Discuss the themes of making decisions, social changes and relationships. Using quotation with close reference to the text of "Persuasion".  

Expert Answers
teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Persuasion, as the title (not chosen by Austen) indicates, deals centrally, with how people make decisions regarding relationships, and the forces, including social forces, that contribute to the decision-making process. In Persuasion, Anne Eliot is convinced by her mentor, Lady Russell, to break off her engagement with Captain Wentworth based on his uncertain economic prospects. She makes the decision to put prudence and economic security ahead of love—and also not to tie Captain Wentworth to an engagement with her.

Anne comes to regret that decision because she does not cease to love Captain Wentworth. Her looks fade, and she loses social status as an unmarried woman. When Captain Wentworth returns, he has become wealthy and successful, and yet Anne cannot expect him to turn back to her because she was inconstant to him when he was first starting out. In fact, Anne can hardly expect Wentworth to renew the acquaintance after what has occurred. She thinks:

Now they were as strangers; worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted.

The novel then becomes an exploration of how love wins out over social expectation when a once "jilted" man chooses another wife. Austen never abandons realism or hard-headed pragmatism about the income necessary to sustain a marriage but does show that love can triumph over purely social and economic decisions. As the narrator puts it:

She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.

The backdrop of this is a changing social scene, with naval officers returning after the end of the Napoleonic wars and the status of gentleman landowners such as Anne's father, the baronet, losing out to a rising middle class.

lit24 | Student

'Decision  making' is an important thematic thread linking  the various incidents before and after the incident at Lyme Regis in Ch.12. 

Initially Anne is presented as a weak character whose decisions are easily over ruled by the other characters:

1. In Ch2 she alongwith Lady Russell draw up plans to economise and thus save Sir Walter from his financial difficulties.  But their wise plans are rudely brushed aside and Kellynch Hall is let out the Crofts.

2. In Ch4 we read how Anne was persuaded not to accept Wentworth's proposal of marriage.

3. In Ch.5 It is Mary who decides that Anne should remain with her at Uppercross cottage till Lady Russell takes her to Bath and Anne's sensible advice that Mrs.Clay should not go to Bath alongwith her sister and father is rejected rudely by Elizabeth.

The incident at Lyme Regis  where Louisa falls down and injures her head marks the  turning point. From then on Anne metamorphoses into a strong and assertive person:

1. It is she who manages everything immediately after Louisa is injured-from calling for the surgeon, to how the news is to be conveyed to Uppercross and in managing the Uppercross household: "but without Anne it would hardly have been resolved on." Ch13. 

2. In Ch.17 she firmly tells her father that she will keep her appointment with Mrs. Smith; and she also tells Lady Russell that Mr.Elliot is not a suitable match for her.

Read the study guide:
Persuasion

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question