unpleasant.

Funny how many people say they dislike Mr. Darcy in the beginning of the book. Wait till you get to know Anne's family.

Her father and two sisters are utterly despicable. Her father's vanity and superficiality at an old age are just pathetic and sad. I visualize Sir Walter as the precursor of our metrosexuals, which means that, in my head, he looked like George Clooney.

Anne's family, people full of themselves, convinced her not to marry the man she loves, Frederick Wentworth, because he is poor and a nobody. Fast forward eight years, Anne is an old maid at twenty seven and Frederik is the successful and wealthy Captain Wentworth. And he is back in town, willing to marry. That is, to marry anyone who is not Anne.

There's not one Jane Austen novel who is not incredibly practical and educational. For those who didn't like Mansfield Park's heroin, Fanny Price, you will find Anne just as virtuous but much more heroic and stronger.

What Persuasion taught me is that virtue prevails. Anne has always been a virtuous and cautious person and this is more important than being vain or proud. Mrs. Smith, Anne's old friend, moved me so much. She wasn't always virtuous, she was a bit shallow and careless in the past (her husband managed to impoverish them both). Now, despite being old, crippled, poor and with no connections she is still joyful and she helps others who are poorer than her.

Moreover, in Persuasion you can see the difference between Austen novels and our modern romantic comedies. Most romantic comedies act as escapism for women. 

Austen novels, though they can be used as escapism if you want to, always teach you something through the characters and their actions. As a matter of fact, they teach you a lot about extremely important things. Rom-coms, on the other hand, don't.

Take Bridget Jones's Diary, for example. This movie is loosely based in Pride and Prejudice. But Bridget is neither smart not virtuous. She is - something Lizzy or any other Austen heroin is not - neurotic. See how Lizzy or Elinor never lose control of the situation. And notice how in almost every scene Bridget does - much to our amusement.

My point is: Austen tells us "take it easy, think it through and this will repay you." Bridget says: "sleep with a cute scumbag and act crazy 24/7 - you will be irresistible even to women!"

I made this comparison (Austen novels X modern rom-coms) when talking about Persuasion because it offers a device which has been explored ad nauseam by romantic comedies: the idea that "he will come back".

The difference is that Persuasion talks about the importance of making our own choices and, especially, making wise choices. Otherwise, learn how to live with the choices you made.

Anne didn't spend the past eight years living across the hall from Wentworth jeopardizing his relationships. She didn't have the certainty that, just like that, he would come crawling back to her. Many movies and Tv shows give this idea to women and not only is this escapism but it also makes them live in another reality. Unlike Anne, they won't move on.

Do you like Persuasion? What do you think about romantic comedies?

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  1. I love Persuasion, is one of my favorites!!!. I love Jane Austin novels!!!

  2. I love her novels too! Many of my friends kept telling me I should read Persuasion - they were right ;)

  3. I can't wait to read this! I've been enjoying alot of Jane Austin lately too, as well as watching Downton Abbey- it is all very addictive :)

  4. I hope you enjoy it - it has great characters ;) Which books by Austen have you been reading?

    Everybody's talking about Downton Abbey! I've only seen the first 20 minutes of the 1st episode during someone's party... I need to finish it!

    1. Ahhhhh, yes, you do! Join the obsession! It's so delightfully addicting. (And you're not quite alone: I'm only on episode 5, I think.)

    2. So maybe there's still time to join the hype! It's unbelievable how popular this Tv show is. I didn't know so many people were anglophiles!

  5. Persuasion just might be my very favorite Austen :)

  6. Really? How interesting - I couldn't say which of her novels is my favorite... Emma, perhaps. No, no, Sense and Sensibility. Yeah, I can't decide! ;)

  7. A very interesting point you bring up here, Paula.

    I love Austen's work, and recently watched "Becoming Jane," a movie about Austen herself. I don't want to ruin too much of it for you in case you choose to watch it, but, essentially, Austen falls in love with a man but then the two realize they cannot be together because he doesn't have the means to marry and support her.

    In a rom-com, they probably would have separated for a while, but ended up together, destined by fate to be soul mates for ever! (with all the sighs and ahhs), but in Austen's real life (the real life that probably formed the basis of much of her novels) she does not end up with this man she once loved but couldn't marry for logistical reasons. Instead, she remains single for most of her life, never having found another man she loved as much as her first love. Austen's real life, and also her work, shows the real world as it truly is. It's not always as glamorous as rom-coms make it seem. Instead, it often leaves one disappointed and hurt -- but also in a position for great self-discovery and introspection.

  8. This movie does sound interesting, specially for the reasons you mentioned: self-discovery, introspection.

    It reminded me of that movie about Beatrix Potter which is also sad but very inspiring.

    Hum... Just realized this movie is with Anne Hathaway. Soo want to watch it right now! xx

  9. Do it! I remember when that Beatrix Potter movie came out. I'm going to look into that straightaway!

  10. Becoming Jane is on my Netflix queue! Can't wait to receive it. I don't think you will be disappointed with Miss Potter. It is incredibly delicate and a great biopic.

  11. I really, really enjoyed this post, Paula! I've always had a soft spot for Persuasion because Anne is virtuous and caring, like you said - and she gets her man back! Proving that patience and sweetness are what you need, not stalker tendencies or meaningless relationships to pass the time. Loved what you wrote about P vrs. Bridget Jones!

    1. I'm glad to hear that!

      I agree with you that Persuasion encourages us to have healthy responses and attitudes towards relationships, staying away of attitudes such as the ones you mentioned (stalker tendencies and meaningless relationships). Have a great day!


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