Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Appreciating Persuasion

So a couple days ago I got to thinking about Jane Austen's "most mature" novel, Persuasion, and I realized that I've really changed towards the story since I first read it five years ago.  When I first read it, I thought it was a bit boring (FORGIVE ME, I WAS TWELVE) - it’s a  story about an introverted, very-old-to-preteen-me, not necessarily pretty woman whom everyone walks all over and treats like dirt.  Basically, Cinderella with no mice or pumpkins or princes who instantly fall in love with you even though they’ve never seen you before.  Ahem. The film adaptation had none of the wit and sparkle of Pride and Prejudice and very little dialogue between the protagonists.  At the time I also thought both the book and the film to be very passionless and tame.
Now, over the years, I have developed a rule: if one does not appreciate a certain book, one must reread it over and over until he or she learns to appreciate it.  That’s what I did with Jane Eyre - but that’s another post - and that’s what I did with Persuasion.  And finally, on perhaps the third reading, I got it.  I learnt to admire Anne’s faithfulness and patience, got to understand Wentworth’s frustration with her (though for the first half of the book I still mentally shout at him that Anne loves him and he loves Anne and they need to just make it up already), understood the subtle (and the not-so-subtle) humor, appreciated the ongoing references to poetry and it’s effects on the temperament, and finally the book started playing in my head like a film, the way all good books do.  I got so into the “letter scene” that even now I can see it vividly in my imagination, just as I did when I read it.  I think for a while there I started to think that what Miss Austen was describing was happening to me.  My heartbeat quickened and I was in agonies for the few minutes it took to get and read the Captain’s letter.  This is how you know that a book is good.
As for the film, the second time I watched it, I payed more attention to the facial expressions and realized how talented the acting was, nearly everything conveyed in glances and stares.  (Of course, the scene where Anne runs down the streets like a hoyden still makes me want to throw things.)
This is probably going to sound cliché and stuck-up, but I really think Persuasion is just one of those books that takes some maturity and thoughtfulness to appreciate.  I’ll probably get even more out of it if I read it again when I’m more mature myself.
This has been your literary ramble of the day.  You’re welcome.


  1. That's very interesting – I've never paid much attention to that particular story, but perhaps someday I will.

  2. You should see the 1995 movie.


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