The story begins with the life of Anne Elliot years after she being persuaded by Lady Russell not to marry Captain Wentworth because he has nothing but his person to offer her, leaving this a rather dark story compared to the tone of Austen’s previous novels. Even though the novel is rather short, it is not completely a light read. People face danger, they fall (one quite literally) ill, they fall in love and out again. The only silver lining in this dark story is composed of hope — Hope of falling in love and surviving it, hope of getting a second chance in life, hope to love and be loved in return.
Persuasion is a moving story of lost love and regrets, second chances and reconciliation, told in a bare and precise style. Austen did not adorn her descriptions with literary ornaments, instead she focused on the feelings behind and in between the words. However, do not assume the this Mature!Austen lacked in cleverness or morality. Within my 272 paged edition of this novel, I have come across surprising plot twists, clever witticisms, or amusing comic moments, whilst delving into a deep contemplation of the limits of various forms of love and loyalty.
Another interesting feature was the poignancy of the detail. This can be said for all her books, but I feel that Persuasion in particular needs to be read thoroughly for full understanding of the story. You cannot skip words for you will feel as though you missed something. The words demand attention. That is a part of the power and beauty in Austen’s use of the English language.
The surprising element that really got to me in the novel is the “feminist” (proto-feminist, perhaps?) aspect. Though criticism of society’s treatment of women has always been implied in her previous novels, it was refreshingly explicit as in this one. Austen raised into awareness the issues of the limitations imposed on women, the domination of the male point of view, and an unwillingness to acknowledge the female perspective. Then she countered these issues by displaying Anne’s success in finding her voice and trusting herself, as well as showing women’s ability to reason and the importance of women to be educated and viewed as “rational creatures”.
In her last complete novel, the literary avant-garde reformulated the romantic comedy genre. Austen pushed her boundaries with this mature style and insightful commentary concerning marriage, societal norms, and class distinctions. It is a tragedy that she passed away soon after completing Persuasion, it would have been fascinating to know what her subsequent novels would be like.