Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
Written by Emmeline
(9/20/2005 3:12 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Persuasion in Persuasion (chapters 1-4, long), penned by Tracy W
Persuasion can be a cruel business, as Austen's favourite novel, Samuel Richardson's Sir Charles Grandison (1753-4), articulates:
But the entreaty of such friends as undoubtedly mean one's good, dilates and disarms one's heart and makes one wish to oblige them; and so renders one miserable, whether we do or do not comply. Believe me....there is great gruelty in persuasion, and still more to a soft, gentle temper, than to a stubborn one. Persuaders know not what they make such a person suffer. (Sir Charles Grandison, VI, Letter 34)
Tenderness between people is here like a wound. The power of the adviser is well-meant but oppressive, probing the dilated heart.
Three of Jane Austen's novels set up intellectual and moral debate in their titles: two of them are Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. The third is Persuasion. The first two titles have drawn a good deal of comment on the combative arguments displayed; but the difficult debates implied in the title of Persuasion have been largely overlooked - indeed, the debatable nature of persuasion has been oddly ignored. Whereas the earlier novels polarize qualities (sense and sensibility) or set them in awkward juxtaposition (pride and prejudice), Persuasion compresses all the debates within the one term. Persuasion is the aim of all rhetoric. It is a double-natured energy, guileful as the serpent, redemptive as reasoned conversion. It is the art of seduction and of enlightenment at once.
To Jane Austen and her first readers the perception that these discordant values are lodged in the activity of persuading would have come as no surprise. Arguments within classical philosophy and the stories of the Bible suggested the double-tongued dangers of persuasion. Dictionaries also indicated them. In his Dictionary of the English Language (1755) Dr Johnson cites Paradise Lost:
___________The serpent with me
Persuasion, for Johnson, is first 'The act of persuading; the act of influencing by expostulation; the act of gaining or attempting the passions.' The slide across into seduction is expressed in the third clause while the second represents the activity of conviction. In his definitions of the verb 'to persuade' he comments that 'Persuasion seems rather applicable to the passions, and argument to the reason; but this is not always observed.' In Johnson's terms a 'persuader' is excessive: 'One who influences by persuasion; an importunate adviser.' Strikingly, his descriminations indicate that to be persuaded may be a rational motion, but persuading is morally ambiguous at best.
Another line I'd like to quote from this Introduction:
'dissuasion may be the most damaging form of persuasion'
I'm sorry this is such a long post.
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.