Jane Austen and Persuasion

This is not about Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, but about persuasion in Jane Austen’s novels. Any fan of Jane Austen knows how Anne was persuaded not to marry the man she loved and how unhappy this made her. However, persuasion is a theme in Jane Austen’s other novels.

Pride and Prejudice: Early in the novel, Bingley, Darcy, and Elizabeth have a discussion about yielding to the persuasion of a friend. Later, Darcy and Miss Bingley persuade Mr. Bingley that Jane doesn’t love him, and he should not marry her. Lady Catherine tries to persuade Elizabeth not to marry Darcy.

Emma: Emma persuades Harriet not to marry Robert Martin and that Mr. Elton loves her and would marry her. Emma is shown to be wrong on what she did.

Mansfield Park: Sir Thomas Bertram as well as Edmund both try to persuade Fanny to marry Mr. Crawford. Jane Austen’s then creates an event which suggests Fanny was correct in refusing Mr. Crawford.

Sense and Sensibility: Edward’s family tries to persuade him not to marry Lucy Steele. They don’t try as hard to persuade him not to marry Elinor. Colonel Brandon’s father’s ward was persuaded to marry against her inclination. That marriage ended disastrously.

Northanger Abbey: General Tilney tries to persuade his son Henry to marry for money.

Lady Susan: Lady Susan tries to persuade her daughter to marry Lady Susan’s choice of a husband, but the daughter ends up marrying Lady Susan’s choice for her own husband.

All these have one thing in common: Someone is trying to persuade someone to change his or her mind about marriage. In the novel Persuasion, the person who does so is treated sympathetically, but most of the other persuaders appear to be in the wrong. This kind of persuasion is a theme running through all of her novels, and Jane Austen seems to be firmly on the side of love.

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