A Hidden Jewel, by Elaine Owen

A Hidden Jewel, by Elaine Owen

What was your path into the world of Jane Austen? Which of her novels did you fall in love with first? Did you watch a movie first or read a book?

Many Austen fans start and end their infatuation with Pride and Prejudice, and who can blame them? It’s a terrific story with memorable characters and a moving love story. But her other novels also deserve exploration. Today, if you’ve only ever read or watched Pride and Prejudice, I’d like to encourage you to take the plunge into one of her other stories. Specifically I think you should give Persuasion a chance.

Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, the quiet, patient daughter of a class conscious social climber. Eight years before the novel starts she falls in love with Frederick Wentworth, a young naval officer who is not a “gentleman” by birth. Because of this and his lack of fortune, Anne is persuaded to break off their engagement and look for a more suitable match. Frederick, bitter and disappointed, leaves the area. Over time Anne comes to regret her decision and to believe that she might make a different decision if she had the same choice again.

When the novel opens, circumstances throw Anne and Frederick into each other’s company again and she discovers that their positions have changed. Frederick has made his fortune at sea and is now a wealthy man, while Anne’s spendthrift father has thrown her into reduced circumstances. Also, Anne is now twenty eight years old, no longer as attractive as she once was (or at least that’s how she thinks of herself), and is resigned to life as a spinster.

Much of the story revolves around Frederick courting another woman and Anne being courted by another man. The reader knows that Anne still has feelings for Frederick but his feelings for her are a mystery. Sometimes there are hints that he is fighting off a renewed attraction to Anne. At other times he still seems resentful towards her. We do not learn until the very end of the novel exactly how he feels, and what he has been thinking throughout the story. And when he does reveal his feelings- wow, what a moment!!!! No spoilers here, but trust me, it’s a truly memorable moment. 

Persuasion has some of the same themes that are common in Austen’s other stories. There are cringe worthy family members and people who fawn embarrassingly over anyone with an aristocratic title. There are people with money but no breeding and people with breeding and titles but nothing else to recommend them. And of course there is conflict between people born into a certain level of society and those who try to move into a better sphere. 

But there are also some themes that are unique to Persuasion. At one point Anne and another character have a lengthy discussion about the differences between men and women, especially with how long and fervently they love. We also see an example of a truly happy marriage, one where the man and woman esteem and respect each other. Obviously the most prominent theme in the book is persuasion: how much should a person listen to someone else’s advice about their love life? 

Anne is not witty, like Elizabeth Bennet, and Persuasion does not have the laugh out loud moments that make Pride and Prejudice so much fun to read. But it is a moving story about patience and maturity. Pride and Prejudice is the story you fall in love with when you’re young and idealistic; Persuasion is the story you appreciate when you are older and more realistic. And no wonder: Persuasion is the last story Jane Austen completed before she died. In many ways Anne Elliot is a reflection of Austen herself. 

So during this holiday season, when you’ve re-read Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time and run out of predictable romances on that one TV channel 🙂 , pick up a copy of Persuasion. Read about a deep love that persists through separation and the passage of years. It’s a great book to read at Christmastime- or any time at all! 

My favorite Persuasion quotes:

  • A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not; he does not.
  • One man’s ways may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best.
  • How quick come the reasons for approving what we like.
  • I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.

Those of you who have read Persuasion, which theme in the book stands out to you the most? 

  • Social mobility 
  • Gender equality
  • Marriage
  • What makes a gentleman
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Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
January 4, 2022 4:50 AM

In all of the Jane Austen books, I find the main theme to be what makes a man a gentleman, as we are shown each time one good man and then at least one man who is not. The second theme of each book is then falling in love. Pride and Prejudice is my all time favorite book, followed by Persuasion.

December 19, 2021 4:49 PM

My first experience with JA was watching a P&P movie. Although that will always hold special place in my heart, Persuasion is the one that I like the most as I love that their love is given a second chance.

December 6, 2021 5:15 PM

I’ve read Persuasion 2 or 3 times and have watched two versions. It’s possibly my second favourite after P&P (although Sense & Sensibility is another contender for second place!) But for variations I definitely prefer stories about Darcy and Elizabeth!

Vanessa Thompson McBride
Vanessa Thompson McBride
December 5, 2021 3:30 PM

Persuasion and P&P, are my favorites. I read them over and over again.

Robin G.
Robin G.
December 5, 2021 1:13 PM

I love P&P the most, but Persuasion is a close second. As to the Persuasion movie versions, my favorite is the 1995 version with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds.

Riana Everly
December 5, 2021 10:37 AM

Emma was my first Austen, but Persuasion is my favourite.
I love seeing a youthful attraction survive time and adversity and grow into a mature love.
And then there’s Wentworth’s letter.

Charlotte Brothers
December 5, 2021 8:19 AM

Well done! I remember reading Persuasion as a young woman and, to be honest, not relating to it. Emma has always been my favorite. However, as an older woman, I was really struck by Persuasion and had a competely different experience with it- perspective makes all the difference!

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
December 3, 2021 10:42 AM

I love persuasion and feel a movie marathon coming on. I’ve watched all the movies. P&P and, of course, Persuasion are my favorites. Heavy sigh. Thanks for this post.

Elaine Owen
Elaine Owen
December 4, 2021 7:48 AM
Reply to  J. W. Garrett

P&P and Persuasion are definitely my favorites as well. I also have a soft spot for NA and MP.

Anita Belanger
Anita Belanger
December 3, 2021 1:59 AM

This post makes me want to read Persuasion again. I love reading fan fiction, but sometimes only a return to the originals will do.

Elaine Owen
Elaine Owen
December 4, 2021 7:47 AM
Reply to  Anita Belanger

I completely agree. It’s time for me to read it again, too!

Regina Jeffers
December 2, 2021 8:48 AM

I have told this story previously, but I love repeating it. When I was still teaching, I regularly taught “Persuasion” to my honors classes, which was, generally, my 3rd block class, which meant the 2 hour block was also a rotating lunch. I had the class for one hour. They went to lunch and then came back for the last half hour. I would purposely time the reading of Wentworth’s letter to end right before the lunch break. The girls would all remain for a few minutes in that “fog” the captain’s letter has over all red-blooded females. The boys would be “Aren’t you coming?” and “What’s wrong?” and looking bewildered. Then, the girls would get testy and tell them they were a bunch of morons. Tenth grade “drama” at its best.

Elaine Owen
Elaine Owen
December 4, 2021 7:47 AM
Reply to  Regina Jeffers

That’s hilarious, Regina!!! Any guy who really wants to impress a girl should study that letter!!!

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
December 2, 2021 6:47 AM

Love the post! I recently finally saw the BBC version of Persuasion and it is good! It prompted me to re-read the book which is also good! It is about a deep and ensuring love and it sticks with you long after you read the book!

Elaine Owen
Elaine Owen
December 4, 2021 7:46 AM
Reply to  cindie snyder

Thank you, Cindie, I completely agree!

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