Friday, March 6, 2009

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The first time I read Persuasion I didn’t like it. I thought Anne was too uninteresting, which is hilarious considering that I LOVED Fannie Price in Mansfield Park  who is thought to be one of the dullest heroines in all of literature. Anyway… the book redeemed itself (or should I say, I redeemed myself?) the second time around. Now I brush it off at least once a year to savor its lovely insights into male/female relationships. Even if I hadn’t learned to love Anne with all my heart, I’d say the book is worth its price for the conversation in the final chapter debating whether men are more faithful in love than women. The gentle, articulate and cordial manner with which Captain Harville and Anne express their very strong opinions to each other could be a lesson to us all.

One of the reasons I like the movie, The Lake House, is because it mentions Persuasion quite often. Yet I think the movie gets it wrong when it says that the book is about “waiting”. Anne Eliott, the heroine would say the story is about “true attachment and constancy”. She declares to Captain Harville, “I believe you [men] are equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance [in love], so long as – if I may be allowed the expression, so long as you have an object. I mean while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex… is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.” (p. 237) The Bible calls this, “hoping against hope” and it encompasses so much more than “waiting”!

This book is not about fluffy, high school-like attachments, but about people who think deeply and love sincerely. I always feel “nourished” after I read it.

5 comments:

Nicola said...

I think I love Persuasion more than any other Austen novel. I like the way that Austen tells us that Anne has 'lost her bloom' although she is only in her late twenties and then she is gloriously revived. I'm overdue for a re-read of this novel.

magistramater said...

It has always been one of my favorite Austen books.

CoversGirl said...

"Hoping against hope" is such a lovely phrase to describe it! Persuasion vies with Pride and Prejudice for the place of favourite Austen; the one I like best is generally the one I read most recently.

Becky said...

I love this one, I do! For me it's his letter to her that gets to me...

Girl Detective said...

I didn't like Persuasion the first time, either, but "got it" the second time. It's a lovely novel, and the letter near the end is one of the most moving things I've ever read.

There's a passage in Shakespeare's 12th Night about whether women or men love better/differently. I think Austen must have had that scene in mind when she wrote hers.