Austen in August: Week 3, Susan Kaye

Austen in August/PersuasionWelcome to the Jane Started It! portion of AUSTEN IN AUGUST. I want to thank MISTY, mistress of THE BOOK RAT blog, for hosting this wonderful, last chance, all-out, Austencentric book read of the summer. I am particularly happy with her choice of Austen novels, PERSUASION.  To say it is my favorite novel would be an understatement. I have grown to love Anne Elliot over the years, and I am a bona fide FREDERICK FANGIRL. (There are some who like the designation, Wentworth Wench, but I’m not fond of that.)  Anyway, I’m happy to talk Persuasion with anyone who will stand still.

Misty gave us some great questions to start with. My compatriots, LAURA HILE and ROBIN HELM will be posting answers here as well. Check back everyday to join the conversation.

I chose two questions from the last section. The first: Discuss one of the biggest fangirl-inducing moments on Austen: “The Letter,” did you know the ending was originally written without “The Letter” in it? Do you think the overall perception of the story would change without “The Letter”?

When I think about the two different endings of Persuasion, I can’t help but think, “Thank Heaven for rewrites!” The original ending of Persuasion has Frederick and Anne getting back together in the company of the Crofts, but it is pretty thin gruel when compared to the “new” material. I love the letter, but I love the following chapters even more. On the page, Wentworth apologizes and admits his knuckleheadedness, and he elaborates on that when they take a little stroll on The Gravel Walk. Then, at the evening party, he goes even further in admitting he wanted to write her in the year ’08 when he’d returned from the Indies, but was too proud. “Six years of separation and suffering might have been spared.”

The letter is his admission of guilt in being unjust to her and of his own pain, but to me his admitting, face-to-face that he made mistakes in how he behaved with the Musgrove girls, how he perceived her in the past, and now that he could have ended the entire painful separation had he acted shows me that he’s probably learned his lesson and is going to be far more mindful of his actions as a husband.

As I say, I love the letter. Some of the phrases are the most wonderful lines in the book, but it’s the scenes that follow are the real heart of the relationship of Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot. They have so few scenes with any real interaction that those following the letter are sweeter for it.

Question #2: On reflection, are you bothered by the fact that Anne is essentially put in the same position—to give up the life she knows and loves—for Wentworth, and that the same is never expected of him. Does this bother your modern sensibilities, or do you think the right decision was made?

I don’t see there was another decision to make. Anne had an existence that played out in locations completely under the control of others. She may have loved Kellynch Hall, but her connection would end, unless she married Mr. Elliot, with the death of her father. Her only hope after that was being taken in by either Lady Russell or her sister, Mary. Marrying Frederick gained her a position in society—yes, attached to a man, but at least he, unlike her father, LOVED her—and opened the chance that she would have borne him children, who would offer her a place in the future. If they had not had children, she would have had his estated upon his death. I can’t see that Frederick would have been the sort to put Anne under the control of someone else.

I’m intrigued by the idea that, to be fair, perhaps Frederick should have given up something. Pray, what? His career? I’ve messaged with people who thought it only fair that he give up his career and stay home with Anne. 20k to 25k in the bank wouldn’t have afforded them a very comfortable lifestyle. At the usual 3%, that would have only been about 600 pounds a year. (The Dashwoods had about 500 and were barely scraping by.) I guess they could have lived with Sir Walter. Of course Anne would have been in a pickle after Frederick murdered her father.  I suppose they could have lived with Sophia and the Admiral. That would have put Anne back at Kellynch, but not as the mistress. I don’t see Frederick as the sort of guy who would be comfortable living off his family in any circumstance.

Besides, I think Anne admired the fact that he was a self-made man. That blue and gold uniform had an attractive shine to it. Who knows, maybe the ’95 adaptation was right and Frederick put aside his objection to women on ships took Anne on his next voyage.

No one, in any age, had, has, or will have it all. Life is a series of concessions. The key is choosing who you will compromise with and how far are you willing to go.

Join the chatter.

Thanks for dropping by.

Take care–Susan Kaye

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7 thoughts on “Austen in August: Week 3, Susan Kaye

  1. Robin Helm

    I am ALL about the letter – but more on that in my post tomorrow.

    I don’t think either of them gave up anything to be together – again, more about that tomorrow.

    Life is definitely a series of concessions and compromises. People who are unwilling to bend will eventually break.

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  2. AmyFlo

    I’m actually bothered by the question about Anne giving up everything to be with Wentworth. With the exception of Emma, all of Austen’s heroines (and some supporting characters i.e. Charlotte Lucas) “give up” everything when they marry. It’s the society of the time. But I don’t know enough about that to really comment any further than to say it wasn’t an isolated incident.

    And judging from Anne’s life before she married him, she didn’t give up anything she’d miss. She was neglected at Kellynch, taken advantage of at Uppercross, and she disliked Bath. In Lyme, she even thought, with regret, that *this* was the life she would have had had if she’d married Wentworth in 1806. That gives me the impression that she wanted a different life. As long as it was with Frederick, she would be happy (even with the threat of war to dim that happiness, to paraphrase). And she didn’t really give up the people that mattered. She gained a loving sister in Sophy (and a fun brother in the Admiral), she kept in contact with Lady Russell (who even comes to terms with Wentworth) and Mrs. Smith. She wouldn’t have hand Kellynch anyway. At least in marrying Wentworth, they could visit as in-laws for a little while before Mr. Elliot moves in.

    Your assessment of The Letter (and the scenes that follow it) is perfect and lovely and makes me want to read them all over again and pretend, in my mind’s eye, CH and AH acting them out. Especially Anne’s little smile when he says in his mind, she could never alter.

    Thank you, Susan, for posting your thoughts so we can discuss!

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  3. Candy M

    You summed it up perfectly at the end:

    “No one, in any age, had, has, or will have it all. Life is a series of concessions. The key is choosing who you will compromise with and how far are you willing to go.”

    I quite agree!

    Oh, and I love The Letter! 😉

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  4. Sharron Gerhard

    I do love the letter, but as I said, the one-on-one scenes after are more appealing to me because they reveal the hearts of the individuals. The Letter is a great lead-in and is wonderfully poetic in it’s delivery. It’s certainly something that as a woman and the recipient, I’d keep and cherish for the rest of my life.

    @AmyFlo, It certainly was the society of the time that required women move in very strictured directions. And Anne gained far more than she ever gave up, IMO. We moderns are bristly when it comes to their limited choices and I suppose it’s a sort of umbridge for our sisters, but I sometimes wonder if we are not nearly as free as WE think we are, and that even in their “cloister,” our sisters in the past had a freedom we don’t understand.

    @Candy M, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It’s always nice to have a ittle back and forth.

    @Robin, We wil be on the road tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to seeing your post and getting your take on this part of Persuasion.

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  5. Robin Helm

    I have really enjoyed this Austen in August read of Persuasion. Tomorrow, my post will concern whether or not Anne’s family would ever accept Wentworth, or if she is in effect permanently separating herself from her family. I apologize in advance for the length of the post, but I felt that I could not do it justice without quoting the portions which supported my points.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, ladies. I hope to see you all again tomorrow. Your ideas and contributions are very interesting.

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

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