Should Anne Have Yielded to Persuasion?

Persuasion, Week One

I am happy to introduce the second question in the Jane Started It! portion of Austen in August. I chose to answer this question from Misty, mistress of The Book Rat, about Persuasion: Do you think Anne was right to have yielded to the pressure of those close to her – to have been “persuaded” – not to accept Wentworth’s first proposal?

Right or wrong, it was within Anne’s character at that time to accept advice, particularly from Lady Russell. However, nineteen was certainly not too young to marry, especially during that time period, and in my opinion, she should have followed her own inclination. She truly loved Wentworth, but she put Lady Russell’s judgment above her own; she considered Lady Russell’s feelings more than she did Wentworth’s. While it was certainly reasonable for Anne to listen to the person who had taken her mother’s place in her heart, it was not wise. Consider that Anne had never been truly appreciated by her family. Wentworth acknowledged her fine qualities; he loved her when her own family did not.

Actually, I fault Lady Russell more than Anne, her father, or anyone else. Lady Russell used her influence to separate Anne from the only man she would ever love. Her advice cost Anne dearly and could have ruined her life had Anne not been given a second chance to prove her mettle. I find it interesting that even Lady Russell began to realize her error by the time Anne was twenty-two. An alliance with Charles Musgrove, which would have been beneath Anne at nineteen in Lady Russell’s opinion, was actually desired by the Lady after she had seen Anne’s bloom diminished by three years of pining for Wentworth.

Time for you to weigh in. Agree or disagree?

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22 thoughts on “Should Anne Have Yielded to Persuasion?

  1. Maria Grazia

    We can’t blame Anne for being the kind, gentle, generous creature she is. I think she was too young and too generous when she decided to renounce her happiness to avoid making her family and friends unhappy. Nowadays, it would be different, much different. But that is not the case …

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    1. Robin Helm

      I agree, and I fault Lady Russell far more than Anne. Lady Russell knew the influence she held over Anne, and she should have been very cautious with her advice.

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  2. Susan Kaye

    I agree with Robin that Anne wasn’t too young, she lived in a time when marriage for a woman was the primary goal in life. And I don’t even blame Lady Russell all that much. Wentworth’s wit was abhorrent to her and so the campaign to ruin his chances was on. His wit being a sticking point I think is truly genius on Austen’s part. Smart-mouthed young men who can’t discern when to keep quiet and when to speak are ALWAYS going to be the bane of older women.

    Anyway, Persuasion mentions that Lady Russell (LR) brought up the grinding poverty angle with Anne. Very realistic, but let’s face it, there was a lot of ammo in the older woman’s cannisters.

    1) “Your father does not approve, and to carry on the engagement, or worse, allow this man to take you away and be married with the Baronet’s approval would bring shame to the family.” 2) “What would your dear mother think?” 3) “Regardless of that man’s success, you shall never be welcome at Kellynch Hall again. You would never be able to bring your children to see their heritage.” 4) “Sailors are notorious for their, shall we say, appetites, Anne. Could you ever trust him when he is away from you?”

    The time between the proposal, when she still had some private hope and she had Frederick’s undivided attentions, along with LR working on her (love that Regency phrasing) had to be the most bittersweet of Anne’s life

    I also agree with Maria that it would all be different today. And that’s not to say the relationship would have been any more successful.

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    1. Robin Helm

      Bam. Hammer meet the nail on the head. Lady Russell had her guns in a row and all sited on Anne. The girl never had a chance.

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  3. Susan Kaye

    When Anne returned from Lyme and went to stay with Lady Russell, Lady Russell was pleased to see that Anne was “plumper” (and we know her cheeks were rosier ;-} ). I have to wonder if Lady Russell was ever horrified by the thought that it might have been Frederick’s presence that improved Anne’s looks.

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    1. Robin Helm

      I doubt it ever occurred to Lady Russell. I think she viewed it as finished business. Remember she told Anne that if Frederick had truly loved her, he would have stayed in touch with her, especially after he earned his fortune.

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        1. Robin Helm

          Ha! I’m caught. I have been quickly rereading the book in the last week, and I based my article entirely upon it. However, when you just now asked for the exchange between Lady Russell and Anne, I looked for it and could not find it. It was in the movie version with Rupert Penry-Jones. When Anne went to her bedroom after hearing who would rent the house, Lady Russell followed her. It was there that the remark was made. I’ll have to watch my p’s and q’s with you and Laura, Susan. You are the experts on this book.

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  4. Susan Kaye

    It’s the hazard of keeping true to the text that I know Persuasion so well. Now if I just let my mind go nuts and wrote what I wanted … that would be so much easier.

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      1. Susan Kaye

        I quit holding adaptations up to novels and vice versa long ago. I watch to enjoy a movie and read to enjoy a book, the two don’t intersect much anymore.

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  5. AmyFlo

    There are so many ways of looking at this question! My impression is that JA thought she made the right decision (given Anne’s speech later on). I can see the practical side of her yielding (and seeing the Prices’ lot in life is a fair consideration of what could have happened with Wentworth and Anne, although I shudder to think of Wentworth becoming like Fanny’s father). And the romantic in me says “How could you do that!?” Then there’s the question “would I have yielded?” There are so many approaches!

    So, at this moment, I’ll look at the resulting eight years following Anne’s decision. No, she should not have yielded. She put security above her heart, despite how she really felt. It resulted in eight years of faded, dampened spirits. She felt that she would have been happy with Frederick, no matter how his career played out. Leaving out all other variables (would their happiness really had survived utter poverty?), and just going with how Anne feels at the beginning of the novel. No, she shouldn’t have given into LR’s persuasion.

    My opinion will probably change tomorrow, nay, in an hour. So I’ll capture this one opinion for now.

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    1. Robin Helm

      I know what you mean, AmyFlo. I am of two minds on this as well, though I usually think she should have accepted him, married him, and taken her chances. What good did her security do her? She was never happy after he left.

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  6. Susan Kaye

    I think Anne did the only thing she could. Marrying Frederick would have been difficult as they would have had to go to Scotland or to one of the Channel Islands to marry. She would have been left alone because I’m betting FW would have taken her on Asp once he saw it. (No near sinkings for two years, but it was a floating bucket.) And he might not have taken her aboard Laconia either.

    It’s a situation that leaves no one happy, and everyone hoping for better in the future.

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    1. Robin Helm

      She was 19, two years under the age of consent. Perhaps should could have maintained her engagement to Frederick while he went to sea and married him after he left the Asp. By then, she would have been old enough. She should not have given him up entirely. He would have seen her determination to marry him, even against the wishes of her family, and he would have respected her decision.

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      1. Susan Kaye

        Austen wrote, “Young and gentle as she was, it might yet have been possible to withstand fer father’s ill-will … but Lady Russell … could not , with such steadfastness of opinion, and such tenderness of manner, be continually advising her in vain.”

        We know Frederick is a top-ranked letter-writer, but I don’t think even he could have kept Anne’s spirits up through that sort of daily grind.

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        1. Robin Helm

          Then my vote would have been a trip to Gretna Green. I’m starting to dislike Lady Russell more than I ever have before. Grrrrr…..

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          1. Susan Kaye

            I still go back to my first thought, you do whatever you must to “save” someone you love. Lady Russell loved Anne and feared for her future, and the future of her children. She’d already watched her dear friend ground down to powder by an unprosperous marriage. The risk that Wentworth was going to do to Anne what Sir Walter had done to Lady Elizabeth was too great. I think She did what she felt she had to do.

            Only in hindsight do we know that Frederick and Anne would have been fine. Frederick in a lot of ways admits that.

            It’s a sad story that is happy only in that they have a HEA.

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  7. Robin Helm

    Watching Frederick writhe in anguish when he finally realizes that he still loves Anne was entertaining. Loved the groveling.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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