Jane Austen's Persuasion is a dark novel. From the jolting breaks in the romantic drama--the falls of little Charles and Louisa Musgrove--to the heroine's depressing existence--Anne Elliot has a "great tendency to lowness" (Austen 66)-- to the overall autumnal mood, the work is at times a gloomy, though always interesting, read. Perhaps its darkest facet though is the ubiquitous presence of an antagonist. While Mr. Elliot appears, most blatantly, to be the villain, in actuality, it is Lady Russell, whose persuasions are both manipulative and, frighteningly, pervasive, who should truly bear that stigma.
Upon learning that Anne will not be marrying Mr. Elliot, Mrs. Smith very adamantly curses him as the worst of men. This is the first indication of his supposed villainy. She claims him to be "a man without heart or conscience; a designing, wary, cold-blooded being . . . [having] no feeling for others . . . black at heart, hollow and black!" (132). Indeed, these are strong words, spoken by no less than a good friend of Anne. However, they ring false in light of what has previously been presented concerning his character.
From their first meeting, Mr. Elliot is "genuinely attracted" to Anne (Magill 29). He is not merely using her to get what he wants. Yes, he wants to "safeguard the title" (DaDundo 26), but not just for himself, yet for the title, or family name, itself. After all, it is vulnerable to "the plague of Mrs. Clay" (Austen 97), "whose 'freckles' not only indicate a flawed and 'spotted' moral interior but may indeed suggest remnants or traces of syphilis[!]" (Tanner 255). His attraction to Anne then is motivated by good on two counts. He is intereste...
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...ove and friendship (Harmon 541). But, really, "There is so little real friendship in the world!" (Austen 101).
Austen, Jane. Persuasion. 1817. Ed. Patricia Meyers Spacks. New York: Norton and Co., 1995.
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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