How do either the 1995 or 2007 film adaptations of Persuasion compare and contrast with Jane Austen's original work? What are major similarities and differences? Do these changes work?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The 2007 version of Austen's Persuasion is similar to the novel in following its general plot of a woman, Anne Eliot, and her once fiance, Captain Wentworth, reuniting and falling in love years after first breaking off the engagement. As in the novel, the Eliots must relocate to Bath to try to get out of debt, and Mr. Eliot, the heir to the Eliot's estate, Kellynch Hall, pretends to court Anne to hide his relationship with Mrs. Clay.

The movie, however, has an ending that is quite different from the novel, and perhaps more satisfying to a twenty-first century audience than to one of Austen's time. In this version, Wentworth blindfolds his new wife Anne and then takes her to Kellynch Hall, which he has purchased for her. They are so overjoyed that they dance around the front of the grounds.

While it is difficult to imagine Austen writing the novel with this sledgehammer kind of ending, it does work for several reasons. First, we know that Anne loves being in the country and in Kellynch Hall, her birthplace. She hates being in Bath. So it makes sense that she would be overjoyed to know the place is her own, and she will never again have to leave. Second, this is a Cinderella story, in which the overlooked Anne, who nobody thinks much of, wins the hand of a handsome, wealthy man. Her older sister, the favorite, acts as mistress of Kellynch and treats Anne as a nonentity. It fits the Cinderella theme that as a final triumph over her sister, Anne would get to be mistress of the ancestral home.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One difference between Jane Austen's book Persuasion and the 1995 film adaptation, directed by Roger Michell, concerns the proposal from Mr. Elliot. The setting of the final scene is an evening card party at Camden Place in Bath. While the film faithfully captures this scene, the film also has Mr. Elliot speak to Anne and ask her to allow him to cherish her all the days of her life, a statement that serves as a marriage proposal. However, Austen herself only writes the following:

Mr. Elliot was there; she avoided, but she could pity him. (Ch. 23)

While we learn earlier in Chapter 21 from Anne's friend Mrs. Smith that Mr. Elliot designs to propose to Anne in order to attempt to secure his inheritance of Kellynch Hall, Mr. Elliot never truly proposes. In fact, he instead begins being seen frequently with Mrs. Clay, and readers are left to wonder along with Anne if he has decided to marry Mrs. Clay rather than Anne to prevent Mrs. Clay from marrying Sir Elliot, which would also secure his inheritance.

In addition, the film captures Captain Wentworth entering the party only for the expressed purpose of asking Sir Elliot for his daughter's hand in marriage. However, in Austen's original, while Wentworth does attend the party, the couple does not yet announce their engagement. Instead, at the party, they steal away moments to converse, which Austen describes as "moments of communication" (Ch. 23). In one of these moments, the couple is described as, by onlookers, thought to be "apparently occupied in admiring a fine display of greenhouse plants" (Ch. 23). The announcement of their engagement and ensuing reactions from Anne's family members is not discussed until Chapter 24, which serves as an epilogue.

There is also a significant difference in the characterization of Elizabeth Elliot in the film. Austen characterizes Elizabeth as an extremely handsome woman. In fact she is "handsomer at twenty-nine than she was ten years before" (Ch. 1). Her main failing is that she is as vain as her father, which apparently makes her a very undesirable woman, and we later find out her vanity was the one reason why Mr. Elliot decided against marrying her soon after beginning to court her. In contrast, the film depicts Elizabeth as an extremely unattractive woman with extremely vulgar mannerisms. She is even so vulgar as to raise her voice at Anne and Lady Russell, something a woman of Elizabeth's position would never truly do.

Hence, a few differences between the 1995 film and Austen's book concern the characterization of Elizabeth, the presentation of the final scene, and the addition of Mr. Elliot's proposal.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial