Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Like most of her novels, Persuasion affords Jane Austen an opportunity to explore social relationships among middle-class men and women living in what is usually considered a refined, country environment away from the commercial and political centers of England. Unlike other Austen novels, however, Persuasion features a heroine who is not a young ingenue first learning the customs and taboos of polite society. Anne Elliot, second daughter of a minor country baronet, is nearing thirty when the action of the novel begins. Readers learn early that she was once engaged to Frederick Wentworth but gave up her lover when friends and relatives convinced her that he was not worthy of her. The action of the novel concentrates on her becoming reacquainted with Wentworth, now a naval captain, and overcoming the objections of others and the connivances of rivals for Wentworth’s affection.

Austen centers the action in various locales: Kellynch Hall, the ancestral home of the Elliots; the country village of Uppercross; and the resort city of Bath. Rising debts cause Anne’s father to rent out Kellynch Hall and move to less expensive lodgings in Bath; Anne visits relatives in Uppercross, where she first learns that Wentworth has returned to the region after rising to distinction and amassing a comfortable fortune through service in the Navy. In a series of connected episodes, Anne and her circle of family and friends travel freely in a series of...

(The entire section is 597 words.)