Persuasion, By Jane Austen Essay

2237 words - 9 pages

Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion emanates the social and political upheaval caused by the war and depicts the transition into nineteenth century realism where class and wealth was considered extremely important in the social hierarchy. She explores the reactions to the newly diverse interactions between different social classes and although she was “no snob, she knew all about snobbery.” Therefore, she is able to realistically portray the views of upper class characters such as Sir Walter Elliot and contrast them to men who have earned their wealth, such as Captain Wentworth. Whilst Britain was involved with the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in the early nineteenth century, the navy had a profound involvement therefore this is not only reflected in Austen’s real life, but also in her novels. This alters the narrative in the novel as a whole as Austen depicts how wealth and being upper class is no longer limited to hereditory but can also be earned through professions such as being in the navy. As a result, the contrasts between the opinions and actions of the men who work for their wealth and the men who merely receive it from their family are profound.
Vanity is a reoccuring theme in Persuasion and is particularly portrayed through the character of Sir Walter Elliot and it is evident that the cause of this is the abundance of wealth that seemingly elavates the upper classes. His arrogance is immediately highlighted in chapter one where the narrator declares how “vanity was the beginning and end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character.” He prides his appearance and that of others beyond most things, even his daughter Anne who he can find “little to admire in.” His disaproval evokes his own self importance as her “delicate features and mild dark eyes” resemble nothing of his own therefore he considers her to be less attractive as he believes himself to be the epitome of beauty, something which he values considerably. Frequently, he fails to look beyond the exterior of individuals such as his daughter and also the men in the navy. Roger Sales depicts how he “notices the wreckage of personal appearance in others, whereas the naval officers inhabit a world in which ships are wrecked and lives are lost.” The stark contrast between Sir Walter Elliot’s values and the men in the navys emphasises the disparity between classes which permeates Austen’s novel. Roger Sales equates the “wreckage” of a ship to Sir Walter Elliot’s idea of an unattractive person which emanates the shallow, self absorbed values of the upper class. Further evidence of Sir Walter Elliot’s vanity is again, depicted by Roger Sales who observes how in Bath, he has “nothing to do and so is able to devote his time to cruising up and down the streets in search of confirmation that no man or woman is better looking than him.” This not only reflects how little purpose he has in life but also shows how, although he is wealthy, it has not come from hard work and dedication like men such as...

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