Jane Austen

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Persuasion Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jane Austen's Persuasion. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Jane Austen

Jane Austen was the seventh child of the parish rector in the town of Steventon, where she and her family resided until moving to Bath in 1801. Though her parents were members of the English gentry, they remained relatively poor. Modest to a fault about the value of her work, Jane Austen nevertheless produced some of the enduring masterpieces of English literature, including the novels Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion. Her novels were published anonymously until after her death, when her authorship became known. While it was not unheard of for women to publish under their own names in Austen's lifetime, it was still a rarity. Despite the fact that her books focus on the intricate rituals of courtship and marriage among the British middle class, Austen herself remained single throughout her life, preferring the life of a writer over that of a wife and hostess.
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Historical Context of Persuasion

Austen's novels are famous for the way they seem to exist in a small, self-contained universe. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that Austen's depiction of life in the tranquil English countryside takes place at the same time when England was fighting for its life against the threat of Napoleon, and all of Europe was embroiled in war and political chaos.

Other Books Related to Persuasion

Between the late 18th and early 19th centuries, English literature underwent a dramatic transition. The 18th century had seen the rise of the novel in the works of writers like Daniel Defoe (Moll Flanders) and Samuel Richardson (Pamela). These novels focused on broad social issues of morality and domestic manners. With the turn of the century and the rise of Romanticism, however, the novel began to explore human relationships with a greater degree of emotional complexity. Neither a Classicist nor a Romantic, Jane Austen is perhaps best thought of as a pioneering figure in the development of the novel, providing the bridge from the often didactic novels of an earlier era to the great works of psychological realism of the Victorian period by writer such as George Eliot and Thomas Hardy.
Key Facts about Persuasion
  • Full Title: Persuasion
  • When Written: 1816-1817
  • Where Written: Chawton, England
  • When Published: 1818
  • Literary Period: Classicism / Romanticism
  • Genre: Novel of manners
  • Setting: Kellynch Hall, Uppercross Manor, Lyme, and Bath (all in England).
  • Climax: Mrs. Smith’s revelation of Mr. Elliot’s past and scheme to marry Anne to become heir of the Kellynch baronetcy.
  • Antagonist: There is no real antagonist in the novel, as Anne’s struggle is primarily the negotiation of societal expectations and personal conviction regarding whom she should marry. However, there are a number of characters who fail to appreciate or support Anne, such as her father Sir Walter and sister Elizabeth, and Mr. Elliot conspires to marry her to obtain the Kellynch baronetcy.
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient

Extra Credit for Persuasion

Austen’s last novel. Austen wrote Persuasion while dying from what was possibly Addison’s disease; she finished alterations of its final chapters a year before her death. Some critics have drawn parallels between Austen’s own life situation as an unmarried “spinster” and that of her protagonist, Anne, and that there are glimpses of a sorrow about mortality that are attributable to the context of her illness in this last novel. Whatever the case, the novel does seem to possess a more elegiac and meditative tone than some of Austen’s earlier, spritely works such as Emma

A Second Spring. Persuasion is Austen’s only work that engages love in later stages of life; Anne Elliot, at twenty-eight, nears the age of spinsterhood for a woman in her era and has “lost her bloom.” Her romance with Captain Wentworth commences in a “second spring,” years after they first fall in love and then fall out. Similarly, the characters of Captain Benwick, Mr. Elliot, and Mrs. Clay are all seeking a second love after the loss of their first fiancée, wife, and husband respectively. Admiral and Mrs. Croft are also one of the rare examples of an older couple with a model marriage in Austen’s work.