The following is the first three pages in my final essay for my English Romantic Poets class at Bridgewater State University. I’m a tad behind in my other essays so I have to pause this for the time being and write some other things. Take a look at what I have started writing for this one (I still have a bunch of MLA and editing to do):
Does Persuasion have a happy ending?
“Happy” is such a loaded word when it is used in reference to Jane Austen’s “Persuasion.” While there are multiple characters who ultimately receive what they longed for their entire life, for us to believe they are truly happy with the conclusion of the novel is hard to believe based on how we, the reader, are left feeling at the end of the book. The happiness of the characters at the end of the story, while it may be present, is without a doubt tainted and it is in haste to think that anyone of those characters is truly satisfied with how they got to their happiness endgame.
There are specific things to look at in relation to this idea of tainted happiness within Persuasion. The first big point is the engagement of Anne Elliot to Captain Wentworth eight years prior to the story taking place and the renewal of their relationship by the end of the story. After that there is the nature of Sir Walter Elliot that needs to be reflected on. A subsequent point is to look at the relationship between Mary and her husband Charles Musgrove and how that plays in the void of tainted happiness. Another point that will be delved into is the happiness of the widowed Mrs. Smith. The last character related point is to take into account the condition of Mr. Elliot upon the ending of the story. After all the characters have been addressed it’ll be necessary to revisit how the character’s happiness affects the happiness of the reader at the end of the story.
Harold Bloom, within his edited 1994 edition of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, pointed out the Latin meaning of the word persuasion in the very first line of his introduction. He noted that “‘Persuasion’ is a word derived from the Latin for ‘advising’ or ‘urging,’ for recommending that it is good to perform or not perform a particular action.” (Persuasion, 1). If anyone sought out advisement in their life it would be Anne Elliot. Eight years earlier than the events of “Persuasion” Anne spoke with Lady Russell who urged that she not marry Captain Wentworth because he was not of her social standing. Even throughout the course of the novel Anne meets with multiple people, Lady Russell, Mary, the Musgroves and, of course, Mrs. Smith.
One of the things that can also be honed in on from the Bloom quote is the idea of “Good.” These things that people are advising Anne to do are “Good,” Anne is constantly seeking out these people so she could have some sort of quality she thinks none of the people around her have. Austen writes: “If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty; but no duty could be called in aid here. In marrying a man indifferent to me, all risk would have been incurred and all duty violated.” There seems to be a contradiction in Anne; a need to find someone suited for her – and in saying suited it is important to take in to account that it is suited in multiple definitions: fiscally, emotionally, intellectually – and a desire to appease the different people around her.
When Wentworth reenters her life it is under a much different set of circumstances. She no longer has the youthful glow she once had, her family’s future is bleak and the ideology of her life – the idea that there will be some sort of fairy tale fulfillment – also seems to be fading. Austen writes: “”And yet,” said Anne to herself, as they now moved forward to meet the party, “he has not, perhaps, a more sorrowing heart than I have. I cannot believe his prospects so blighted for ever. He is younger than I am; younger in feeling, if not in fact; younger as a man. He will rally again, and be happy with another.”” (Persuasion, PAGE #). Throughout the story there are little bits where Anne points out the differences between men and women and in these bits her psyche is really put on display. She knows she does not have equal footing in the world she lives in and her goal is just to find someone who appreciates her for who she is and not what she is worth – which is the difference between Wentworth and Mr. Elliot.
The happiness they can have is further put into question at the very end of the novel when she and Wentworth have a discussion about the conditions of their gender. Anne says: “We certainly do not forget you as soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You are forced on exertion. You have always a profession, pursuits, business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately, and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions.” Anne knows there is an inequality present in society and knows that once she commits to Wentworth that she will inevitably live the life Mary lives. The question, as it pertains to Wentworth and Anne is “Is that happiness?” or would it have been happiness between the two of them eight years prior? But had they submitted at that time they would have been devoid of the happiness they obtained fiscally and socially in the eight years they were apart. The real question is if she subsided her love before, does that mean the more important thing is adhering to what society thinks of you? I think that is why the end of Persuasion feels so somber. Somber for the character’s we developed so much interest in and intrigue for, and then somber for the themes or ideas we have to take away from it.
• Sir Walter
• Point three
• Point four
• Point five