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|Persuasion and class (long and somewhat rambly)
Written by helena6
(10/25/2005 11:40 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, I like JA's snobbery, penned by Debra Mc
Even the Prices are genteel - the father was an officer and mother appeared to be genteel. The main objection is that their style of living is vulgar by choice rather than by necessity. They do not live in an orderly way like the Harvilles.
Emma presents more of a staircase of class. Emma wants to jump Harriet up a few steps while others see her remaining at her own level. We see the Bates are sunk a little but propped up by charity. But in the end, if everyone lives at their own level they are fine. Harriet is meant for the lower, the Bates meant to remain higher. Life with the martins are not seen as a bad way to live by anyone but Emma. It's almost an idylic view of England's class structure and therefore very conservative.
But Persuasion challenges the notion of levels. Enterprising people are able to make their way and increase their position by hard work. Even Benwick, a most unlikely figure for war, is praised as a good naval officer. We have the navy raising people of obscure birth to positions of wealth and importance. We have Nurse Rooke who makes her way by her wits and her talents. I admire her. She knows how to make a deal and she has a generous but enterprising spirit. We have the Musgroves who present how family can present a divide in class but remain a family.
We have Anne of a lesser titled family mixing with people like the Harvilles and prefering them to the high born. But within her preference for "good company" is the requirement of education, which is expensive and definitely a genteel pursuit or generally for those with money. She is quite fastidious. She requires both education and intelligence a combination that Mr. Elliot is right to somewhat tease her about. Yet Anne is able to prefer the company of warm but less educated people to the high born. However she does not seem entirely comfortable with those who are much lower born (for lack of a better phrase).
Yet, is Charles Hayter to be admired because he wanted education where his siblings did not? Is this necessary or is it that his desire to learn gave him manners that are considered better (even essential for worthy people).
I have a real problem with Mrs. Elliot's low birth as an issue. It would seem to me that if she was silly and ignorant than we should pity her for being nabbed by a fortune hunter rather than ridiculing her, just as I would pity Anne if she had been fooled by Mr. Elliot.
We pity Georgiana Darcy. I even pity Lydia Bennet. Why not Mrs. Elliot. Afterall we are supposed to pity Lady Elliot (Anne's mother) for making a bad marriage at an ignorant time in her life. Perhaps Mrs. Elliot was not as bright but she was still a person.
In P&P one of Darcy's most noble actions is (to my way of thinking) not that he made up Lydia's marriage, but that he had the guts to suggest Lydia go home. He did not want to see her unhappy in marriage with a man like Wickham. He was willing to put his name (not just his money) on the line and use his influence in the world to help her. Why not pity Mrs. Elliot? Are silly girls of low birth lesser people? Are they simply source for genteel impovrished gentlmen.
Austen took on a great deal in Persuasion, but I am not sure it was entirely successful as a whole. I swing on this book. The first time I read it I wasn't entirely fond of it. The last time I read it I enjoyed it much more. But this time, again I am dissatisfied.
I really don't know what to think, but I don't much like the prejudices in this book. But I do find it compelling.
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