Monday, January 19, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 7

Peter Leithart aptly describes Anne as Austen’s most “useful” heroine. So far, we’ve seen her smoothing out all the minor details of her family’s move—in essence, doing much of the actual required footwork and packing organization, etc. At Uppercross, she manages Mary’s children, and now she’s physically caring for injured little Charles.


Austen is subtle with Anne—in a similar way to her handling of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park. We have to study, compare notes, read the minutest details… Detective work comes into play. But here in Chapter 7, we definitely start getting a bit more “into” Anne’s emotions. And what a rollercoaster of emotions! 

“…So altered that he should not have known her again!” These were words which could not but dwell with her. Yet she soon began to rejoice that she had heard them. They were of sobering tendency; they allayed agitation; they composed, and consequently must make her happier.

“Frederick Wentworth had used such words, or something like them, but without an idea that they would be carried round to her. He had thought her wretchedly altered, and, in the first moment of appeal, had spoken as he felt. He had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill; deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity.

“He had been most warmly attached to her, and had never seen a woman since whom he thought her equal; but, except from some natural sensation of curiosity, he had no desire of meeting her again. Her power with him was gone forever.” pg 62


Poor Anne! Misread and misunderstood, undervalued (to Sir Walter and Elizabeth she is ‘only Anne’), yet consistently clear-sighted, seeing round circumstances, and constantly and correctly interpreting every person and situation round her!

Favorite lines/quotes:

“She had seen him. They had met. They had been once more in the same room! Soon, however, she began to reason with herself, and try to be feeling less. Eight years, almost eight years had passed, since all had been given up. How absurd to be resuming the agitation which such an interval had banished into distance and indistinctness! What might not eight years do? Events of every description, changes, alienations, removals,—all, all must be comprised in it; and oblivion of the past—how natural, how certain too! It included nearly a third part of her own life. Alas! With all her reasonings, she found, that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing.” pg. 61

“…she could take no revenge, for he was not altered, or not for the worse. She had already acknowledged it to herself, and she could not think differently, let him think of her as he would. No; the years which had destroyed her youth and bloom had only given him a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages. She had seen the same Frederick Wentworth.” pg. 61

“He said it, she (Mrs. Croft) knew, to be contradicted. His bright proud eye spoke the happy conviction that he was nice; and Anne Elliot was not out of his thoughts, when he more seriously described the woman he should wish to meet with. “A strong mind, with sweetness of manner,” made the first and the last of the description.” pg. 62-63

Possible discussion question/s:

~ Here the tough, underlying question of Persuasion is coming to light: What is the true definition of strength and weakness? It can’t be answered in one sitting—we’ll be studying it played out in story for the rest of the book—but how do you think the contrast shows up in this chapter? Irrespective of confused and contrasting 'feelings' (i.e. confidence or mortification), who is strongest and who is weakest?


16 comments:

  1. Haha! Jane Austen's most 'useful' heroine. :-) How interesting... and I can see what he means. Dear Anne is useful indeed. :-) People use her too much, poor thing. I'm so glad I'm reading Persuasion. I never cared for it much because the movie and I didn't get along so well (hehee), but as I read it I'm creating my own vision of everything, and I'm really enjoying it!

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    1. Naomi,
      Isn't that a striking description? :) And yes, you.....(hem! ;)).....know my feelings on the '07 film, BUT I know it's not for everyone and I certainly don't want it getting in the way of loving the story! I'm so glad you're enjoying it! ;)

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  2. We have just begun Jane Austen in my English lit class at uni (holiday / weekend course) and I love this book so much!
    Evie

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    1. Evie,
      Yay! I'm so glad! Does that mean you'll now be able to read along? :)

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  3. Not only does Anne make an effort to understand other peoples' motivations and reasoning, she consistently puts the best construction on everything. She is generous and charitable and ascribes to them better feelings and thoughts than they might actually have. She puts all the blame on herself for the fact that he's never forgiven her for ending their engagement, never thinking (that we see) that if only he was a bit more persuadable himself, he might stop obstinately punishing her for doing what she believed was right.

    In this scene, I think Anne is stronger than Wentworth. He chatters away with everyone else to distract himself from thinking about her, but she sits quietly and accepts her emotions and confusion. It's so much easier to ignore your feelings than to acknowledge them.

    I'm always rather angry with Wentworth in this part. Saying she was so altered he wouldn't have recognized her if he didn't know who she was? Come on! I ran into a guy I had a crush on, ten years after the fact, and I knew exactly who he was. He was pushing 40 by then, but I still knew who he was even though I wasn't at all expecting to ever see him again. And I'd only had a crush on him, not been engaged to him! So I really feel like Wentworth is being spiteful here, saying, "Wow, she did not age well." I know he's still angry (what constancy of mind, to hold this grudge for eight years!) and hurt, but dude, that wasn't nice.

    (And before anyone things I hate Captain Wentworth -- I don't. He's my favorite Austen hero. I love him to pieces. But I really can't excuse his behavior here.)

    Okay, so anyway, other thoughts. I laughed over Mr. Musgrove, eager to be "welcoming him to all that was strongest and best in his cellars." Does he assume that because Wentworth is a naval officer, he loves his liquor? Just made me snort and write "heh" in the margin.

    We ran into this idea again: "the sincerity of her manner being soon sufficient to convince him, where conviction was at least very agreeable." This sounds so much like a line I mentioned back in Chapter Two: "How quick come the reasons for approving what we like!" Austen is really pointing out that if someone suggests something we like or agree with, we can easily find lots of reasons to support why we should agree with them. Charles Musgrove wants to be convinced Mary should go to dine at the Great House, and earlier Lady Russell came up with all sorts of reasons why she approved of Sir Walter moving to Bath. I feel like Austen is pointing out that it's easy to be persuaded to do something we want to do, but it's very hard to be persuaded to do something we don't want to do, and emphasizing how strong Anne's character was to be able to bend to the will of others, even though Wentworth thought she was being weak.

    Other lines I marked:

    "If there is anything disagreeable going on men are always sure to get out of it..." (Um, yes, Mary, because fighting wars is always so agreeable...)

    "To be sure, I may just as well go as not, for I am of no use at home -- am I?" (You're right this time, Mary. No use at all!)

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    1. Hamlette,
      Yes, I think she does put the best construction on things....but she's never honestly blind to other people's faults (like Jane in P&P, for instance). So far, she definitely sees through Mrs. Clay and she knows her father and sisters failings---she even mentally, emotionally (and respectfully) disagrees with Lady Russell's counsel about her engagement.

      And about Wentworth here! Oh, my....YES!!! He actually really annoyed me this time around. He's just about my favorite Austen hero, but....oh my, yes, he made me mad here. We don't always say what we mean, though. I think he would have known her....he's just angry. And really, that's the one redeeming fact. (He'd never acknowledge it), but deep down there's still something there between them. There's a pull. If he'd really moved on, it wouldn't have given him more than a moment's pause. But anyhow, we'll see what Anne thinks about it later.

      And I loved that line about Mr. Musgrove! Doesn't it just evince the epitome of a jolly and hospitable country squire? :)

      Also, good point about the persuasion/being persuaded!! :) I love it! And wow. It plays beautifully and completely into the entire strong-weak question....

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    2. And of course, after I posted that, I was filled with remorse for maligning Captain Wentworth. He may also have been actually quite shocked and saddened by how different Anne looks -- he's had this image of her in his head for 8 years, and she doesn't match it anymore, but that fact might make him sad, not bitterly triumphant.

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    3. Hamlette,
      Yes, you're right! Good point.... And now I feel awful, too. :{ How does Austen make us like him so much?? How does she do it?!?!?!? :P

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    4. As writers, we must study this question and try to figure out how she works her magic!

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  4. And the plot thickens! I quite enjoyed the dynamic of the family seen in the unfortunate accident of Mary's son. Anne is proving to be one of my favorite of Austen's heroes as she has the quiet firmness and loyalty of Fanny Price and yet somehow deep below I believe lurks the independance of spirit and intellectual vitality of Lizzy Bennet.

    Both her and Wentworth are shown to be strong and sound characters, and yet they both show weakness in this chapter at the thought of being thrust into eachother's company once again. Anne showed weakness by trying to avoid Wentworth. She used her sister's tendency to lean on her for her own devices. It shows a more complex side of Anne. She is not simply being used and underappreciated like a cinderella, she takes the responsibility and harder part of life upon herself for her own reasons. In this case, to avoid Wentworth.

    Wentworth seems spiteful and almost immature in his comments about Anne. You can tell he hasn't completely gotten over the same of her rejecting him. Also - he seems resolved to sort of give up with love and just settle down and marry anyone who is agreeable. Another sign of weakness.

    Still, I believe that their inner strength will push both characters through this weak point toward a greater end! I am saying this by faith because I have not read the book or watched the movie before- so I honestly have no idea what happens!

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    1. Dr. Sus,
      The plot is definitely thickening! And I'm so glad you're liking Anne. :) Also, I think you're right. She is a great deal like a more mature and settled Fanny Price while at times you get little flashes of Lizzy's humor. :)

      Isn't it interesting how Wentworth does seem to be a sound character here---even with the rude comment flying about? I was thinking about it, and maybe it's because by now we have such reliance on Anne's character reading....and she definitely has a certain opinion of his integrity, etc. Hmmmm.

      And I liked the summary at the end of your comment! :) I'll keep doing my best not to drop any spoilers.... ;)

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  5. Oh, the captain is coming! I felt like taking out the fine silver and china myself as if I were to host the dinner for this huge guest. Mr. Musgroves' all busy-body reaction described in the very first paragraph seemed to give weight to Captain Wentworth upcoming presence. Based on all that was said about the Capt. in the previous chapters, I pictured a man of deep understanding and HONOR who would have felt guilty for not being more assertive and persuasive years ago in fortifying the engagement, not a man with a heart the size of a pea who still - after eight years - blamed Anne for her " feebleness of character" in failing to uphold her end of the deal and seeped anger through those piercing words, "wretchedly altered." Yes, technically, it was her "fault" but a gentleman would not rub it in. Could he have not attacked anything else about her but her LOOKS? What pride-damaging words to Anne - or for that matter, to any woman, then and now. Remember, she was only 19 and he had no fortune and no vocation and no property and with Mr. Elliot madly proclaiming that he would not contribute a penny, of course the young Anne would be persuaded, as opposed to Juliet in the Romeo and Juliet story we are used to and sometimes, secretly wish for. I would have thought the Capt. would have understood her heart-breaking decision.
    In this chapter, Anne seemed like the stronger character. She was collected, and faced her fears (of meeting him). It takes guts to face someone you "owe" something to and bear such harsh words with poise and understanding. On the other hand, the Capt. could have taken the heavy load of guilt off Anne's shoulder but he didn't, which in my opinion showed his "feebleness of character." But maybe, this is the how the tension between the Capt and Anne will be built up. We'll just have to wait and see.
    What does this mean? " Had he wished ever to see her again, he need not have waited till this time; he would have done what she could not but believe that in his place she should have done long ago, when events had been early giving him the independence which alone had been wanting." Read it over and over but still couldn't get this part.

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    1. Kim,
      I so enjoyed your comment about pulling out all the fine china and silver. ;)

      And yes, I think that's part of what makes Austen so applicable. She's realistic---not that Romeo and Juliet stories don't/couldn't happen. Shakespeare just approaches them on a much more epic, sweeping scale while Austen details more how such things would probably end up happening for most of the rest of us in the small things on a daily level. And yes, you so wish CW would have understood her, but.....he was young and in love and he wanted her, so I really can't blame him for not understanding initially. (The harboring of anger, of course, is an entirely different matter and probably bound to run him into trouble. ;))

      With his comment about Anne's changed appearance, Hamlette also made a great point above in the comments here: CW had been picturing her a certain way for eight years, and he might actually be shaken up a bit by the change (particularly if it's due to her being unhappy and unloved, etc).

      And your question: the "independence" is his financial situation (so when he's captured enough ships/made enough money that he could support a wife). Anne knows he's now rich, but due to propriety/her woman's position, she can't go after him and seek him out (write to him, etc), but she's thinking if she was in his place, she would have tried to renew the engagement as soon as she'd made a little money without letting eight long years go by.

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  6. Hello again! I was ill for most of February and as a result I didn't do very much blogging and I fell behind on the 'Persuasion' readings. Way, way behind! Oh dear. *sighs* I know that you finished the read-along aaages ago but I can't bear to leave anything unfinished so I've resumed my reading of the book. I picked off from where I left off and I made some notes as I was reading:

    - Anne is hugely useful in this chapter! I love the part after little Charles breaks his collarbone and Austen describes, at length, all of the various things that Anne has to do. Good grief, how would the Musgroves have coped without her?!

    - I love the part where Mary whines and whines about how selfish Charles is for going out to a family party when his child is ill and then in almost the exact same breath declares her intention to do exactly the same thing. I want to laugh and hit her at the same time. I have this reaction a lot when it comes to Anne's family, hehe.

    - Oh man, I have to agree with the other commentators here. It's so sad when Wentworth makes his comment about Anne being altered :( Urgh, bad Wentworth, bad. I have a lot of love for Wentworth but that comment is just cruel. I don't know about you but out of Anne and Wentworth don't you think that it's Wentworth who's actually the much more emotional of the two? Well, the most overtly emotional anyway. Even Mary noticed Wentworth's coldness towards Anne during their meeting.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear you've been ill, Hannah! I'm glad you're feeling better now :-) And I"m SUPER glad that you're not giving up on finishing Persuasion!

      You're right! What would the Musgroves do without Anne?

      And Wentworth is definitely more outwardly emotional. Anne is, perhaps, so used to being ignored that she doesn't expect others to notice her emotions, and keeps them to herself.

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    2. Hannah,
      Oh, I'm so sorry to hear you've been sick! And absolutely no problem -- I'm so happy you're hoping to finish up Persuasion! :) Yes, Anne is hugely useful. And it seems like every time I read it recently, I notice more how skillful Austen was when it came to Mary -- the way she can flipflop emotionally and between matters of consequence and trivialities! It's pretty amusing.

      Yes, there's a lot of passion floating about under the surface on both sides (obviously), but I'd say Persuasion is also an "opposites attract" story; so Anne is quieter and Wentworth is definitely more passionately outspoken. Still, yes, an extreme lapse on his part. And excellent point about Mary noticing!

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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!