Subversion of Class and Gender Roles in Jane Austen's Persuasion

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Subversion of Class and Gender Roles in Jane Austen's Persuasion

In Jane Austen's Persuasion, Mrs. Croft makes but few appearances and delivers little dialogue. Nevertheless, Austen gives her significant narrative and thematic importance. Mrs. Croft provides a foil for several of the Elliots, while developing a commonality with the frequently ostracized Anne. This bond between Mrs. Croft and Austen's heroine valorizes Mrs. Croft's radical views concerning feminism and marriage. Beyond signifying a paradigm shift in such social morals, though, the roles of Admiral and Mrs. Croft allow Austen to subvert the dominant upper class culture. By exhibiting superior but genuine manners, by demonstrating the complacency of the dominant culture, and by exerting their own counterculture, Admiral and Mrs. Croft expose both the foolishness and the artifice of their upper class acquaintances.

Austen clearly contrasts Mrs. Croft with Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Mary, and therein reveals the selfish and impractical nature of luxury, saying, "none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days" (50). She admits to the confinement of a frigate, but notes that "any reasonable woman may be perfectly happy in one" (50, italics mine). Meanwhile, Sir Walter cannot imagine life without "[journeys], London, servants, horses . . ." (10), and, for Elizabeth, "the sacrifice of one pair of horses would be hardly less painful than of both" (10). Mrs. Croft thus highlights the Elliots' frivolousness. The Crofts also illustrate Sir Walter's vanity, by moving his several looking glasses into storage, since Admiral Croft requires only one. Similarly, Mrs. Croft exposes Mary's self pity, allowing us to co...

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...ne Elliot as worthy not only of the noble relations of their family, but also of the superior culture of the Crofts.

Works Cited and Consulted

Austen, Jane. Persuasion. 1993. Ware, Herts: Wordsworth, 1996.

Craik, W. A. Jane Austen in her Time. London: Nelson, 1969.

DaDundo, Laura. "Jane Austen" Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography. Vol. III. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1992.

Harmon, William, and C. Hugh Holman. Handbook to Literature. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1986.

Magill, Frank N., ed. English Novel: Richardson to Hardy. Pasadena: Salem Softbacks, 1980.

Southam, Brian. "Jane Austen." British Writers. Vol. IV. Ed. Ian Scott-Kilvert. New York: Scribners, 1981.

Tanner, Tony. "In Between: Persuasion." Persuasion. By Jane Austen. Ed. Patricia Meyers Spacks. New York: Norton and Co., 1995.

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