Jane Austen’s Persuasion (1817) was published after her death and is considered by some critics as her best novel. The story’s protagonist is Anne Russell, the second oldest daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, a pompous and vain man. Anne’s mother died before the story begins, leaving Sir Elliot with the task of raising three girls: Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary (who is already wed).
The story begins with an unflattering reflection of Sir Elliot. One of the first things Austen points out is that Sir Elliot is not well-read. The only material he spends any time with is a book in which is recorded the history of many important English families. Sir Elliot’s attention is drawn to the portion of this book that includes details of his personal heritage. While pouring over the family’s history, the reader is informed of the death of Sir Elliot’s wife and the fact that since Sir Elliot has no son (his only son died at birth), his fortune and home will be passed on to William Walter Elliot, cousin of Sir Elliot’s daughters.
Sir Elliot was very handsome in his youth, the narrator states; this might be the source of the man’s great vanity. His rank in British society as well as his fortunate marriage only added to his self-admiration. It was through Lady Elliot’s promotion that Sir Elliot enjoyed a comfortable position in society: his wife ignored or concealed his flaws. Before her death, Lady Elliot secured the assistance of a friend to help raise her children. Lady Elliot brought Lady Russell (a widow) to the village of Kellynch. After Lady Elliot’s death, Lady Russell continued to advise the three girls, and Anne is her favorite. Thirteen years have gone by since the death of Lady Elliot. Although some neighbors had thought Lady Russell and Sir Elliot would eventually marry, they never did.
Elizabeth, the oldest daughter of Sir Elliot’s, was her father’s favorite. In his eyes, she was the most beautiful of his children. Although he does not notice it, Elizabeth has inherited her father’s vanity. To Sir Elliot, his other two daughters are inferior. In Sir Elliot’s mind, at least Mary had managed to marry. But Anne, whom most...
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