For Friday: Questions for Persuasion: Chs. 1-26 (pp.3-100)
Answer ONE of the following…
1. In Persuasion, we see Jane Austen at the end of her career (though she probably didn’t know this), and very much in a new century—the eighteen teens. This was just before the publication of Frankenstein but well after Wordsworth and Coleridge’s major poems, as well as the works of Shelley and Byron. How do we see Persuasion influenced by the Romantic movement in British literature? What new touches in the work signal a ‘Romantic’ sensibility unusual in Austen’s writing? Consider not only what the narrator focuses on/describes, but what the characters say, read, and expound to others.
2. In a very amusing and fantastic passage on page 27, the narrator describes the Musgrove’s house which is being invaded by a harp and a piano-forte (an old style piano—piano means “soft” and forte means “loud”). The old-fashioned demeanor of the house is offended, as she writes, “Oh! Could the originals of the portraits against the wainscot, could the gentlemen in brown velvet and the ladies in blue satin have seen what was going on, have been conscious of such an overthrow of all order and neatness! The portraits themselves seemed to be staring in astonishment.” As this passage suggests, much of the goings-on of Persuasion would shock and astonish the old order. Where do we see Jane Austen pitting the new world against the old? What innovations and ideas seem quite at odds with the more traditional, class-based ways of running the world?
3. Discuss the education of women in this novel so far, considering characters such as Anne Eliot, Mary Eliot, the Musgrove sisters, and Mrs. Croft in particular. What does it mean to be ‘educated’ as we move into the 19th century? Are any of these women ‘ideals’ for Austen? Or anti-ideals? Does Anne share some of Lizzie and Emma’s lack of moral insight and judgment? Does her education allow her to game play? Or has she retired from the game already?
4. How does Persuasion develop Austen’s theme of mothers and fathers? We get an usual set of parents in this book, from Sir Walter Eliot, Lady Russell (a surrogate mother, though perhaps more properly an aunt figure), and the two generations of Musgroves. How does Austen reflect on the duties and sensibilities of parents, and their relationships with their children? Note that this is the only book thus far that actually has young children in it! Why do you think Austen focuses so much on the younger generation in this book?