Friday, January 30, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 12

Chapter 12! We’re halfway! And what a full and action packed chapter it is…

First we’re introduced to Mr. Elliot by sight (the cousin and heir to Kellynch). We already have one love triangle on hand and it appears another is now hovering in the wings: “…as they passed, Anne's face caught his eye, and he looked at her with a degree of earnest admiration, which she could not be insensible of. She was looking remarkably well; her very regular, very pretty features, having the bloom and freshness of youth restored by the fine wind which had been blowing on her complexion, and by the animation of eye which it had also produced. It was evident that the gentleman, (completely a gentleman in manner) admired her exceedingly. Captain Wentworth looked round at her instantly in a way which shewed his noticing of it. He gave her a momentary glance, a glance of brightness, which seemed to say, “That man is struck with you, and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again.”

There’s also the farther wonderful illumination of Wentworth’s character in Harville’s brief talk with Anne about Benwick after Fanny Harville’s death: “Nobody could do it, but that good fellow” (pointing to Captain Wentworth). “The Laconia had come into Plymouth the week before; no danger of her being sent to sea again. He stood his chance for the rest; wrote up for leave of absence, but without waiting the return, travelled night and day till he got to Portsmouth, rowed off to the Grappler that instant, and never left the poor fellow for a week. That's what he did, and nobody else could have saved poor James. You may think, Miss Elliot, whether he is dear to us!” So understated…yet so amazing in its deep portrayal of true friendship!

Finally we come to the tragic accident where Anne shines out brilliantly: keeping her head—directing everything at once—talking—speaking—taking decisive action! (And the attentive Wentworth is starting to notice…)

Favorite lines/quotes:

“She (Anne) said all that was reasonable and proper on the business; felt the claims of Dr Shirley to repose as she ought; saw how very desirable it was that he should have some active, respectable young man, as a resident curate, and was even courteous enough to hint at the advantage of such resident curate's being married.” pg. 103

“…having all kindly watched him (Mr. Elliot) as far up the hill as they could, they returned to the breakfast table.” pg 105

“Anne found Captain Benwick getting near her, as soon as they were all fairly in the street. Their conversation the preceding evening did not disincline him to seek her again; and they walked together some time, talking as before of Mr. Scott and Lord Byron, and still as unable as before, and as unable as any other two readers, to think exactly alike of the merits of either…” pg 107

“Anne, attending with all the strength and zeal, and thought, which instinct supplied, to Henrietta, still tried, at intervals, to suggest comfort to the others, tried to quiet Mary, to animate Charles, to assuage the feelings of Captain Wentworth. Both seemed to look to her for directions.” pg 110

“The tone, the look, with which "Thank God!" was uttered by Captain Wentworth, Anne was sure could never be forgotten by her; nor the sight of him afterwards, as he sat near a table, leaning over it with folded arms and face concealed, as if overpowered by the various feelings of his soul, and trying by prayer and reflection to calm them.” pg. 112

“Anne wondered whether it ever occurred to him now, to question the justness of his own previous opinion as to the universal felicity and advantage of firmness of character; and whether it might not strike him that, like all other qualities of the mind, it should have its proportions and limits. She thought it could scarcely escape him to feel that a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness as a very resolute character.” pg. 116

“…the remembrance of the appeal remained a pleasure to her, as a proof of friendship, and of deference for her judgment, a great pleasure; and when it became a sort of parting proof, its value did not lessen.” pg. 117

Possible discussion question/s:

~Where does firmness end and stubbornness begin?


  1. 'Twas a busy weekend, but here I am at last!

    Oh my goodness, such a chapter! Captain Wentworth becomes a much more sympathetic character here, doesn't he? He gets a little spark of jealousy over Mr. Elliot noticing Anne, evidenced by his asking so pointedly about him at the inn -- clearly, though he thought he was cold and hardened toward her, he isn't. And then the story about him basically going AWOL to tell Captain Benwick about his fiancee's death -- wow. He risked his career to help a friend in dire need. Quite heroic.

    And then his complete remorse and self-blaming over Louisa's fall. That image of him with his head in his hands -- oof. I may have scribbled three little hearts in the margin at that point...

    I find it so interesting that Louisa, in her determination to walk out on the Cobb one more time, insisted on it and changed the minds of everyone around her -- doesn't that sound an awful lot like Lady Russell, whom Henrietta earlier said she had heard was "able to persuade a person to anything." There's definitely a difference, in my mind, between being determined about something and forcing everyone else to change their minds just so you don't have to change yours.

    Captain Wentworth needs to realize if a person can never be persuaded to change their mind, then no two people will ever get along with each other because they'll be fighting constantly. I feel like the fact that he's an officer in the navy has gotten him very used to being obeyed, and he is so unused to having to be persuaded to do something he wasn't planning to do that he doesn't understand how anyone could be that way. But now he sees a tragic example of what can happen if you always insist on your own way and never change your mind.

    And then, when Louisa falls, he cries out "in a tone of despair, as if all his own strength were gone." This bold ship's captain, hero of quite a few naval battles since he's got a considerable amount of prize money (you only earn that by capturing enemy ships), is reduced to helplessness by a tragedy of his own creation, and who comes to help him? Anne. Anne, who he thought was weak, shows her real strength in a situation that has him immobilized. I could cheer! I think I shall :-)

    This is really the turning point of the novel for Wentworth, don't you think? Wentworth goes from avoiding Anne and speaking of her as little as possible to saying, "no one so proper, so capable as Anne." He is realizing his error in holding a grudge against her for so long, but is it too late?

    We have one more example of negative unpersuadableness to sink the point home for us and for Wentworth: Mary insisting she stay behind with Louisa, when everyone knows she'll be worthless.

    Okay, I think that's all I have to say (!), except I do have a question. Right at the end, Anne thinks, "Without emulating the feelings of an Emma towards her Henry, she would have attended on Louisa with a zeal above the common claims of regard, for his sake..." Who are these Emma and Henry people? I'm missing an allusion to some other story that I clearly should know.

    1. Hamlette,
      So glad to get your comment! I hope it all went well! (This week here looks like it will be quite full, but you shall hear from me anon. ;))

      And oh, I love, love, looooove this chapter!!!!!! And I agree! It's definitely a turning point---not only for the entire story---but particularly for CW.... That moment on the steps with Elliot? And staggering against the wall just after the accident?! :) And that moment at the Harville's with his head in his arms?!?!?!?! already detailed I know we understand each other. ;)

      And yes, I think there's quite a difference between standing firmly on your own decision, being capable of clear sighted action, and pushing your own way on everyone around you. As I just got thinking about this, though, it's easy to see when it comes to Anne and Louisa, but it's a lot harder to spot when it comes to your own life, at least for me. (Ouch!) It can actually be a hard line to walk sometimes, managing when necessary (which is a part of having proper authority structures) while at the same time letting someone else be their own person with their own decisions.... And I hadn't thought of Mary particularly as being a direct contrast to Anne, but that's a good point.

      And I've wondered and wondered about that Emma and Henry line, and finally decided to look it up! From my research, it appears to actually be the most famous line of allusion in Austen, referring to a poem written in 1709 by Matthew Pryor, which was in turn based on a yet older poem "The Nut-Brown Maid." That prior poem appears to have a medieval setting and be detailing a woman's fidelity and her unwavering decision to accompany her banished and penniless knight into the greenwood. In one place, it was mentioned that even if Henry chooses another woman, Emma promises to serve as her maid and she will do it in silence for his sake. (Apparently, she might not at the end of the poem, but I haven't read it yet so I don't know.) Either way, it seems Austen must have been thinking of it all the way through Persuasion, though! (Exciting and fascinating is it not?) Here's the wikipedia link and you can click through from there to see about the original. Tell me what you think!

    2. Thank you for clearing up that mystery! I'll try to read through the poem this week and make some sense of it.

      I am an extraordinarily stubborn person, and I know that I quite often have to stop and ask myself, "Am I insisting on this because it's the right thing to do, or because I'm just being stubborn?" Because being stubborn can be really good -- not giving in to temptations, not being swayed from your convictions, etc. But it can also be bad when you're sticking to something just for the sake of not changing. Such a struggle.

      The only thing I really remembered about this book for many years, after having read it only once, was "This is the one about the chick who falls off the steps because she was being stubborn." This chapter was, quite literally, all I really remembered. It's so very striking and memorable, isn't it?

  2. This is such a wonderful chapter for Anne! It shows how sensible and level-headed she is when faced with a crisis and I feel so happy for her when Mr Elliot looks at her "pretty features" with "earnest admiration" earlier on. Can you imagine how gratifying that must been for her?! Anne was reflecting on the "ruins of her face" a few chapters ago! Not only that, Wentworth even shows some signs of interest in Anne as well! :)

    I re-read this chapter a few days ago and looking at my notes I can see that I was very curious about Mr Elliot's servant. IIRC the servant told the hotelier that Mr Elliot will be a baronight some day. But that's not right surely? We know that Mr Elliot is rich and will eventually inherit Kellynch some day but he won't actually have a title. It looks like the servant is telling lies on Mr Elliot's behalf and I think JA is giving us an early warning sign about his character.

    I love that Captain Harville praises Anne for bringing Benwick out of his shell. If he can see that then surely Wentworth must be seeing it as well?!

    And of course I agree with what you and Hamlette both say about Wentworth's distress over Louisa being really quite attractive :D

    1. Hannah,
      Yes, I do love how Mr. Elliot studying her rouses CW! ;)

      And about the servant.....hmmmm. Actually, it is a hereditary title so Mr. Elliot will inherit it with the estate (becoming the next baronet, but keeping his given name -- so he'll become "Sir William"). Did that make sense?

      And yes, indeed! Oh dear me. Wentworth's distress over Louisa and that whole scene at the Harville's......oof. Don't, don't get me started!!! ;)

  3. Aw man, really? I really thought I was on to something there! :D This aristocracy stuff is confusing!

    1. Hannah,
      Oh, I know.... It can get super confusing! ;)


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