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|Anne's ability to persuade (long)
Written by Robbin
(10/5/2005 3:56 a.m.)
On reading Persuasion, I used to just think the title refers specifically to Anne’s broken engagement due to the persuasion of Lady Russell, but during this group read I have come to think that it refers to persuasion in general as up to this point (chapter 12) there are at least three other “persuasions” fueling the story—first, Louisa’s persuasion of Henrietta to give up Captain Wentworth in favor of Charles Hayter and second, Capt Wentworth’s persuasion of himself—that he is over Anne and any amiable young lady modeled after Anne will do for a bride, third that Anne believes she has lost Captain Wentworth forever, and she must protect herself from the hope that she cannot help herself from feeling.
Louisa’s motives have been explored in the thread starting with “Ulterior motives for the long walk” by Barbara and I hope to examine Capt Wentworth’s motives more closely in a different thread, but here I would like to give some thoughts on Anne’s ability to persuade, give opinions, and advice and whether others really care about what she says or put another way is she ever really heard? We already know that Anne is alone at home, Lady Russell does not think Anne has been seen enough in the world and I would think that not having a voice (opinion) that matters in your society would be just another layer of isolation. In Chapter 1, Anne is described, “with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding” and in Chapter 5, “she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments” shows that Anne is aware of her own abilities so why is she so accepting of her subservient position among her family and friends?
Anne & Lady Russell
“She drew up plans of economy, she made exact calculations, and she did what nobody else thought of doing: she consulted Anne, who never seemed considered by the others as having any interest in the question. She consulted, and in a degree was influenced by her, in marking out the scheme of retrenchment which was at last submitted to Sir Walter.” (Chapter 2)
Lady Russell who loves Anne and values her above all others, is only influenced by “a degree” by Anne in the retrenchment scheme, but in this instance I am not convinced that Lady Russell is wrong as even the less extreme measures, than Anne requested, when submitted to Sir Walter and Elizabeth is completely rejected by them. In Chapter 2, Lady Russell also believes Anne’s dislike for Bath a mistake from sad circumstances and goes even further as “Lady Russell was fond of Bath, in short, and disposed to think it must suit them all.” I think it is sort of pitiful that Anne is not even allowed to profess a dislike for a particular place and be believed sincere.
“She did not blame Lady Russell, she did not blame herself for having been guided by her; but she felt that were any young person in similar circumstances to apply to her for counsel, they would never receive any of such certain immediate wretchedness, such uncertain future good.” (Chapter 4)
I think this quote (above) tells us how Anne, after letting herself be persuaded by Lady Russell has not only changed her opinion over time, but it has made her reluctant offer her own opinions as better judgment over others, even though, especially with her family, she is much wiser and far more practical. Although this quote is specific to circumstance, I think her reluctance extends to giving any advice, opinions or persuasions of any kind except where she thinks it her duty or in the effort of being useful to someone and so far, never to herself. I have to think that Anne must have been more forward at 19, unwilling to bow to the snobby dictates of Sir Walter and Elizabeth, or else she could not have allowed herself to fall in love with Captain Wentworth who she would have known, with her elegant mind, to be unacceptable to both of them.
Anne at Kellynch
“Anne was so impressed by the degree of their danger, that she could not excuse herself from trying to make it perceptible to her sister. She had little hope of success; but Elizabeth, who in the event of such a reverse would be so much more to be pitied than herself, should never, she thought, have reason to reproach her for giving no warning.” (Chapter 5)
We know from Chapter 1, that Anne “was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way -- she was only Anne.” Therefore she has little chance of succeeding in any persuasion that she would care to undertake with them, not because she is not wise but because she is unloved, unvalued, unappreciated. Anne’s warning to Elizabeth does fall on death ears (above), which Anne predicts but follows through with her advice because she feels it is her duty.
Anne at Uppercross
“Something occurred, however, to give her a different duty. Mary, often a little unwell, and always thinking a great deal of her own complaints, and always in the habit of claiming Anne when any thing was the matter, was indisposed; and foreseeing that she should not have a day's health all the autumn, entreated, or rather required her, for it was hardly entreaty, to come to Uppercross Cottage, and bear her company as long as she should want her, instead of going to Bath.” (Chapter 5)
Mary demands Anne’s company for her own entertainment and not due to affection for her. Anne easily accepts the invitation as she is glad to have some duty and “She had no dread of these two months. Mary was not so repulsive and unsisterly as Elizabeth, nor so inaccessible to all influence of hers.” (Chapter 6) I do not think “influence” is meant to convey Anne wishes to control Mary but rather that Mary in her own clearly selfish way, is willing to have Anne as a companion, as Elizabeth is not, and is more than willing for Anne to make herself useful in her household as Elizabeth’s jealously cannot allow at home. This is shown in Chapter 5, immediately upon Anne’s arrival to Uppercross Cottage, “A little farther perseverance in patience, and forced cheerfulness on Anne's side, produced nearly a cure on Mary's.”
“One of the least agreeable circumstances of her residence there was her being treated with too much confidence by all parties, and being too much in the secret of the complaints of each house. Known to have some influence with her sister, she was continually requested, or at least receiving hints to exert it, beyond what was practicable.” (Chapter 6)
Anne is valued for her usefulness and while certainly not treated badly, she receives only the affection of a friend, nor does she received any particular attentions by the Musgrove family. I cannot find an instance where Anne is referred to as a “sister” as in S&S when Marianne says she will love Edward as soon as Eleanor tells her he is to be her brother or as in P&P when Caroline writes to Jane wishing to call Miss Darcy her sister—this particular kind of closeness with an in-law appears to be missing. When Anne and Mary visit the main house after Anne’s arrival “They were received with great cordiality.” (Chapter 5) not love. When Louisa tells Captain Wentworth, in Chapter 10, that the family wishes Charles had married Anne instead of Mary, it is only for her lack of the “Elliot pride” as Mary is “good natured enough.” I do believe that they like her because she is always agreeable and always does what she can to augment the comforts and happiness of those around her but none really know Anne. I think Anne is mostly valued and appreciated for what she does for them, playing the piano so the others can dance, her tears in Chapter 8 while playing, are not even noticed by anyone. In Chapter 6, Anne is continually asked to persuade Mary by Charles, his mother and sister on being ill, the children, servants, and rank while Mary wants Anne to persuade Charles that she really is ill. Anne is of course too wise to involve herself in these complaints but does her best to sooth them all.
“How was Anne to set all these matters to rights? She could do little more than listen patiently, soften every grievance, and excuse each to the other; give them all hints of the forbearance necessary between such near neighbours, and make those hints broadest which were meant for her sister's benefit.” (Chapter 6)
In Chapter 7, to be of use, and to avoid meeting with Captain Wentworth, she volunteers to stay home with the injured child while Mary and Charles dine at the Great House. “Anne was now at hand to take up her own cause, and the sincerity of her manner being soon sufficient to convince him…” In Chapter 8, “he saw her, and instantly rising, said, with studied politeness -- "I beg your pardon, madam, this is your seat"; and though she immediately drew back with a decided negative, he was not to be induced to sit down again.” In Chapter 10, after observing Captain Wentworth and the attentions of Louisa and Henrietta to him and the chagrin of Charles Hayter, Anne wisely refrains from giving Mary (or anyone else) an opinion or try to persuade them into better behavior although she “longed for the power of representing to them all what they were about, and of pointing out some of the evils they were exposing themselves to.” She also tries to keep Mary from intruding on the long walk Henrietta and Louisa intend to take in which Mary is obviously not wanted: “She tried to dissuade Mary from going, but in vain…thought it best to accept…invitation to herself to go likewise, as she might be useful in turning back with her sister, and lessening the interference in any plan of their own.”
Anne at Lyme
In Chapter 11 Anne readily tries to lift Captain Benwick’s spirits “…and besides the persuasion of having given him at least an evening's indulgence in the discussion of subjects, which his usual companions had probably no concern in, she had the hope of being of real use to him in some suggestions as to the duty and benefit of struggling against affliction, which had naturally grown out of their conversation.” In Chapter 12, “When she could command Mary's attention, Anne quietly tried to convince her that their father and Mr. Elliot had not, for many years, been on such terms as to make the power of attempting an introduction at all desirable.”
My conclusion is that although Anne is practical and wise and even appreciated, valued and liked, by some, her success in persuading others is not very great unless it is what they already desire such as Mary and Charles wishing to meet Captain Wentworth and Captain Benwick “For, though shy, he did not seem reserved: it had rather the appearance of feelings glad to burst their usual restraints;” but as Captain Wentworth did not wish to gratify her, he would not sit down, Mary would go for the long walk, despite being an intruder and would urge Anne to write her father about seeing Mr. Elliot in Lyme, oblivious to past history. I think Anne has put herself in a position of being subservient to the needs of others too much. People do not really respect a person who does not stand up for herself—and maybe this is why I often get the feeling that Anne is a object to be of use or abuse to other people depending on whether she is at Kellynch or Uppercross. The one person Anne is able to persuade with any regularity is herself and it is universally to remain in control, to rein in her continuing love for Captain Wentworth, to remind herself that she has no right to hope for a renewal of his affections.
“and many a stroll, and many a sigh, were necessary to dispel the agitation of the idea. She often told herself it was folly, before she could harden her nerves sufficiently to feel the continual discussion of the Crofts and their business no evil.” (Chapter 4)
“was a new sort of trial to Anne's nerves. She found, however, that it was one to which she must enure herself. Since he actually was expected in the country, she must teach herself to be insensible on such points.” (Chapter 6)
“Soon, however, she began to reason with herself, and try to be feeling less. Eight years, almost eight years had passed, since all had been given up. How absurd to be resuming the agitation which such an interval had banished into distance and indistinctness! What might not eight years do? Events of every description, changes, alienations, removals, -- all, all must be comprised in it, and oblivion of the past -- how natural, how certain too! It included nearly a third part of her own life…Alas! with all her reasonings, she found, that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing.” (Chapter 7)
"So altered that he should not have known her again!" These were words which could not but dwell with her. Yet she soon began to rejoice that she had heard them. They were of sobering tendency; they allayed agitation; they composed, and consequently must make her happier.” (Chapter 8)
“Anne felt the utter impossibility, from her knowledge of his mind, that he could be unvisited by remembrance any more than herself. There must be the same immediate association of thought, though she was very far from conceiving it to be of equal pain.” (Chapter 8)
“with the conviction soon forced on her by the noise he was studiously making with the child, that he meant to avoid hearing her thanks, and rather sought to testify that her conversation was the last of his wants, produced such a confusion of varying, but very painful agitation, as she could not recover from, till enabled by the entrance of Mary and the Miss Musgroves, to make over her little patient to their cares, and leave the room.” (Chapter 9)
“but his evident surprise and vexation at the substitution of one sister for the other, the change of his countenance, the astonishment, the expressions begun and suppressed, with which Charles was listened to, made but a mortifying reception of Anne; or must at least convince her that she was valued only as she could be useful to Louisa.” (Chapter 12)
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