Utilizing Morality As a Catalyst for Change - A Review of Jane Austen's Persuasion
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In this essay I will discuss how in Persuasion Jane Austen portrays society where, despite conservative resistance, change is underway and how true moral values, can achieve recognition.
Resistance occurs in various forms and whether conservative or otherwise it is a powerful tool in Austen's writing technique. Sir Walter, in the first chapter, is shown to be a very resistant man in general, who when faced with the predicament of losing all that is precious to him - his material possessions - he demands to maintain his current lifestyle with very little compromise so he seeks help from elsewhere "to remove their embarrassments and reduce their expenditure, without involving the loss of any indulgence of taste or pride." Sir Walter's resistance is matched with his daughter Elizabeth's and is far from conservative. They show their displeasure and annoyance of things, or people, openly and have no regard for the feelings or outcomes of their words or actions. When approached with a list of cut-backs they must make in order to survive the reaction was; "What! every comfort of life knocked off! Journeys, London, servants, horses, table-contractions and restrictions everywhere! To live no longer with the decencies even of a private gentleman!" (Chap.2).
Mary, too, is similar to her father and elder sister in her temperament and personality often exclaiming her near death in order for sympathy and assistance more often then not (chap.6). Conservative resistance is not often shown in Anne, who is depicted as a modest, humble person of good standing who is appreciated and respected with all people she comes in contact with. Anne's countenance is shown and acknowledged by Captain Benwick in chapter 11 who found her "engaging ...
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... by the author as one who exemplifies the need for a favorable and fair approach to professional and domestic life. Austin writes with tremendous wit, charm and perception. She gets right into the heart of her characters, strips away the veneer of social grace, and makes shrewd observations about love, marriage, pride, snobbery, money and manners. By showing Anne's subtlety of mind, kindness of person and loyalty in temperament with the final rectification to Mrs. Smith, Lady Russell's change of heart toward Wentworth would lead you to believe that change was possible in the society Austen portrayed. But in the final chapter it is evident that Sir Walter, regardless of good moral values, will change - ever. I think it is fair to claim that in Persuasion Austen has proved that true moral values, regardless of resistance, can create change within any society, almost.