Persuasion, by Jane Austen

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Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion emanates the social and political upheaval caused by the war and depicts the transition into nineteenth century realism where class and wealth was considered extremely important in the social hierarchy. She explores the reactions to the newly diverse interactions between different social classes and although she was “no snob, she knew all about snobbery.” Therefore, she is able to realistically portray the views of upper class characters such as Sir Walter Elliot and contrast them to men who have earned their wealth, such as Captain Wentworth. Whilst Britain was involved with the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in the early nineteenth century, the navy had a profound involvement therefore this is not only reflected in Austen’s real life, but also in her novels. This alters the narrative in the novel as a whole as Austen depicts how wealth and being upper class is no longer limited to hereditory but can also be earned through professions such as being in the navy. As a result, the contrasts between the opinions and actions of the men who work for their wealth and the men who merely receive it from their family are profound.
Vanity is a reoccuring theme in Persuasion and is particularly portrayed through the character of Sir Walter Elliot and it is evident that the cause of this is the abundance of wealth that seemingly elavates the upper classes. His arrogance is immediately highlighted in chapter one where the narrator declares how “vanity was the beginning and end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character.” He prides his appearance and that of others beyond most things, even his daughter Anne who he can find “little to admire in.” His disaproval evokes his own self importance as her “delicate features an...

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Conclusively, Austen portrays key differences in characteristics in order to enhance her point of how some professions began to “hold out the promise of a more open society.” She pays particular interest to the navy profession as it represents the new meritocratic people who have earned their wealth. Austen’s representation using the contrasting identites of Captain Wentworth and Admiral Croft against Sir Walter Elliot serves to illuminate the growing concern of the upper class and how their shallow characteristics fail to welcome the change caused by the war.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane, ‘Persuasion’, 1994 penguin popular classics,
William Deresiewicz, ‘Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets’, pg 141
Roger Sales, ‘Jane Austen and the representations of Regency England’, pg 187
Fiona Stafford, ‘A Companion to Jane Austen’, pg 146
Juliet Mcmaster, pg 117
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