Friday, January 11, 2013

Persuasion: Part 2 of 4

"Anne felt her spirits not likely to be benefited by an increasing acquaintance among his brother-officers.  'These would have been all my friends,' was her thought; and she had to struggle against a great tendency to lowness."


The tension builds.  The majority of this section (the second half of the first volume) shows Anne playing second fiddle, Anne in the background, Anne quiet while others talk over her, Anne being talked at instead of to.  This all changes when she arrives in Lyme.  The sea air is invigorating, inspiring, as is the new company.  She finds in Captain Benwick a thoughtful conversant, and in Mr. Eliot a new admirer.  An event happens that forces our headstrong Captain Wentworth to reconsider those feelings and emotions he has long resolved to ignore.

Amazing to me is how caught up I get in Austen's writing in this book.  The reader gets to partake in Anne's feelings of loneliness and the beginning pangs of resignation as conversation steers around who Wentworth will choose—none of the options being herself.  Then, just as that sad reality starts to make itself at home in your heart, the end of chapter nine brings a development that transports you directly into Anne's "disordered feelings" and "painful agitation" and serves as the first in a series of occurrences that leave Anne in disarray.

"She was ashamed of herself, quite ashamed of being so nervous, so overcome by such a trifle; but so it was; and it required a long application of solitude and reflection to recover her."

One thing to note is how Austen manages her male characters.  There is one case where she actually (briefly) writes from Wentworth's point of view, but most of the time when his motives are being noted, it is through Anne's observations and interpretations, and must be viewed through that lens.  It is my opinion that Wentworth isn't simply bitter about the affront of being refused all those years ago, rather he wears this mask in order to protect himself from constantly reliving the heartbreak of being rejected...because he is still in love.  Of course he won't admit that, not even to himself, but when it all boils down we see that he still thinks very highly of her.  However, believing that she still holds to that terrible persuasion that separated them so long ago, he cannot trust himself to be open with her, for that would be to risk utter destruction.

"'Is there no one to help me?' were the first words which burst from Captain Wentworth, in a tone of despair, and as if all his own strength were gone."

Between Lyme Regis and Charmouth, by John White Abbott
(Read more about Persuasion at Jane Austen's World!)
A unique (to Jane Austen) element that features heavily in Persuasion is the importance of location, as it influences more than simply the setting.  Anne, especially, is affected by the different places she happens to be.  At Kellynch, she feel repressed and confined by the expectations of propriety.  At Uppercross she feels needed, yet lonely; more alive, yet still ignored.  At Lyme, she is stimulated and inspired, sensing the vitality that she has lived without.  And Bath, her upcoming destination, she dreads.  The very thought of it sends her into low spirits.

As Volume 2 begins, there is a definite shift in mood.  Anne begins to take more ownership of her life (her internal life, at least).  This is apparent from the beginning, when she has a difficult time paying attention to the matters of family that Lady Russell speaks of, even though she knows that she should be more concerned.  She also admits to herself that the Crofts were more worthy of Kellynch than her own father—a shocking statement for the times, not only because of familial loyalty, but because it questions the class structure.  With this new breath of life swirling round her head, the next installment should make for interesting reading.


2 comments:

  1. Such fine observations you have made of this reading! When viewed through your lens, I want to read the rest right now. When I view it through my lens, it's just a mediocre read. Thanks for the uplifting, mood shifting post.

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    1. It's that mysterious "connection"...it's easy to dig in and find observations when you really connect with the book/characters. Sad you aren't connecting! I'm afraid that's going to happen to me with Crime and Punishment, but I've found that a read along is good for that--hearing other responses and thoughts helps to break up your own.

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