When writing Emma, Jane Austen declared: "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like". In one of her last letters she , instead, referred to Anne Elliot as"a heroine who is almost too good for me."
(Ann Firbank as Ann Elliot BBC 1971)
What did Austen mean with “too good”? Anne Elliot is easily the most unique of Jane Austen's well-known heroines and represents a distinct departure from the author's typical characterization of female protagonists. When the novel begins, Anne is twenty-seven years old. She certainly possesses greater wisdom and maturity; but she lacks the usual verve and sparkle we associate with Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse. Missing, too, is the playful sense of irony which Austen's other heroines revel. The most remarkable thing about Anne Elliot, however, is that she does not seem to have to acquire self-knowledge - her attitudes and behavior are astonishingly consistent from beginning to end. In fact, her character can hardly be said to "develop" in the usual sense of the word. All her development seems to have taken place in the eight years that precede the opening of Persuasion, the eight years since her fateful decision not to marry Captain Wentworth.
(Amanda Root as Anne Elliot BBC 1995)
She is clever and considerate. Anne takes pride in practicality, intellect, and patience.Though Austen very frankly notes that the bloom of youth has left her and that she is not the prettiest of the young ladies in the novel, Anne becomes little by little more attractive when her better qualities are noted. She is level-headed in difficult situations and constant in her affections. Such qualities make her the desirable sister to marry; she is the first choice of Charles Musgrove, Captain Wentworth, and Mr. Elliot.
Noted critic, Harold Bloom, seems to have put his finger upon it when he described Anne Elliot as having a "Shakespearean inwardness" . Like Shakespeare's most intensely inward character, Hamlet, she experiences a spiritual isolation and withdrawal from the dysfunctional world around her, she displays extreme introspection and psychological perspicacity and she possesses the strength of will to remain true to her character and values, despite changes in circumstance.
(Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot - ITV 2007)
In the end, Anne concludes that she is right to have been persuaded by Lady Russell, even if the advice itself was misguided. The conclusion implies that what might be considered Anne's flaw, her ability to be persuaded by others, is not really a flaw at all. It is left to the reader to agree or disagree with this. Do you agree with her?
Personally, I think that the Anne, who made the mistake of being persuaded 8 years before, doesn’t exist any longer when the novel opens. She’s stronger now. She's suffered for the consequences of her choice and won’t repeat her mistake.
I find Anne a convincing powerful heroine, maybe the strongest of Austen’s heroines. But ... I found this comment in a review of Persuasion online: “Anne would make a really bad reality show contestant, as she’s not one to take center stage and show off. The action of the novel is mostly driven by other people, while Anne observes, listens, and responds. It’s like everyone else has a blog, but she’s stuck just leaving comments”
Funny, indeed. Do you agree with this analysis of Anne’s personality? Its author supports those statements with Anne’s tendency to self-abnegation in a family overcrowded by egos and with her acceptance of self-sacrifice. Is this a flaw or a virtue in her personality?
There is something more, something related to her marriage , which distinguishes Anne from other Austen heroines. I've found it in wikipedia:
"Persuasion manifests a significant shift in Austen's attitude toward inherited wealth and rank. Elsewhere in her writing, salvation for the heroine comes in the form of marriage to a well-born gentleman, preferably wealthy and at least her equal in social consequence. Elizabeth Bennet, for example, who has little money of her own, refuses the hand of a financially secure but unbearable young clergyman; dallies briefly with a penniless (and, as it turns out, utterly worthless) army officer; and finally marries Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, who has a great estate, a Norman-sounding name, and ten thousand a year. Emma Woodhouse, already wealthy and secure, marries 37-year-old George Knightley, a man not only from her own class, but from her extended family; and Marianne Dashwood loses her heart to a charming young wastrel, but then marries the virtuous Colonel Brandon, a man of property twice her age. Anne Elliot's "true attachment and constancy" to a dashing, self-made young outsider distinguishes her from all her sister Austen heroines".
This post is part of the event Jane in June hosted at Book Rat by Misty. So leaving your comment here you can get a chance (or another chance) to win two Austen - based books! This double giveaway will go on all the month through and the winner will be announced on the 30th. Please, do not forget your e-mail address!
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