Utilizing Morality As A Catalyst For Change A Review Of Jane Austen's Persuasion

1417 words - 6 pages

In this essay I will discuss how in Persuasion Jane Austen portrays society where, despite conservative resistance, change is underway and how true moral values, can achieve recognition.

Resistance occurs in various forms and whether conservative or otherwise it is a powerful tool in Austen's writing technique. Sir Walter, in the first chapter, is shown to be a very resistant man in general, who when faced with the predicament of losing all that is precious to him - his material possessions - he demands to maintain his current lifestyle with very little compromise so he seeks help from elsewhere "to remove their embarrassments and reduce their expenditure, without involving the loss of any indulgence of taste or pride." Sir Walter's resistance is matched with his daughter Elizabeth's and is far from conservative. They show their displeasure and annoyance of things, or people, openly and have no regard for the feelings or outcomes of their words or actions. When approached with a list of cut-backs they must make in order to survive the reaction was; "What! every comfort of life knocked off! Journeys, London, servants, horses, table-contractions and restrictions everywhere! To live no longer with the decencies even of a private gentleman!" (Chap.2).

Mary, too, is similar to her father and elder sister in her temperament and personality often exclaiming her near death in order for sympathy and assistance more often then not (chap.6). Conservative resistance is not often shown in Anne, who is depicted as a modest, humble person of good standing who is appreciated and respected with all people she comes in contact with. Anne's countenance is shown and acknowledged by Captain Benwick in chapter 11 who found her "engaging mildness of her countenance, and gentleness of her manner" enough to instantly feel at ease; her brother-in-laws family, the Musgrove's, who claimed "We do wish that Charles had married Anne instead." (chap.10); and even the unacquainted cousin Mr. Elliot too had an instant attraction to Anne as he passed her during their stay in Lyme (chap.12). Austen portrays Anne as this epitome of goodness and kindness but who isn't a very resistant person. She would more often than not succumb to the desires and needs to those around her in order to aid another or to keep the peace, as shown in chapter 4 when she allows Sir Walter and Lady Russell to dispel any notions of marriage to Captain Wentworth. Anne's resistance suddenly rears it head when she is confronted by Sir Walter and Elizabeth as to whether she will be attending them to visit their prestigious family relations instead of her prearranged visit with her old widow friend Mrs. Smith. Anne is quickly discouraged from attending the latter visit, but becomes adamant that she will attend much to their dissatisfaction and her amazement; and conservatively resists arguing the case of her friend as, "her sense of personal respect to her father prevented her." (chap.17). ...

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