Rachel - otherwise known as Hamlette for most people - is here with a guest post for you all! She blogs regularly at her book blog and her movies-and-other-stuff blog; I always enjoy what she writes. :-) Thank you so much for writing for me, Rachel!
My favorite Jane Austen novel is Persuasion, and has been since I first read it as a teen. I'd previously read three of her other books, but I didn't love any of them, and I was starting to wonder why I didn't understand how Jane Austen was awesome. Then I got to Persuasion, somewhere around the age of 18, and I understood at last. I loved the characters, the themes, the overall story -- but mostly Anne Elliot herself.
Anne's problems stem from being too agreeable and too helpful, and since those are traits I actually value, I instantly wanted to befriend her, fictionally speaking. And wanting to be fictional friends with characters is a pretty big thing for me -- it's what makes me love a book versus just liking it. When you add in a guy like Captain Frederick Wentworth, who has spent all these years trying to stop loving Anne and failing utterly... well, it's almost impossible for this to not be my favorite.
Like I said, the characters aren't all that draws me to Persuasion. I also love the themes Austen explores, themes like second chances, duty versus desire, and the importance of understanding one's self. And I'm especially fond of how Austen explores the idea that it's far more dangerous to persuade yourself of something untrue than to allow others to persuade you.
For years, I had assumed the title referred to Anne Elliot allowing Lady Russell to persuade her not to marry Frederick Wentworth. But after my most recent re-read, I've realized it refers more to how Anne and Wentworth both persuaded themselves regarding that previous relationship. Anne persuaded herself that she was acting for Wentworth's good when she gave him up, that their marriage would have damaged his career. Wentworth, angry and heartbroken, persuaded himself that Anne was weak and timid. He then spent eight years persuading himself he had forgotten her, only to discover that he could neither stop loving her nor forget her.
If Anne and Captain Wentworth had not worked so hard to delude themselves, perhaps they could have spent the previous eight years happily together, rather than lonely and apart. On the other hand, over those years they had both learned what life alone was like, and now will very likely value being together all the more. Either way, I love their story and learn something new from Persuasion every time I re-read it.
What do you think of Persuasion?