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Persuasion | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Persuasion | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


What is the significance of the miniature painting in Chapter 23 of Persuasion?

The painting indirectly provides Captain Wentworth with the chance to recognize that Anne still loves him and to declare his love for her. The miniature painting of Captain Benwick was originally made for Fanny Harville, to whom Benwick was engaged. In light of Captain Benwick and Louisa Musgrove's engagement and upcoming wedding, Captain Harville is now charged with framing the painting as a gift to Louisa Musgrove. Still grieving for his sister, Captain Harville cannot bear the details of presenting the gift, so Captain Wentworth volunteers to arrange for the framing. Captain Harville's anger and sadness are the reasons he and Anne begin debating the constancy of love, and whether men or women are more constant in their devotion. As Wentworth overhears he is so moved he writes a letter to Anne with hope of reconciling.

In Persuasion how does Louisa Musgrove's character change after her accident?

Once "fashionable, happy, and merry," Louisa Musgrove changes considerably after suffering a concussion in Lyme. She changes her mind about her romantic attachment, and her personality changes as well. Before the accident, Louisa seems smitten with Captain Wentworth. In Uppercross she is described as "hardly ... hav[ing] any eyes but for him." Following the accident she is quickly engaged to Captain Benwick, to the astonishment of her family and friends. Charles Musgrove reports Louisa's "altered" character to Anne Elliot—"no running or jumping about, no laughing or dancing." Unexpected noises make her uneasy, so the once-extroverted Louisa enjoys the company and attention of the introverted Captain Benwick, who reads poetry and talks quietly to her.

Over the course of Persuasion how does Captain Wentworth's character both change and stay the same?

Captain Wentworth still loves Anne Elliot. In Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne, he confesses, "I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant." During Anne's first observations of Captain Wentworth in Uppercross, Anne "hear[s] the same voice, discern[s] the same mind." Despite his outward actions Wentworth's affections are unchanged. His coldness protects him from being hurt again. Any distance or coldness displayed toward Anne stems from the anger he still harbors about her having been influenced by others, hence his holding fast to "firmness" in potential partners. His character, however, does grow and change. At the Camden Place party Wentworth finally takes accountability for his actions, for allowing his pride to keep him from writing to Anne. This decision is a pivotal point for his character's growth, admitting he is more angry with himself than with Anne or Lady Russell. So while his admirable character traits remain the same, he grows as a person by realizing and admitting his flaws.

In Chapter 5 of Persuasion why is Mary Elliot Musgrove and Anne Elliot's first walk in Uppercross important?

Walks, a motif in Persuasion, give characters an opportunity to engage in private conversations and be seen. Austen uses this walk to describe the occupants of Uppercross's "Great House," Charles's parents and other grown children, from Anne Elliot's perspective. In the course of the walk readers learn nothing of what Anne sees along the way but everything about the Musgroves at the Great House. Charles's parents are shown to be comfortable, old-fashioned people who do not stand on ceremony and are well liked by Anne. Their daughters—Charles's sisters, Henrietta and Louise—are shown to be "some of the happiest creatures of [Anne's] acquaintance" but not as elegant or well educated as Anne.

Who is Richard Musgrove, and why is he important in Persuasion?

Richard Musgrove's importance at this point in the story is to reflect on the good character of Captain Wentworth during the years he was apart from Anne. Richard "Dick" Musgrove is Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove's deceased son. He was a "very troublesome, hopeless" young man, and his death at age 20 is counted as "good fortune." Before Captain Wentworth's arrival, Richard Musgrove is not mentioned or missed. However, in Chapter 6 the captain's name forces Mrs. Musgrove to recall her son's letter that mentioned Wentworth. While serving on Wentworth's Laconia, Richard wrote only two letters to his family that didn't ask for money. These letters were written at the suggestion of Wentworth, his captain, whom Richard describes as "a fine dashing felow, only two perticular about the schoolmaster." The consequent discussion of the relationship between Richard and Wentworth distresses Anne and reminds her that she must get used to hearing the name of her former lover.

In Chapter 23 of Persuasion what literary technique does Austen use to describe the reunion of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, and what is its effect?

Austen uses free, indirect discourse, in which she suggests the thoughts, feelings, and dialogue of the characters without entering into their perspective, to describe the scene. When Charles Musgrove leaves Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth to walk alone, their shared excitement is masked but celebrated: they check their smiles as their spirits "danc[e] in private rapture." Their happiness shows in their obliviousness to those around them, the "sauntering politicians, bustling housekeepers, flirting girls, ... nursery-maids and children." The effect is to allow the reader to imagine the exchanges between the two characters from a distance. Austen continues to use free, indirect discourse to show how Wentworth explains himself to Anne. We hear what he said and how Anne perceived each explanation in the same sentences, as when Austen writes, "She had not mistaken him. Jealousy of Mr. Elliot had been the retarding weight, the doubt, the torment." The effect here is to show how perfectly the two characters understand each other now that their love has been declared.

How and why is Anne Elliot drawn to navy couples in Persuasion?

Anne is drawn to the Crofts and the Harvilles, both couples in which the husband serves or has served in the navy. To Anne the Crofts' marriage represents genuine love. Because most marriages among people in her social class are made for upward mobility, Anne recognizes something different in the Crofts' relationship. Mrs. Croft's presence on her husband's voyages shows the couple's closeness and desire not to be separated for long periods of time. In Bath they are always together, and Mrs. Croft walks with the admiral so much she is temporarily house bound with a blister. Anne is also taken with the Harvilles, who consider Captain Wentworth's friends "friends of their own." They insist the party bring the injured Louisa to their house to avoid expensive costs at the inn, impressing Anne with their courtesy and compassion. These couples' rare and deep connections serve to painfully remind Anne of the kind of closeness she might have had with Captain Wentworth.

What role does Captain Wentworth's penance play in Persuasion?

In Jane Austen's novels main characters who make errors must complete a penance before having true happiness. Because Captain Wentworth allows his "angry pride" to rule him, he flirts with Louisa Musgrove. Because he has no serious romantic feelings for her, he is unaware that because of his flirtation she and others have expectations for their relationship. Because of his mistake and his genuine good-heartedness, he allows himself to be attached to her, if she wants him. When Wentworth leaves Lyme, he hopes to "weaken" the consequences of his actions. He spends six weeks with his brother, Edward, in Shropshire. When news arrives of Louisa's engagement to Captain Benwick, his penance is completed and he leaves immediately for Bath to be with Anne.

How are books important in Jane Austen's Persuasion?

Throughout the novel books appear often, representing different things: Vanity: Because of binding costs, books are viewed as a luxury, a sign of status. In addition The Baronetage provides Sir Walter Elliot with written documentation of his nobility, thus feeding his vanity about his lineage. Gender issues: During their pivotal discussion about love, Captain Harville tries to use literature against Anne Elliot, who replies, "Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story ... The pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything." Introversion: With Captain Benwick's character, reading is viewed as disrespectful. Mary Elliot Musgrove complains he is oblivious to her while he reads. Connection, or shared interest: Anne and Captain Benwick bond quickly over books. When Charles Musgrove returns with a good report of Anne, he says, Benwick's "head is full of some books that he is reading upon your recommendation, and he wants to talk to you about them."

How does Louisa Musgrove's accident in Chapter 12 of Persuasion further the titular theme?

Louisa Musgrove's fall occurs as she flirts with Captain Wentworth. While speaking in an earlier scene, Wentworth has said to Louisa, "My first wish for all, whom I'm interested in, is that they should be firm." His statement reflects what he still believes to be Anne Elliot's weakness: being too easily persuaded. Wentworth and Louisa have made a habit of her jumping down stairs on walks with his help. When she wishes to jump down the stairs at the Cobb again, he discourages her, warning of potential danger. She insists, however, and subsequently has her serious fall. Louisa Musgrove's behavior is important thematically because it shows the difference between foolish willfulness and firmness of mind. Being willful for no reason, ignoring danger, is foolish; having the courage of one's convictions and not submitting to the influence of others is the firmness of character Wentworth admires. Because he understands the difference in the characters of Anne Elliot and Louisa Musgrove he leaves Lyme following Louisa's accident, paving the way for Louisa's engagement to Captain Benwick.

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