Music in Jane Austen's Persuasion

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Music in Jane Austen's Persuasion

In Persuasion Jane Austen tells the story of Anne, a young woman who suffers terrible losses yet does not let these losses embitter her. But the death of her mother during Anne's youth and the loss of her true love in her early adulthood certainly leave their mark on Anne. She survives with great strength of character, yet she withdraws from life. But Anne does not withdraw alone; she takes her music with her. Music has been called the language of the heart. It has an enduring quality, and it can cross barriers and build bridges. Music moves us. Words, too, can cross barriers, build bridges, and touch our hearts; and like beautiful music, a good story is timeless. In Persuasion, Austen uses music to define Anne's character, to show her connectedness to people or her lack of it, and to show her gradual reawakening to life and to love.

Anne's great depth of character is illustrated by her appreciation of books and music, two things that give her deep and lasting pleasure. When confronted by Mary for being tardy in coming to her, Anne mentions that she had "a great many things" (41) to do in getting ready to leave Kellynch Hall. Most of her preparations are for her father and Elizabeth, but when talking about preparing her own possessions to be moved, the only items she mentions specifically are her "books and music" (41). Anne's regard for books and music is also seen as Anne compares herself to the Miss Musgroves. The Miss Musgroves use music, but for purposes other than the purely artistic appreciation of it. They have a "grand piano forte and a harp," but their time is not invested in playing them, but in arranging the piano and harp, along with "flower stands ...

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...e pattern. Anne, like Cinderella, is a young woman who is mistreated by her own family and who has lost her only true love because of their interference. Yet, like a fairytale heroine, Anne triumphs over adversity and is reunited with her Prince Charming. Austen uses the timelessness of music to develop this story. She weaves together two parallel interactions, Anne's relationship with Captain Wentworth and Anne's relationship with music, just as a musician weaves together the melody and harmony in a song. Each of these relationships enriches and mirrors the other; they are "instrumental to the connexion" (235). Tales of romance are tales of the heart, and Austen desires to stir our hearts. What better way to communicate Anne's story than with music, the language of the heart.

Work Cited

Austen, Jane. Persuasion. 1818. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990.
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