The rapidity and sureness with which Jane Austen evolves the scene are cantered of course in her creation of character. The opening chapters of Persuasion do not differ markedly in this respect from those of any of its predecessors. In each the materials for her characters are quickly assembled, she breathes the breath of life between their lips, and there they stand for ever. The technical process is in each case the same, at once visible but incommunicable.
Nevertheless there is something about Persuasion very different from anything in her other five novels. The difference is in how the novel represents the emotions of, for instance, attraction, love, loss, and mourning. Critics agree that Persuasion is one of the first novels in history that treats the question of feeling seriously. The atmosphere of each of Jane Austen’s novels is determined by feelings of the character of its heroine, but nowhere are these feelings and emotions so striking as in Persuasion.
The sad beauty of autumn heightens, like music, the emotional interest of the opening of the story. Persuasion is the tenderest and most romantic of all Jane Austen’s creations; the story of ideal emotions. It is not that Jane Austen possessed a more interesting mind or a more varied imagination than her successors. A supernatural power of creating character is not the only attraction of a novelist; it is not indisputably the first.
That was capacity violently to stir emotion. Her method has this virtue, that whatever the restrictions of type and circumstance under which she practices it, when she has waved her hand and thrown her spell, it seems that the greater is, after all, included in the less; that limited as the circumstances are in which she shows her characters, for the time at which we read about them, their vicissitudes seem to cover a vast range of human experience.
This is especially true of Persuasion; the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, so simply related, but so profoundly felt, sinks into the consciousness like a stone dropped into water, and spreads about itself widening and ever-widening rings of feelings. Jane allows herself, if required, the full benefit in wizardry of the novel-art. She moves freely among her people, not always in company with the heroine; she reads and reveals their feelings. Anne Elliot is the maturest of all the heroines. Not only is she older than any of them (she is twenty-seven). They all make some error of greater or less importance.
But her mistake has been made eight years before the story opens. Having made the initial blunder of allowing herself to be overpowered by Lady Russell’s judgment into breaking off an engagement with the man she truly loved, Anne never afterwards makes a single error in morality, judgment or taste (Cornish, p. 116). Her perception of the faults of her father and sister and the enigmatic Mr. Elliot, and her humbleness, which through the changes of hopeless resignation, trembling hope, and ‘senseless joy’ becomes a triumphant certainty of happiness, keep her altogether vulnerable and human.
The climax of the reconciliation is the most exciting passage in any of her works (Cornish, p. 90). In Mrs. Musgrove’s sitting room at the White Hart, Anne and Captain Harville enter upon their argument as to the relative constancy of men and women. Reader can notice that Anne is speaking with more earnestness than Captain Harville. That is because Anne speaks from the knowledge of her own heart. “’We shall never agree upon this question,’ Captain Harville was beginning to say, when a slight noise called their attention to Captain Wentworth’s hitherto perfectly quiet division of the room.
It was nothing more than that his pen had fallen down; but Anne was startled at finding him nearer than she had supposed” (pp. 222). The scene that follows is very short, but it is weighted so deep with emotion of Anne, it seems as though poetry must start from it. They are a man and woman meeting in the crowded sitting room of a hotel. “Before she was beyond the first stage of full sensation, Charles, Mary and Henrietta all came in. The absolute necessity of seeming like herself produced then an immediate struggle; but after a while she could do no more.
She began not to understand a word they said. ” Jane Austen is permeating the tale with the mood and temperament, the intelligence and outlook, of each heroine in turn. It is through Elinor’s disapproving, though loving, eyes, readers see her folly and her charm. Anne’s tender sympathy, which is not weak, manifestly colors every page of Persuasion (Wiltshire 68). Jane has created a heroine endowed with such sensitiveness as Anne’s. However, if Anne is open and has deep feelings in her heart Mr. Elliot seems to be totally opposite: Mr.
Elliot was rational, discreet, polished, – but he was not open. There was never any burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight, at the evil or good of others. This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection. Her early impressions were incurable. She prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others. Warmth and enthusiasm did captivate her still. She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.
(p. 167) The reader can see contrast between woman and man. Anne acts in a situation by the emotional vibrations it contains. Moreover, her own feelings are so rich and strong that they often intercross with her role as observer. Anne has great inner world, which is powerful enough to pull her from the unceasing conflicts that surround her. Ideas of exertion and exposure are linked to Elizabeth Elliot. In the beginning of Persuasion the author describes bad existence of Elizabeth Elliot, “the prosperity and the nothingness” of her life.
She is unhappy not because she still does not have a husband at twenty-nine. She is unhappy because she has no interest in her life: “Such were Elizabeth Elliot’s sentiments and sensations; such the cares to alloy, the agitations to vary, the sameness and the elegance, the prosperity and the nothingness, of her scene of life – such the feelings to give interest to a long uneventful residence in one country circle, to fill the vacancies which there were no habits of utility abroad, no talents or accomplishments for home, to occupy” (Lascelles, p.9).
In Persuasion Jane Austen describes women who do not suffer over men because they are by nature more emotional and were “created to suffer. ” She writes about women who suffer because their social role. Anne describes her point of view in the following words: “You have difficulties, and privations, and dangers enough to struggle with. You are always labouring and toiling, exposed to every risk and hardship. Your home, country, friends, all quitted. Neither time, nor health, nor life, to be called your own.
It would be too hard indeed’ (with a faltering voice) ‘if woman’s feelings were to be added to all this” (p. 233). Anne’s mistake that she made makes her be human and sympathetic, and it gives her room to grow: “She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older – the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning” (p. 50). When Wentworth comes back to England and is wealthier after years at sea, Anne perceives her abiding love for him: she feels “agitation, pain, pleasure, a something between delight and misery” (p. 203).
Anne’s new life is full of “color, activity, interest and change [for] she is released from the ‘quiet, confined’ female existence in which, as she says, ‘our feelings prey upon us,’ into the glory of being a sailor’s wife” (p. 19). Anne speaks for herself, and other women in her society. These women have suffered from male writing and dominance. Reader can see that Anne is somewhat confused in the novel because she is unable to comprehend absolutely the complexities of her situation, particularly in regard to the plight of women.