Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Persuasion" by Jane Austen (again)


Persuasion is my favorite of Jane Austen's novels, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it with Heidi during her read-along.  We dug deeply into the text and turned up so many treasures, and I have learned a lot about this book from all the participants.  Heidi, please do another read-along soon!


In Persuasion, Anne Elliott meets up with the man she was once engaged to, Captain Frederick Wentworth.  Eight years previous, she had broken off their engagement, and had regretted that ever since.  Neither of them had ever fallen in love again, and this book charts the rekindling of their romance as they slowly ascertain each others' feelings and whether things could ever again be as they once were.


Because I reviewed this a few years ago, I'm not going to spend more time than that on plot or why it's my favorite -- you can read all that in my first review here.  Instead, I want to talk about how often Austen emphasized that it is self-persuasion that can be the most harmful, even more than allowing others to persuade you of something.  I had always assumed the title referred to when Anne Elliot allowed Lady Russell to persuade her not to marry Frederick Wentworth.  But now I think it refers more to how Anne and Wentworth both persuaded themselves regarding that event.  


Anne persuaded herself that she was acting for Wentworth's good when she gave him up (see chapter 4).  "The belief of being prudent, and self-denying, principally for his advantage was her chief consolation" (p. 29).  She knew she ought to obey her parents, and Lady Russell was her surrogate mother.  Obey Lady Russell, she did, and she persuaded herself that Wentworth would be better off as a result. 


Wentworth, angry and heartbroken, persuaded himself that Anne was weak and timid, that "[s]he had given him up to oblige others" (p. 66).  He spent eight years persuading himself he had forgotten her, only to discover that he could neither stop loving her nor forget her.  If he had admitted to himself that he still loved her when he was promoted to captain only two years after they parted, he could have tried to reconnect with her, and they would have been spared six years of loneliness.  


So that's what I took away from this reading of Persuasion:  that it's far more dangerous to persuade yourself of something untrue than to allow others to persuade you.


Instead of listing some favorite lines like I usually do, I'm going to share some pictures of the copy I bought 'specially for this read-along.  It's one of the prettiest books I own.  I found it at Books-a-Million, and you can buy this edition here online.  They had a whole bunch of great classics in a similar style, and I also bought Jane Eyre because it was too lovely to resist.




It has those nifty page edges that look like they're hand slit, and pages are thick and creamy.  I happened to have a pen that perfectly matched the cover, so my notes inside look like this:





And while I was at the book store, I also found the absolute perfect bookmark to use for this read-along:



This was on a display of all kinds of beautiful classics-inspired book marks and such.  I spotted some of them at Barnes & Noble the other day too.


This is my nineteenth book read and reviewed for The Classics Club.

16 comments:

  1. You brought up a lot of good points. I love Persuasion and Anne Elliot is one of my favorite heroines in literature.

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    1. Thanks! I saw so many things in it this time that I never had before, which was such a treat.

      I identify a lot with Anne Elliot, and she's definitely a favorite of mine as well :-)

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  2. I'm SO glad we were able to do it together!!!!! You're such a splendid, encouraging friend from beginning to end..... ;)

    (And P.S. Why lookie! That bookmark is to pretty -- I love the naval flair to the ribbon! ;)) And (as aforesaid) your book copy is gorgeous.

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    1. I had extra fun because I wasn't hosting it! Hee. Just got to sit back and read read read.

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  3. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Love that edition and the book mark. I'll keep an eye out for it. It's funny. I don't mind writing all over my pages, but I am totally against dog ears. I desperately love bookmarks. Good color choice for notes, too.

    Anyway, I think you are onto something about self-persuasion. It is amazing what we will talk ourselves into and out of, especially when we think we are benefiting someone else.

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    1. I mean, "It's funny, I don't mind writing....etc." Not that the bookmark is funny.

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    2. Thanks! And yes, both are so delightful, aren't they?

      I understood what you meant :-) And I know lots of people who are very against dog-ears. I don't mind them, but I prefer bookmarks. I take a certain small delight in choosing just the right one for the book I'm going to read. Very akin to how I choose a coffee mug each morning to suit my mood.

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    3. By the way, Ruth, your blog is suddenly inaccessible -- it says "invitation only" when I tried to reply to our discussion of Cain and Abel this morning. I don't know if you changed your permissions intentionally or not (or if it's just a weird Blogger glitch), but I thought that just in case you changed them accidentally and unknowingly, you might like to know about it :-)

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  4. A very fun read-along for sure and I actually finished the only Austen that I'd never read before! Yay!

    While for me it wasn't the best Austen as far as the structure of the novel went, I completely enjoyed the story, the romance and Anne's character. So often we want characters who are vivacious or witty or flashy, yet Anne's quiet dignity, loyalty and good sense were far more valuable traits. I'm so glad that so many people seem to love her!

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    1. Oooh, this was your "last" Austen? Very cool! Mine was NA, which I read for the first time in 2012.

      I agree that the structure and pacing are not perfect -- I put this down to the fact that Austen never got to revise it fully. Since characters are what make or break a story for me, those don't bother me much, but I can see how they could bug others.

      And I agree that it's wonderful that people love Anne, because she's not bright and cheery like Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse. But many people do see her worth, and since I see a lot of myself in Anne, this is a great comfort :-)

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  5. Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen novel as well and I find your thoughts on the title really interesting. Now I just want to read it again.

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    1. Thanks! I hope you can find to reread it :-) If you do, let me know if you agree with my conclusions about the whole idea of "persuasion" or not.

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  6. I hadn't ever thought about that, but it makes so much sense. How dangerous self-persuasion is and how Anne and Wentworth both do it. I really must reread this one again soon! Now I want to see if I can pick out that same thing.

    Oh my goodness! That cover is gorgeous! And I just love books that have their edges like that. Especially classics! I'm thinking I may need a fourth copy of this book....(is that too many? Nah. ;)

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    1. I have 4 copies of Jane Eyre. Totally not too many! I lucked out and hit a sale where they were only $10 instead of $15.

      I'll be interested to hear if you do see that same theme when you reread it next!

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    2. So I maybe DO own a 4th copy now...stop by my blog post for tomorrow (Monday) if you wanna! I may give you a shout out or two... :)

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    3. Hee. And I just realized that... I own 5 copies of Jane Eyre. Heh.

      I'll try to stop by tomorrow! I'm woefully behind on reading blogs (and blogging) right now, but hoping to catch up over the next few days :-)

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