If Sir Walter's views and values are ridiculed, then what does Austen offer up instead, and what argument does Austen make about social class in Persuasion?
Persuasion satirizes the elite through Sir Walter Elliot's snobbery.
In Persuasion, as in her other novels, Austen offers up an ideal of gentility based on character, ethics, taste and behaviour rather than simply birth. For her, a person with a well-informed mind, disciplined emotions, good manners, polite conversation, charity towards the weak, and a sense of the responsibilities attendant on his position is more of a gentleman than someone whose name is listed in Debrett’s but has none of those characteristics.
In regard to social class, she admires the hard work and honesty of the better naval officers and is willing to excuse their blunt manners in light of kind hearts, but despises cold-hearted duplicity and arrogance. Part of being a gentleman for Austen is “noblesse oblige” – that elevated rank of position carries with it a responsibility to care for the less fortunate, whether an admiral taking good care of his sailors, a rich woman being kind to servants and ex-servants, or a landowner maintaining cottages well and dealing fairly with his tenants.