Monday, January 5, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 1


Welcome everyone! And here begins our Persuasion reading!

Chapter 1 is all about introductions and Austen handles them deftly and thoroughly. One particularly striking point I noticed this time is how tied to an absolute year Persuasion is…definitely, of course, with reference to the end of the war and the sailors being turned ashore, but also in regards to everyone’s exact date of birth, etc. A very interesting detail.

(Also, a quick note I neglected to mention in my last post. With the following page numbers, I'll be referencing my own Barnes & Noble Classics edition, but obviously the quotes may all fall in different places in your editions!)

Favorite lines/quotes:

“Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and situation… Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did; nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society.” pg. 6

“…Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character…” pg. 7

“All equality of alliance must rest with Elizabeth; for Mary had merely connected herself with an old country family of respectability and large fortune, and had therefore given all the honour, and received none…” pg. 8

Possible discussion question/s:

Just reading this chapter, do you think it’s obvious that Anne is the heroine?


27 comments:

  1. Yay! I'll be reading chapter one this evening.

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    1. Reading soon! I've just finnished Emma, so I'll need to catch up!

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    2. Evie,
      Great! And the first couple chapters are pretty short, so don't panic. ;)

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    3. Ok phew!! Cause preparing for uni summer course is taking a tad of priority. Sorry!!

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  2. I really noticed this time that Anne is barely mentioned in the first chapter! In fact, you'd almost think this was going to be the story of how Elizabeth captures the reluctant Mr. Elliot. Anne gets all of two-and-a-half paragraphs, but Elizabeth and her beauty get more than two pages!

    I also underlined the first two quotes you listed :-)

    I was amused by the mention, during the discussion of the previous Elliots, of "all the Marys and Elizabeths they had married" (p. 2). A rather predictable lot, these Elliots, eh? Keep marrying Marys and Elizabeths... which are the names of the two lesser sisters here. Anne's name is an anomaly in this family, just like her character and personality.

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    1. Hamlette,
      Hee! Very funny about Elizabeth and Mr. Elliot.... :) And I love that line about the previous Elliot's, too. There's just something about all those "Elizabeth's and Mary's." And good point! I'd never noticed that before about Anne's name being rather an anomaly. Fascinating.

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    2. Hamlette,

      That's a great point about Anne! Even her very name is an anomaly! And I was really struck about how little Anne is mentioned in this chapter too.

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    3. Thanks! That just struck me as I was typing my comments -- I had underlined the bit about the Marys and Elizabeths, but it wasn't until I was writing it down that I went, "Wait, those are her sisters' names too..." Hee. Subtle one, that Jane Austen.

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  3. It's hard to say after already knowing the story, but I think there are some strong clues pointing to Anne being the heroine. First she's compared to her mother, who is portrayed as a reasonable, responsible woman.

    Second, there's the quote "...but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister..." Any people of real understanding? That really jumps out there.

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    1. George,
      I agree. And I think Austen skillfully engages our sympathy and identification with that one line about Anne's mind and character. An author can have an "unlikable" protagonist whom we, as the readers, don't immediately favor, but there always has to be some sort of likeable trait or a softer flaw that we can identify with to keep us rooting for their improvement. Sir Walter and Elizabeth's conceit and empty-headedness are brought across pretty strongly.

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  4. It took me a few pages to get into the old style of writing...loads of commas in there! Haha! :D But, I am really enjoying it. I like how is started out with the family line, quickly skims over Anne, and then talks a lot about himself (Sir Walter) in fabulous fashion. It really is an amazing book so far. :)

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    1. Julia,
      So glad you're enjoying it! And yes, Austen's satirical handling of Sir Walter is quite priceless. :)

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  5. Loved the first travel! This is really Jane Austen's classic wit and irony at its best. As for the question... I believe that if you look at the chapter in the context of Austen's other works, there are strong clues to Ann being the main character. Just the way that she portrays Ann as the responsible like-her-mother one is a strong sign. Plus, Austen often does not focus the first chapter on the herione but rather on her backround and family. Of course, I may find the heroine easier to spot because Persuasion is the only Austen novel that I haven't yet read.

    So excited about continuing this read-a-long. This is a whole new (and I believe uplifted) reading experience for me.

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    1. Dr. Sus,
      First, I'm so very happy you're enjoying the reading and having such a wonderful experience!! :)

      And yes, I was actually thinking that over (whether Austen's heroines always immediately come across as sensible, etc). It's an interesting point.... Hmmm. I think it's a toss-up---with Catherine Morland, (possibly Marianne), and Emma on the wayward/immature side, and Elinor, Lizzy, Fanny, and Anne falling more on the other--though Lizzy and Elinor both have lessons to learn as well. But you're right, I think when they are more on the immature/wayward side, Austen very clearly delineates them as the heroine (as with Catherine Morland and Emma), leaving us to infer that if the lady just appears responsible (as with Anne), she's obviously the heroine.

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  6. This is my second reading of Persuasion, so I am a bit tainted knowing that Anne is the heroine. However, this time around, I found the clue in chapter one that Austen provides to make Anne stand out. She is Lady Russell's favorite because of her character and b/c she reminds Lady Russell of Anne's mother, a good woman. It is subtle, but it is something for the reader to keep in mind.

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    1. Ruth,
      Yes---already knowing the story---it's pretty hard to determine how everything might appear. :) And isn't it amazing? The subtlety and skill with which Austen makes Anne stand out in that one short paragraph?

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  7. When reading this chapter, I suddenly felt very sorry for Elizabeth. It hadn't struck me before that she had been willing to marry Mr. Elliot and with no real qualms but because of course it seemed right that the heir to the title and estate should marry the eldest daughter and thus cement the family and estate together.

    But when he marries another woman and pretty much for her money, Elizabeth is left in the lurch. Even after Mr. Elliot's wife dies, he doesn't seek to repair the breach with the baronet and Elizabeth. And even if he did, Elizabeth's injured pride probably wouldn't let her accept any offer from him.

    But she probably won't receive any offers from any other gentleman. One, because marrying her would not get them the title and estate, and two, her dowry is likely to be rather paltry based on the Elliot's financial situation.

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    1. George,
      Good points about the title and estate....I hadn't thought much on it from that angle. But yes, Elizabeth's definitely in a pitiable situation, almost the more so because---in so many ways (due to her own family pride and conceit)---she's a bit blind to the depth of the problem.

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  8. It's very interesting how the first chapter starts and focuses primarly on Elizabeth. Of course I knew that the main character is Anne, I saw the movie, but I can't help myself but laugh when I know that other people will think that Elizabeth is the leading character. I wa so surprised how Anne has a smilar personalityto her mother, Austen gives us small clues and we can see that Anne is special because she is different, unique. I also posted the review of the first chapter today on my blog romance of pages if you want to see it.

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    1. Rosia,
      It is really interesting, isn't it? Also, I agree! "Different" and "unique" are perfect ways to describe Anne. And I'm looking forward to getting over and reading your post soon!

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  9. “…Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character…”

    This was such a constrasting characterization against those of Mr. Elliot and Elizabeth that it just jumped out of the page. How nice to be described that way.

    What does " All equality of alliance ..." mean exactly?
    Also, who exactly is the second Mr. Elliot? How is he related to Sir Elliot's family? Please help.

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    1. Kim,
      Isn't that a beautiful description? And I agree, how wonderful to be able to have that said of you! :)

      And certainly! For your questions....

      #1 - Technically, (with Sir Walter being a baronet) the Elliots were of a strata of nobility, so Mary (in marrying into an old, yet untitled family) would have been marrying (a very little bit) beneath her station. Not tremendously, though. It was actually a very good match for her so you get the idea that Sir Walter is looking down his nose a good deal, but he definitely wants Elizabeth to marry someone with a title whom he can consider an "equal."

      #2 - Mr. Elliot is a distant cousin, and as apparently there is an entail in favor of heirs male (similar to the situation with the Bennets and Mr. Collins in P&P), he is also the future heir to the Kellynch estate.

      I hope that helped and I'm so glad you commented!

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  10. Thank you SO MUCH for your clarification. I'm new to all these lofty, indirect expressions in classical literature, which I have not taken up since the days of forced-upon reading in high school once upon a time and my life as "serious?" engineer. Now, after discovering this wonderful group of classical literature lovers, I 've come to realize how much enjoyment and understanding that classical literature offers. So, I would ask that you hold my hand while I wade through this book - and Don Quioxte - once in a while.
    FYI: I grew up in Rhode Island but now reside in Korea.

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    1. Kim,
      You're welcome! And most certainly....any time! :)

      Wow, you're going through Don Quixote? I haven't finished that one yet. Along with a LOT of the classic British and American authors, I love Dante and some of the Russian/Eastern European writers---Dostoevsky, Josef Conrad, etc. But I'm still about halfway through Quixote.... (It's sitting comfortably on my shelf, though! ;))

      And we're so glad to have you! Was moving to Korea a big change?

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  11. I really enjoyed this chapter.
    I had forgotten how little Anne is mentioned in the first chapter(s) but I still think it is quite obvious she will be the heroine. Firstly, she is the only one described positively, which is quite a contrast to Sir Walter and Elizabeth, and secondly, her situation in her family is described in a way to immediately make the reader feel that she deserves better.

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    1. Rose,
      I agree. I think a huge part of it is in how Austen engages our sympathy by Anne's very situation and the intrigue of her character....how she could be so different from the others in such a household!

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Challenging questions and thoughts are most welcome! Please just keep all comments wholesome and God-honoring. Also, if someone else has left a comment you’d like to reply to/interact with—do feel free!