I'm preparing some notes for tomorrow's meeting at the library. Just some points for discussion. Questions more than answers. Let's hope they can stimulate good discussion and end , positively, the experience of reading Austen's major six.
Here are some of my points/questions. I'd love to hear any other suggestion from you, of course.
1. Is Anne a frail or a strong woman? What do you most like in her? What, instead, do you like the least?
2. What about Captain Wentworth? Is he too proud, too austere, too resentful toward Anne? What do you most admire in his character? Is there anything you don't like?
3. What is the role of parents in Persuasion? What kinds of examples do they set for their own children?
4. What rhetorical and narrative techniques does Austen employ in her novel? How do they affect the novel's overall narration?
5. Which characters change throughout the course of the novel? Which ones remain static? What are the larger implications for this personal growth or stagnation?
6. Why is it so important to keep Kellynch within the Elliot family? How important is Kellynch to the different members of the family?
7. Does Persuasion challenge or defend the status of class structure in early nineteenth century British society? How?
8. What is the significance of the title "Persuasion"? How are the novel's characters positively and negatively affected by persuasion in the story?
9. The rogue in Persuasion: Mr Elliot, Anne’s cousin. Comparison with other similar male figures in Austen’s major works.
10. Persuasion, like Mansfield Park , has a number of characters who are in the navy. How positively/negatively are they depicted?
11. How the depiction of the warm – hearted naval families contrast with Anne’s own family? (her vain and rank-proud Baronet father and her cold and selfish elder sister)
12. Is Persuasion a romantic novel? Why or why not?
We are also going to compare some scenes from Persuasion adaptations 1995 and 2007. First of all, the scenes in which Anne and Frederick Wentworth meet again after 8 years ; then the scene Jane Austen didn't include in the final version of the story but which she had written in a first version and which is present in both movies: Wentworth speaking on admiral Croft's behalf and offering to give Kellynch Hall back to Anne and her husband -to- be (Mr Elliot) ; finally , and of course, the endings of the two film versions.
Before leaving you, as I promised, here are the answers to the quizzes I posted here
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
I / I How old is Anne Elliot?
Twenty-seven—a rather more advanced age in the early nineteenth century than it might seem now.
1/2 What is the dominant element in Sir Walter's character?
'Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character' —vanity in the sense of 'egoism' and, secondarily, 'futility' ('vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher': in this case, implieth the novelist).
1/3 Why is the period (1814) propitious for the letting out of fine country houses like Kellynch Hall? And who duly rents the establishment?
The end of the Napoleonic Wars, certified by the Peace of Paris in June 1814, means that there will be a harvestable crop of 'rich Navy Officers ashore', demobilized, wanting to relax and spend their prize money in leisured, elegant surroundings that they have not been able to assemble themselves, being preoccupied with the defence of the realm. Peace (after victorious war) is good for real estate. Admiral Croft duly succeeds as occupant of Sir Walter's Somerset seat.
1/4 How are the Crofts related to the Wentworths?
Mrs Croft, the Admiral's wife, is the elder sister of Frederick Wentworth.
1/5 What is Mrs Clay's connection with the Elliot family?
She is the widowed daughter of Sir Walter's wily lawyer and agent, Mr Shepherd. Mrs Clay also has her wiles and as 'a clever young woman' has Sir Walter in her sights. Her freckles and worryingly prominent tooth may disadvantage her in his critical eyes; as, to the fastidious Sir Walter, might her 'clumsy wrist' (evident, presumably, when she plays any instrument such as the harp). She will also have to combat the apprehension of Lady Russell and Anne (whose position, with a stepmother her own age, would be impossible). All we know of Mrs Clay's marriage is that it was 'unprosperous' and, luckily for her, brief. We can only speculate what prematurely did for the late and unlamented Mr Clay. The couple had two children, of whom we know nothing more than that they exist.
1/6 What rank was Lady Russell's departed husband?
'Only a knight'.
1/7 What formal schooling has Anne received?
Three years at school in Bath, following her mother's death, when she was 14 and in the way at home. She disliked it. She is the only Austen heroine who has attended school. It is not, one gathers—from the examples of Louisa and Henrietta—a good thing to have been educated away from home (although in their case, it may have contributed to their exuberant self-confidence). Unlike Emma Woodhouse, Anne knew her mother (whom she resembled), loved her, and was—as we guess—psychologically hurt, if not damaged, by the bereavement.
1/8 What profession was Frederick Wentworth's father?
We never know. His brother was a humble curate at Monkford, 'a nobody', as Sir Walter kindly puts it. The family does not, we suspect, have much in the way of private means. It is true that the Revd Edward Wentworth is now married and has a living in Shropshire, and has made a little way up in the world—but he is clearly only a country cleric, of modest means compared to his nautical brother.
1/9 Why cannot Anne accompany the Charles Musgroves on their first visit to the Crofts at Kellynch Hall? Because Charles's curricle only carries two people—one passenger and one to drive.
1/10 How do Anne and Frederick greet each other, after eight years' separation?
'A bow, a curtsey'.
1/11 How many Charleses are there in the novel, and how many Walters?
Children are named as putative heirs. Charles Musgrove is named after his father, and his eldest son, little Charles, is named after him. Charles's second son, Walter, is named after his maternal grandfather, from whom he can reasonably expect a bequest (assuming the vain baronet does not spend all his substance before he dies). Sir Walter's distant heir, William, has Walter as his middle name. There are two other Charleses in the narrative, Charles Hay ter and Charles Smith. It creates an occasional confusion.
1/12 How often has Mary Musgrove been in her relatives', the Hayters', house at Winthrop?
'Never . . . above twice in my life'. Her father's daughter, she despises the connection as 'low'—or, at least, beneath a baronet's youngest child.
1/13 Has Anne ever visited Lyme before?
Apparently not, judging by the apparent novelty of the tour they all take around the resort, and Anne's later saying to Wentworth 'I should very much like to see Lyme again'. It may seem odd, the coast being so near Kellynch; but the resort was not fashionable (an all-important
consideration for Sir Walter). An early nineteenth-century guidebook tactfully recommends Lyme as being suitable for people of limited income: 'a retired spot. . . lodgings and boarding at Lyme are not merely reasonable, they are even cheap; amusements for the healthy, and accommodations for the sick, are within the reach of ordinary resources.' Definitely not somewhere for a conceited baronet and his family.
1/14 What is Lady Russell's favourite recreation?
Like Anne's, reading. She likes books and bookish people. It is something that has gone against both Frederick (man of action) and Charles Musgrove (sportsman) as suitors for her protegee, Anne.
1/15 What is the 'domestic hurricane' in the Musgrove household?
Christmas festivities, when all the children are home from school. Along with Scott's Marmion (1808), the novel offers one of the fullest literary descriptions of how the holiday was celebrated in the early nineteenth century, before the Victorians made it what it now is.
1/16 Bath rings to the bawling of street vendors (such as muffin-men and milk-men) and the 'ceaseless clink of pattens '? What are these?
Pattens were wooden soles set upon an iron ring, with straps that were then tied over the instep of the already-shod foot. This raised the wearer about an inch above the wet/muddy/messy road beneath, and hence kept the soft fabric or leather shoes clean and dry. When first invented it seems all classes wore them; but then of course it became obvious that any lady would not be walking in a dirty street, she would be in a carriage; therefore to wear pattens meant you were lower class. In Bath, at this date, pattens were probably being worn mostly by tradeswomen, although a few ladies may have used them just to putter around local shops. Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra certainly wore them in the muddy lanes of Steventon and Deane.
1/17 What does Sir Walter regret in his heir, William's, otherwise satisfactory appearance?
'His being very much under-hung'— that is, having a long lower jaw which projects, unaesthetically, beyond the upper, giving the face a bulldog-like appearance.
1/18 How long must Mr William Elliot decently mourn his deceased wife, before being able to remarry?
About a year, as social arbiters like Lady Russell assume. In fact, he is prepared to ride roughshod over such niceties.
1/19 How big is the blister on Mrs Croft's heel?
'As large', the Admiral says, 'as a three shilling piece' (around an inch and a half). The Crofts in Bath do not believe in wasting their money on coaches when God gave them legs.
1/20 What, in Admiral Croft's view, is James Benwick's principal failing?
He is a little too 'piano'—or soft (his taste for poetry has done him no good in the profession).
1/21 What kind of acquaintance does Sir Walter tell the Dalrymples he has with Captain Wentworth?
'A bowing acquaintance'—he merely knows the gentleman's name, and that he is a gentleman.
1/22 How old is William Elliot?
Thirty-four, which makes him the oldest lover in the action (unless we include the self-loving, 54-year-old Sir Walter).
1/23 How much has Captain Wentworth in prize money, to support him in civilian life?
A cool £25,000 (it translates as a seven-figure sum, in modern currency). We discover the sum only late in the novel. As a post-captain, he will get automatic promotion, should he stay in the service.
1/24 When Captain Harville tells Anne 'if I could but make you comprehend what a man suffers when he takes a last look at his wife and children, and watches the boat he has sent them off in, as long as it is in sight, and then turns away and says, "God knows whether we ever meet again.r\ ' what, exactly, is he picturing? The fond father and husband has his wife and family accompany him aboard ship, when embarking on a voyage (which may be for years, and may end in death in battle), before dispatching them back in a liberty boat. It is, in passing, one of the more moving moments in the novel and makes one rather love the bluff sea
1/25 What is Anne's final good turn in the novel to those less fortunate than her lucky self?
She induces Captain Wentworth to recover Mrs Smith's property in the West Indies, returning that
lady to a decent station in life.
The sixth and last meeting for this JA Book Club will be tomorrow June 26th 2010 at 5 at Subiaco Public Library. Wish me good luck!