Friday, January 18, 2013

Persuasion: Part 3 of 4

"If I thought it would not tempt her to go out in sharp winds, and grow coarse, I would send her a new hat and pelisse." --Sir Walter, ever concerned with appearances.

The first half of volume 2 brings us back to Sir Walter and Elizabeth: the relatives from whom no absence is long enough.  Having spent much time in the presence of very good, open-hearted people, the difference is felt more keenly.  Ridicule of Sir Walter's priorities becomes more blatant, and the reader feels, as Anne must, that the idle conversations are an poor way to pass the time.

Noticeable in this section is Anne's relative assertiveness.  Anne states her mind after Mary asserts that Lady Russell "will not find any thing very agreeable" in Captain Benwick. Mary says, "He is one of the dullest young men that ever lived."  Anne has no problem contradicting her, and hearing Anne's voice (for what feels like the first time) is welcome relief.

In fact, we hear much more of Anne's voice, (rather than solely her thoughts and observations,) throughout this segment.  I believe this reflects a restoration of life and hope, in addition to a general gain of gumption.  She has faced what she had lived in dread of, (seeing Wentworth again,) and she has survived.  Her disappointment did not spell the end of her.

Camden Place in Bath
One of the things Austen addresses in this section is the quality of openness.  While Mr. Elliot has every quality polite society might desire—more than sufficient manners to satisfy Lady Russell—Anne can't help but feel something wanting.  Though she finds him to be "an exceedingly agreeable man," she later says that he is "too generally agreeable."  Though he communicates to Anne his contempt of Mrs. Clay, still Mrs. Clay finds him "as agreeable as anybody."  This is a "decided imperfection" and in sharp contrast to the warmth of the Crofts, who display the attribute of openness admirably, and soon join the society at Bath, saving us (and Anne) from wilting in oppressive shallowness.

"They brought with them their country habit of being almost always together."

While the Crofts (whom I love) are being spoken of, I must use a quote of Admirable Croft's to mention Austen's use of parenthesis.  I love using parenthesis myself, and so of course it makes me smile how Austen uses them.  Doesn't it just transport you to the scene itself?

"I wonder where that boat was built!" (laughing heartily) "I would not venture over a horsepond in it.  Well," (turning away) "now, where are you bound?"

I like it, and all the more for the fact that it feels unexpected from a book written nearly 200 years ago.  Another practice Austen uses is free indirect speech, which is shown at the beginning of chapter four, and which also serves to make a scene come alive...though I'm certain that it could also (in combination with the abundance of punctuation) be confusing to a reader unaccustomed to it.  It makes me happy. (Another item of humor in the following excerpt, by the way, being that Gowland's Lotion contained mercuric chloride, a derivative of sulphuric acid, a.k.a. chemical peel. ouch.)

In the course of the same morning, Anne and her father chancing to be alone together, he began to compliment her on her improved looks; he thought her "less thin in her person, in her cheeks; her skin, her complexion, greatly improved—clearer, fresher.  Had she been using anything in particular?" "No, nothing." "Merely Gowland," he supposed. "No, nothing at all." "Ha! he was surprised at that;" and added, "certainly you cannot do better than continue as you are; you cannot be better than well; or I should recommend Gowland, the constant use of Gowland, during the spring months."

Now that I've talked at great length about punctuation (wasn't that exciting?) I suppose it's time to wrap up, though I have one more point to address.  Isn't it an interesting contrast that the man who declares he is ready and willing to love any young lady (Wentworth) ends up holding out for something more perfect, while the man who is so bereft that he shall never rise out of his misery (Benwick) ends up being quickly consolable after all?


  1. Your post has made me want to re-read Persuasion. I'd forgotten about the vanity of Sir Walter.

    1. Oh my, he is something else, isn't he? The nice thing is that it is a pretty quick book to read--all the better for re-reading!

  2. It sounds like you are enjoying the read-along! I'm thinking of joining for Crime and Punishment. I have the book on my pile, and one of my goals is to read it this year.

    1. Persuasion is a favorite, and I'd been looking for an excuse to reread it and blab on (and on) about it. :) I'm definitely going to join in for Crime and Punishment read along, since I have had such great experiences with Wallace, although it seems like we are stretching the book out over a long time. 3 months/500[ish] pages. Still, it's a great way to get another classic read since I work well with deadlines! I hope you do join. You can always drop out if it doesn't work for you.


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