Il club di Jane Austen – Persuasion
Written between 1815 and 1816, Persuasion is the last complete work written by Jane Austen. Published posthumously by her brother, it is the story of Anne and her “noble” family, the Elliots.
After eight long years, due to various vicissitudes, the woman finds on her way the man she had refused, not for lack of love but for lack of possessions. In reality, Anne wouldn’t have cared about the man’s substances at all. Unfortunately, she let herself be persuaded by those around her that this was the best thing for her.
But the years have passed unhappily for her, between a godmother who tends to guide her without taking into account her feelings and a family that despises her. Indeed, being in her late twenties, Anne is considered an old spinster. Her father and his older sister, always attentive to their appearance, consider her ugly and prefer other companies to her. But they delegate to her all those tasks that they are not willing to carry out taking advantage of her good heart and her availability.
Once the Napoleonic Wars are over, most of the sailors of the English crown return home. Among these is Captain Frederick Wentworth, a heroic fighter who has distinguished himself in battle and has accumulated many riches. What the captain may not know is that his brother-in-law and his sister Sophie have settled in Kellynch Hall, renting the big house from the Elliots. In fact, they are forced by debts to move to Bath to pay less for the lifestyle they do not intend to give up.
Anne and Captain Wentworth live their meeting in a totally different way.
The woman is going through a very painful time. Over the past eight years, she has realized that she was wrong and still loves the captain. And now she suffers because of his behaviour because he, almost rightly, ignores her, dedicates her sharp jokes and flirts with other women in her presence.
Captain Wentworth, on the other hand, believing he is right, acts like a fool about Anne and his own feelings. To spite her, in fact, he puts at risk, not only the life of a young woman and the hopes of her family but also his future domestic happiness.
As the captain is an atypical Austenian hero (he, in fact, does not solve problems like Mr Darcy), Anne also proves to be different from Austen‘s heroines. In fact, Anne is not as lively and spirited as Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse may be, but she appears at first like a submissive and passive damsel. In reality, her character only needs the right push because she, in her own way, will succeed in subverting her world and carving out a path that will lead her towards a happy ending.
The secondary characters, as always in the Austenian novels, are the representation of some human defect or vices. Anne‘s whole family is an example of this: her father and her sister Elizabeth are two vain boasters who think only of luxury and beauty; her sister Mary is a hypochondriac who thinks she is sick whenever she does not get the recognition she believes is due to her rank; and finally her cousin who risks his happiness for money and noble titles.
Mrs Russel is a completely hateful character. She appears to me as a mother who intends to hold the reins of the life of her protégé, moving them only according to her own desires. Moreover, as strange as it may seem, she appears to be very jealous of the protagonist.
This novel involves the reader already from the beginning. It immediately creates sympathy for the protagonist and the way she is treated. Then he suffers with her because of her love pains and expects something to happen that can finally make her happy.
The last chapters are absolutely the best written by Austen, perhaps because they exude a more mature and in a certain sense truthful love.
The themes present in the book, as usual, are those of an English nobility that is based on completely wrong values. Mainly that of the heritage and the title as prerequisites for contracting marriage.
The greatest teaching that this novel can give us is, however, that of not being influenced by the people around us, be they relatives or friends. It is better to follow one’s self instinct and decide with one’s own mind, rather than not acting and living an unhappy life full of doubts and regrets about what could have been.
Overall I believe it is the author’s best-written novel precisely because it sets aside that ingenuity and insolence present in her other stories. She dedicates herself to a more mature criticism and an excellent love story. At the time I believe she was able to help many women, considered spinsters by society, to endure their condition with new hope. Because even at 27 years anything can happen and it is right to seize a second, rare opportunity.
I close my review with the strength of the novel: the letter written by Captain Wentworth. Once he realizes his true feelings for Anne, and the possibility of being able to have her again in his life, he expresses himself like this: