What is the point of view in Persuasion by Jane Austen?

Persuasion is told from Anne's point of view, with the narrator offering information Anne already knows. This question and answer comes from the "Ask the Authors" feature at AustenAuthors.com . This particular Q&A is with Laurel Ann Nattress, a novelist who has written numerous novels set in Regency England. If you have an Austen-related question, please send it to us here . Questions will be answered as soon as possible (which will hopefully be very soon), and your name and email address will not be published on our site.

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Technically, Persuasion is told by an omniscient, third-person narrator who can get into the heads of all the various characters. However, practically speaking, the novel is almost entirely told from the third-person point-of-view of the protagonist, Anne Elliot.

This is important, because every Jane Austen novel functions by manipulating point-of-view. We as readers are privy primarily to the main character's perspective, with other people's thoughts or information rarely brought in. In this novel, therefore, almost all of what we see and hear is mediated through the consciousness of Anne Elliot. What she knows, we know; and what she doesn't know, we don't know. When the narrator offers us background information, such as the history of Anne's relationship with Wentworth, this is information Anne already knows.

This is important because, by seeing the world through Anne's eyes, we are as baffled and surprised as she is by the way events work out. Since Anne, for example, is oblivious to the idea that William Elliot is a scheming manipulator until she hears the story from Mrs. Smith, we are too. We don't, in other words, have the narrator getting inside Mrs. Smith's head to tell us ahead of time that William is untrustworthy. Likewise, we are as surprised as Anne to discover William has a relationship with Mrs. Clay: because Anne doesn't see it coming, neither do we.

By telling the story primarily through a character who doesn't have all the information, Austen can surprise and delight us.

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The point of view in Jane Austen's novel Persuasion is that of the omniscient narrator who tells about the actions, speech, thoughts, perceptions and feelings of any character present in a scene. For instance, in Chapter 1, Austen's narrator starts out talking about what Sir Walter Elliot thinks, perceives and does then switches to Elizabeth then again to Lady Russell, the discussion of whom leads rather neatly into a conversation between Lady Russell and Anne.

The other options for narrator, other than the first person narrator (I saw and I felt...), are the limited and the objective narrators. Had Persuasion been written with a limited narrator, Austen would have contented herself with telling the story from one person's experience, feelings, perceptions and thoughts; most likely Austen's choice would have been Anne, the heroine. Had Austen chosen an objective narrator, only actions and speech would be narrated: there would be no foundation for interior knowledge, such as knowledge of thoughts, feelings or perceptions unless these were stated out loud either to the air...or to another person or persons.

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