Jane Austen’s ‘The text of Persuasions’ from a cultural stand point Research Paper
Updated: Nov 4th, 2018
Jane Austen’s novel titled Persuasion is a captivating must-read chef-d’oeuvre that presents an expression of the profound concerns she raised about the use of persuasion and the levels at which individuals use it in her society. Persuasion has proved a working tool based on how it influences an individual’s choices.
Although the book was tilted by her brother after she died, persuasion as a title suits it as the working theme of the entire story. Therefore, from a cultural point of view, as the paper exposes, Jane Austen highlights in the book her deep-seated concerns on cultural flaws through the voice of the heroine that determined the choices and the moral suasion of young women in her days.
Jane Austen recognized that the society she lived had flaws some of which deserved moral questioning but remained unquestioned. Although she was herself lucky to receive a quality education, which led her to start her writings early in her life, Jane Austen, in this novel, expresses her concerns about the various flaws in the society through the story of the heroine Anne Elliot and entire Elliot’s family. In this society, a person’s identity was majorly based on class and not other factors that matter in the contemporary society such as intellect, ambition and abilities.
For instance, choosing a suitor for a woman who wanted to marry was principally based on class. Seven years prior to the opening events in the story, Anne Elliot who was in love with the young navy officer by the name Fredrick Wentworth was persuaded to leave him on the basis that he was poor and did not belong to the gentry. This aspect of viewing people based on their social standing is among the cultural issues at the time that Jane Austen was raising concerns against in her book.
As the documentation of her life reveals, Jane Austen refuses to be part of the machinery with which people around her made their decisions. The character Anne Elliot was influenced trough persuasion by her confidante to break the engagement with Fredrick Wentworth who later came into her life with his context totally changed and this time rich and successful. Anne Elliot struggles with her emotions and attraction to Fredrick when they later meet while staying with the Crofts.
Fredrick had never forgiven her for rejecting him as it is revealed by the uncomplimentary comment he issues about Anne’s changed appearance. It is this social branding that trouble people later in their lives that Jane Austen was highlighting in the novel. To Jane Austen, persuasion faces moral dangers, as the decisions made afterward may not be to the person’s interest in the future.
In Jane Austen’s society as depicted in ‘persuasions’, a person’s place in the society was different from the manner it is in today’s society. An individual was not considered as so but as a social being whose place was influenced by their conduct and interactions with other people in the society. Manners were considered extraordinarily vital in depicting a person’s worth in the society.
Fredrick Wentworth is an admirable character in the book majorly because of his manners and an appealing character. Social interaction, which was the upheld expression in Jane Austen’s time, has been replaced by individualism. Appearing as a civilized person and upholding a strong sense were key factors for one to be considered as acceptable in the society. In choosing marriage partners, women had to look for suitors who fully conformed to a culturally set criterion.
The role of the family to an individual, when making personal decisions, is highlighted by Jane in her book. In her society, when a woman wanted to marry, she had to seek advice from family members and take the opinions of the family members into keen consideration.
According to Weissman, the character Anne Elliot made the decision to reject the marriage offer from the then young and poor Fredrick Wentworth after she was persuaded by her late mother’s confidante and her close friend the widow woman Russell (289). A person’s personal decision affected the entire family structure. That called for the need to make consultations whenever such a decision was to be made.
Inviting Fredrick Wentworth to become a member of the family would interfere with the family esteem and their reputation as the gentry. In today’s society, a person makes a choice based on his/her personal interests without putting into consideration what people would say about the family. In matters to do with love, putting the opinions of others into consideration does not hold for many people. Ownership of property in Austen’s society was mainly determined by the family in which a man was born.
Women in the 18th century were considered to be only in charge of the private lives while, on the other hand, men were considered determinants of the public affairs.
As a result, women were not entitled to equal opportunities as men in that society. Jane Austen had the rare opportunity of receiving education through her father who was a member of the clergy. Women in that society were, therefore, not able to own property or even inherit from their fathers. Therefore, marriage was left as the only way through which a woman could change her social standing in the society.
Through the depiction of the character of Anne Elliot as an intelligent and a courageous woman, Jane Austen introduces the notion of women as capable of doing the things that men are capable of and consequently triggered the women rights advocacy that came later. Anne administers first aid to Louisa when everyone else including Fredrick Wentworth just stood aside and watched thinking that she is dead. The place of the woman in that society is depicted as mainly indoors is challenged in ‘persuasions’.
Through Anne Eliot’s words, Austen makes a remark about the women’s condition as living under the mercy of males and only recording history. “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story…the pen has been in their hands, and I will not allow books to prove anything” (Spacks 277).
Anne Elliot is the first character that Jane Austen used in her work that is well past the bloom of youth and yet hopeful for a love filled future life. Jane Austen writes, “Anne longed for the power of representing to them all what they were about and of pointing out some of the evils they were exposing themselves to and she did not attribute guile to any” (Spacks 279). The happy conclusion of the book places it among the best fairy tales, which uplifts the woman and portrays the woman’s eminent victory in the end.
In cases where England was involved in warfare, this was considered as just a war of making a fortune. There was no discussion before this as to whether gaining through engaging in warfare was ethical. Young men whose situations would not allow them to inherit joined the army to make a living. Fredrick Wentworth was rejected on the basis that she did not possess the economic and social status qualifications and so he decided to join the navy to be able to change his situation.
“The navy, I think, who have done so much for us, and have at least an equal claim with any other set of men, for all the comforts and all the privileges which any home can give. Sailors work hard enough for their comforts, we must all allow”(Johnson 280). The morality of gaining through conquering other people was not questioned before Jane Austen wrote ‘persuasions’. Jane Austen’s brothers significantly succeed in the Royal Army.
Therefore, based on the expositions made in the paper, persuasion stands out as the means that Austen used to address the then society’s cultural weaknesses. She assertively urged women of her time to accord her the due support to fight the intolerable cultural issues that had taken hold of the then society.
Considering the time when Jane Austen wrote ‘Persuasions’, there was the belief that the English society, as well as the English institutions, were superior to others from anywhere else in the world. Jane Austen, therefore, pioneered the struggle for the change of cultural norms that were elevated by these institutions. Otherwise, Jane Austen’s Persuasion is an informative piece of masterwork.
Johnson, Claudia. The Unfeudal Tone of the Present Day. The text of persuasion. The Text of Persuasion. New York: Norton, 1995. Print.
Spacks, Patricia. Anne Elliot’s Education: The learning of romance in persuasion. The Text of Persuasion. New York: Norton, 1995. Print.
Weissman, Cheryl. Doubleness and Refrain in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, The text of Persuasion. New York: Norton, 1995. Print.
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