What would Anne Elliot of Jane Austen's Persuasion share with Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice about class mobility and marriage?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Anne Elliot of Persuasion is a member of the noble class. Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice is also a member of the upper class, but a rank lower than Anne as Elizabeth is a landowning gentleman's daughter, making her a member of the landed gentry. Both women experience their own griefs in relation to marrying and class but for different reasons. Anne eventually marries Captain Wentworth whose captain status and wealth puts him in the same status as her own class, but she was first dissuaded from marrying him just as he was entering the Navy due to his lack of fortune and rank. In contrast, Elizabeth is proposed to by Mr. Darcy who also is a member of the landed gentry, making him equal in status to Elizabeth; however, he is also slightly higher in status due to the fact that he has relations in the noble class while Elizabeth's relations are from the merchant class. As a result of this slight class distinction, Elizabeth is given much grief by Darcy's relations, such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh who also tries to dissuade Elizabeth from marrying Darcy.

One thing that distinguishes Anne from Elizabeth is that throughout the book, Anne acquires many revelations about class rank. She learns that rank is not half important as the quality of the person, which makes her an excellent teacher about the ridiculousness of class distinctions. When  Anne's family makes a fuss about their cousin the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple being in Bath, at one point, much to her family's shock, Anne refuses to join her family in calling on Lady Dalrymple due to the fact that she has promised to visit her now poor and widowed friend from school, Mrs. Smith. She also tells Mr. Elliot that "[her] idea of good company ... is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation," rather than high ranking members of society (Ch. 16). More importantly, before the storyline of the book began, Anne's heart was severely broken when she allowed herself to be dissuaded from marrying Wentworth due to his poverty and class. Therefore, what Anne Elliot would teach Elizabeth Bennet about class is that class really is very unimportant. What truly matters is the character of the person. She would also encourage Elizabeth to have pride in her own family, just as she wishes that the Elliot's had more pride. Therefore, she would encourage Elizabeth to disregard Lady Catherine's rudeness and also encourage her to accept Darcy's proposal.

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