Persuasion | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Persuasion | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


In Persuasion why is Anne Elliot frequently cast in the role of a caretaker, and how does this reflect on her character?

Surrounded by people in need, Anne has an instinct for helping others. When others are unable or unwilling to care for the ill, Anne Elliot performs the role graciously. She responds with patience to her sister Mary's frequent complaints of ailments; while others socialize she stays home with her little nephew; when Louisa Musgrove falls, Anne directs the others in the rescue efforts; and she often sits and talks with Mrs. Smith to raise her ill friend's spirits. Anne's innate kindness and sense of duty show her maturity, lack of pretense, and strength of character. Captain Wentworth cannot help but admire these qualities as he rekindles his romance with her.

What gender issue does Mary Elliot Musgrove raise in Chapter 7 of Persuasion?

Mary Elliot Musgrove addresses the issue of women's family roles while her son is ill. Jane Austen uses free, indirect discourse to show Charles Musgrove's persuasive rationalization for leaving his injured son to go to a dinner party. Charles thinks, "What was there for a father to do? This was quite a female case, and it would be highly absurd in him, who could be of no use at home, to shut himself up." The technique gives his argument authority by displaying the power of society's norms and poking fun at him at the same time. Yet he persuades himself and others that his behavior is correct. Mary complains to Anne Elliot, "If there is any thing disagreeable going on, men are always sure to get out of it, and Charles is as bad as any of them." Because of Anne's good-heartedness she volunteers to stay, although she reinforces Charles's argument: "Nursing does not belong to a man, it is not his province. A sick child is always the mother's property." Her words become an example of dramatic irony, where the audience is aware of something the character is not, when she, not Mary, stays home with the sick child.

In Chapter 10 of Persuasion, on the walk to Winthrop, why do Captain Wentworth's words about Louisa Musgrove's character trouble Anne Elliot?

While eavesdropping on Captain Wentworth and Louisa Musgrove's conversation, Anne Elliot hears Louisa's speech. By comparing herself to her sister, Henrietta—who almost goes home without attempting a reconciliation with Charles Hayter—Louisa states her opinion about persuasion: "When I have made up my mind, I have made it." Anne feels implicated by Wentworth when he responds, "My first wish for all whom I am interested in, is that they should be firm." Persuasion, the major theme of the novel, is the reason Anne broke off their engagement, and his former disappointment surfaces as resentment. After two promising interactions (his rescuing her from Walter Musgrove and his interest in her having refused Charles Musgrove's proposal), this statement, to Anne, feels like a major setback and causes her deep sorrow.

In Chapter 8 of Persuasion what role does music play in Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot's first formal encounter?

At the party "no one seem[s] in higher spirits than Captain Wentworth." While others dance Anne Elliot plays the piano. Her music represents their former connection, an interest and enjoyment once shared. Now they are no longer connected, and the music highlights her sadness and loneliness. As Anne's fingers move "mechanically" she cries, happy to be invisible so that others cannot see her sorrow. In one moment she feels Captain Wentworth look at her. In another she suspects he asks about her. But the music now keeps them from connecting and shows their estrangement. After Anne leaves momentarily she returns as Wentworth is trying to play a melody for the Musgrove sisters. He treats Anne with a stranger's "politeness."

What does Anne Elliot learn about Captain Wentworth on a walk through Lyme in Chapter 12 of Persuasion?

On their last walk in Lyme, Captain Harville tells Anne that Captain Wentworth was the one who delivered to Captain Benwick the news of his fiancé's death; Wentworth traveled from Plymouth to Portsmouth, then stayed with him and "never left" him for a week. Because Wentworth has been distant with Anne, this conversation allows her to witness and understand his true character. When Harville says, "You may think, Miss Elliot, whether he is dear to us!" Anne does "think on the question with perfect decision." Although her former fiancé no longer seems to love her, he is quickly rising in her estimation.

What is the significance of the sea in Jane Austen's Persuasion?

The sea has significance in several ways. First, it has healing properties. As Henrietta Musgrove confesses to Anne Elliot, she wishes Dr. Shirley would move to the sea because his health would benefit from the environment and the healing properties of the sea air. The sea also has healing properties for Anne. After leaving the Cobb, Anne "is looking remarkably well; her very regular, very pretty features, having the bloom and freshness of youth restored by the fine wind" that had been "blowing on her complexion." Perceptions of Anne change after the Lyme visit. William Elliot, Captain Wentworth, Lady Russell, and Sir Walter Elliot notice a renewal of vitality. Contrary to what Sir Walter says in the beginning of the book about sailors aging prematurely, the sea has had opposite effects on his daughter and those around her. The sea also represents the navy and the naval characters in the story. It reaffirms the Crofts' deep attachment to each other; it is a means by which men can raise their fortunes and social standing, as Captain Wentworth has demonstrated; and it is a source of danger to sailors' wives and loved ones.

How do Mary Elliot Musgrove and Captain Frederick Wentworth show jealousy in Persuasion, and what is its significance?

Mary Elliot Musgrove shows jealousy in the following ways: After Louisa Musgrove's condition stabilizes, Captain Wentworth nominates Anne to stay and assist with Louisa's care. When Mary discovers the plan she forces Anne to go to Uppercross instead. She is jealous of the attention Anne receives as Louisa's caregiver. When Mary and Charles Musgrove return to Uppercross, he tells Anne about Captain Benwick's interest in her and says her "charms" might bring Benwick to Uppercross. Mary denies the statement. When Lady Russell refers to the captain as Anne's acquaintance, Mary insists he is her (Mary's) friend. Captain Wentworth shows jealousy in the following ways: When Anne and William Elliot admire each other in Lyme, Captain Wentworth notices and then finds out William Elliot's identity. At the concert Captain Wentworth watches Anne and William Elliot talking. When she tries to speak with Captain Wentworth he storms off, claiming, "there is nothing worth my staying for." The target of all these jealous outbursts is Anne, whose good-heartedness makes her unaware of her power and effect on others. Mary's jealousy comes from her insecurity and need to be the center of attention, whereas Wentworth's comes from his love for Anne.

What is the significance of Kellynch Hall's mirrors in Chapter 13 of Persuasion?

The mirrors remind readers of Sir Walter's vanity, and Admiral Croft's removal of them underlines the differences between the two occupants of Kellynch Hall. When Anne visits the Crofts at Kellynch Hall, Admiral Croft senses that she must be feeling distressed at seeing others living in her former home. He proposes a tour of the premises and offers a peaceful disclaimer: "One man's ways may be as good as another's, but we all like our own best." After he says they have changed little in the house, Admiral Croft begins an anecdote about mirrors. He first compliments Sir Walter Elliot, then mentions the number of mirrors in his bedroom and admits he has removed all but two: "there was no getting away from one's self."

In Chapter 13 of Persuasion what is the significance of Anne Elliot's time alone in the Great House?

Alone, Anne Elliot spends an hour in transition. The lowness of her mood is reflected in nature on a rainy and gloomy fall afternoon. Because she is certain Captain Wentworth and Louisa Musgrove will marry, she mourns all that has passed between them now that he is unattainable. She acknowledges the "severe" pain Wentworth has caused her, but she treasures the "softened" moments—"instances of relenting feeling, some breathings of friendship and reconciliation"—that have happened. Even though Anne is mistaken about Captain Wentworth's feelings for Louisa, she is correct about the tender moments between her and Wentworth, which he confirms when they reunite.

How do Charles and Mary Eliot Musgrove develop the theme of upward mobility in Persuasion?

Because Charles Musgrove originally proposed to Anne Elliot, who refused him, it seems clear the Musgroves' marriage is not based on long-standing love. From their behavior toward each other, readers would not mistake the marriage for one of deep love. Charles and Mary constantly discuss marriage as a way of maintaining or changing the social order. They seem to believe a match is good if it means monetary gain or higher social status for the couple and their families. Their own marriage reflects financial stability for Mary and higher social standing for Charles. Yet Charles Musgrove is more open to possibilities of love and potential. Mary's lack of enthusiasm at Charles Hayter as a prospective husband for Henrietta exemplifies her attitude, as Charles Hayter has less money and social status than Henrietta. Charles Musgrove, however, disagrees with his wife. Not only is he less pretentious than his wife, but he knows Charles Hayter and his sister love each other and also that Charles Hayter has good prospects. Exposed to Charles and Mary's marriage and the couple's investment in social norms, Anne regrets even more sharply her decision about Captain Wentworth because their relationship was based on love and happiness.

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