Persuasion, by Jane Austen is a tale of the romance between the timid and composed Anne Elliot and the handsome and exquisite Captain Wentworth. In spite of social barriers and the rival flirtations of the Musgrove sisters, he pursues his affection though having once been rejected by Anne. The influence and persuasion Anne allows herself to be subjected to, is the key theme underlying this novel. Anne almost loses the love of her life by being persuaded by others. Anne is portrayed in the opening chapters of the book as having no strength of character. She is dominated by all of the people around her: her father, Elizabeth her elder sibling, and Lady Russell.
Anne is treated as the heroine of the novel; however, a heroine is a woman who takes risks and makes decisions in order to control her life's destiny, not one who passively waits for her fate. In the book, Anne is depicted as the novel's admirable protagonist. This only seems so because she is surrounded by confused, bitter and conniving characters. Anne's sister, Elizabeth, is a spoiled, unkind and immature girl. Anne is seen as the most stable and sympathetic character, only because she is compared to the characters around her. As for her father: Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter's character Her other sister, Mary who is settling down into a married life, is dissatisfied because she feels her husband's family is inferior.
In comparison to these characters, she is easily commendable, but as an individual, her quiet, unassertive attitude reflects her inadequacies and lack of courage. Anne has the role of head psychiatrist to her family and friends. Everybody chooses to voice their complaints about everything to Anne. When Anne arrives at Upper cross she listens to several problems from four different points of view.
Mary complains about Mrs. Musgrove, Mrs. Musgrove complains about Mary. Mary complains about Charles, Charles complains about Mary. Henrietta and Louisa complain about Mary. They all want Anne to persuade the other party that they need to make a change. Poor Anne has to listen to everybody's complaints, but who listens to Anne? No other character has the patience or the concern to listen to Anne's problems, although Anne's are more significant.
Still, Anne submits to filling the role of the passive listener. When Anne's nephew Charles is involved in an accident she takes better care of the child than do his own parents. She is automatically the one to passively acquiesce to taking care of him. Anne does not resist the assumption that she will always comply when requested to be the nurse or caretaker.
Anne has had to deal with emotional pain because she lost the man of her dreams. She also left him, not through her own will, but because she was persuaded by Lady Russell that it was the right thing to do. Part of the tragedy is that she has coped with it. Anne is somebody who accepts her life as it is, and is fully prepared to settle down to spinsterhood, and die an old maid. She doesn't expect Wentworth to come back, but through a turn of luck, he wanders back into her life. Anne did not search for her fate, but rather inactively awaited for her life to unfold.
Would she have gotten together with Wentworth had Louisa not fallen? I argue that she would have continued to contain her regret for the past and repress her feelings for Wentworth, had there not been a turn of events. The common view during the early 19th century was that women were in charge of private life, while men were in charge of public life. Because women were not in public life, they could not own property or inherit land from their fathers, – they had no legal rights. Thus, the only route to financial stability open to women was through marriage. During this time, women were not typically powerful or authoritative, yet a woman could still be aggressive or insistent...
Women gained rights and power through money and the family to which they belonged. And so, one can argue that marriage was a defining component of a woman's life at this time, as it gave an identity to a woman. If Anne could not be assertive in a situation involving her class and societal position, there wasn t much more for her in life.