Author: Jane Austen
Date Published: 1817
Challenges: Persuasion Read-Along 2015; Reading England 2015, Dorset, Somerset; and Back to the Classics 2015, classic by a woman author
The first time I read Persuasion in October 2013, it did not penetrate my heart or mind, and I was left feeling somewhat neutral over it. That bothered me, too, because I knew there was something worth appreciating about it, though I did not know what it was. When I saw that Heidi @ Literary Adventures Along the Brandywine was hosting a Persuasion Read-Along, I knew it was an opportunity to be re-encouraged. I was hopeful that I would have a different experience this time. And so I did. Extremely different.
Immediately, it was as if I were reading under a microscope. For example, I understood the character relationships and connections more clearly. So many characters come in and out of Austen's story that I sometimes get lost following who is who and how they connect. But more importantly, this time I had a deeper awareness of Anne's sentiments, especially towards Captain Wentworth.
I rather not retell the story, but I must to a degree: Anne had the opportunity to marry a really great guy, Frederick Wentworth, whom she was very much in love; unfortunately, she was "overly-persuaded" not to marry him by someone who cared about her, someone Anne looked to for council. Eight years later, he reenters her life and is greatly improved from years past - he is a captain in the British Navy. But he has not forgiven Anne for rejecting him; yet, he is still looking for "an Anne-type girl" to marry.
|Jane Austen stamp, Great Britain|
Meanwhile, for the next several weeks or months, Anne is trying to settle her feelings regarding Captain Wentworth: Is she still in love with him? Does he like her or hate the sight of her? Should she just go away? Could they at least be friends?
Poor Anne - although she wouldn't think so - is often hard on herself. But one of her best qualities is that she always puts the needs and feelings of others before herself, even if she must suppress her true desires. She even thought it acceptable if Frederick would consider her a friend; then she could be content. She didn't ask for anything more.
But that is not how this love story is going to end. While there is a lot more going on between other characters, Anne's family members, and two other possible love connections for Anne, the one relationship I want to focus on is between Anne and Captain Wentworth. Back to poor Anne: she has to witness Wentworth begin to develop a potential love interest with an acquaintance, and, yet, she keeps it quietly to herself. Then suddenly, there is a whirlwind change in the story, and Captain Wentworth is free from this other woman, without regret. Anne secretly admits:
No, it was not regret which made Anne's heart beat in spite of herself, and brought the colour into her cheeks when she thought of Captain Wentworth unshackled and free. She had some feelings which she was ashamed to investigate. They were too much like joy, senseless joy! (Exclamation point mine.)She soon notices Wentworth's embarrassed encounters with her, his tenderness towards her, and eventually that he resents her no more. At one point he expressed jealousy of another man. Jealousy! She is certain that "He must love her." Yeah, he does! Fast-forward to the very end, and Wentworth writes one of the most awesome love letters in my literary history that I have ever read, including this famous line:
You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
At heart, he still loves her, and he waits for a sign from her that she loves him, too.
That seals it. It is done. No one shall ever persuade Anne out of this union ever again. No long engagement for this happy couple. They know certainly that they want to be together, and whatever shall be shall be. That's marriage, and there are no guarantees. Marrying for love may be hasty, but marrying for money and social connections may not be the wiser or more secure. Guess we'll know in the long run.