I can’t sing enough praises for Persuasion by Jane Austen. If I had a mountain top nearby, I would climb it, just to tell everyone how wonderful Austen’s last completed novel really is.
I’m not a romance reader. I don’t mind a romantic subplot, but I don’t also actively seek out stories that are driven by the coupling of its main characters. The exception to this is Austen, but I’d argue that there is so much more going on in her work; the romance is just a fancy way to dress up her biting criticisms of society.
Persuasion has love at its core, but equal parts regret and suffering too. Anne Elliot is the 27-year-old daughter of a squandering and insufferable baronet. Eight years before the open of our story, Anne listened to the advice of a friend and broke off her betrothal to a young naval officer for whom she cared deeply, Frederick Wentworth. Flash forward to the novel’s present and her father’s recklessness has reached a breaking point. The family is forced to move from their estate in order to avoid utter ruin. Anne has still not overcome her poor decision from the past, and is thrust into an uncomfortable situation when her former beau’s sister comes to rent her family’s estate. Anne and Wentworth find themselves in close proximity, neither able to confront the obvious awkwardness between them.
I feel for Anne, I really do. She’s pretty much an old maid at 27, her father is vain and quite foolish, her two sisters incapable of being decent human beings and her closest confidant is the woman who convinced her to break her engagement. I want Anne to stand up for herself, but she doesn’t. She holds her tongue, she suffers unjustly by the hand of those around her, and yet continues to be level headed and kind. She’s not a blazing heroine, but she is nothing but constant in herself. She admits the error was ultimately her own doing, as easy as it would be to blame her friend. I admire Anne for that.
So this Valentine’s Day (or just after), I’d like to share my love for Anne, to show her that I’ve got her back. She deserves the love, and is one of my very favorite heroines. Really I’d like to tell her that no man is worth the suffering or the heartache, you’ve got to take care of yourself. If you have yet to read Persuasion, I challenge you to and dare you not to come away caring for its main character.
I leave you with Anne’s words. Never forget you’re worth everything girl, he’s just a man.
All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!