She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older–the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning. – Persuasion
When I’m in a slump, I always return to Austen. And, as all the recent adaptations, remakes, and attempts at imitation have shown, I am not the only one.
Like many Austen fans, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel, but I find that as I get older Persuasion is taking the lead. Like so many girls, I’d like to thing of myself as a Lizzy – quick and clever, and always ready for a challenge – but to be honest, I’m an Anne – introverted and far too thoughtful for my own good.
Persuasion, Austen’s last completed novel, is a story about second-chances. As with Austen’s other works (except possible Northanger Abbey), there is a strain of melancholy that pervades much of the story. Anne Elliot, 27 and unmarried, finds herself in this state after she allowed herself to be swayed by the upper-class pretensions of her family and her neighbor, Lady Russell. Having accepted an engagement with the hopeful but unemployed Frederick Wentworth when she was only 19, Anne was persuaded not to proceed with the engagement. Now at 27, Anne has little hope of ever leaving her father’s home, where she receives little attention, and even less appreciation, a matter that is only complicated by the family’s financial difficulties and the return of a long lost cousin, and a long lost lover.
Like all of Austen’s novels, on the surface, this is a marriage story with an unlikely heroine. After a few twists and turns, and some coincidences (hey, everyone knew everyone else’s business in Bath), the story ends with a happily ever after.
As I see it, what makes Persuasion such a wonderful story is Anne’s introspection – and this is why I find that none of the movie adaptations (regardless of great acting and scenery) have quite got it. Recently aired on Masterpiece Theatre, ITV’s latest version of Persuasion is a 98 minute sight-seeing tour of the English countryside, the seaside, and Bath. Beautifully directed though it may be, the film is so short that it only touches on the main points of the story – the Elliots move out, Anne goes to her sister’s house, the Crofts appear, Frederick comes back and ignores Anne, some moments of light jealousy, the trip to the sea, Mr. Elliot appears, then back to Bath and it all turns out all right in the end. However, the film does succeed in capturing Anne’s mood throughout the events, focusing on her perspective and the sadness that pervades much of the story. As a thorough adaptation of the novel, the ‘95 version still wins, though Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds will always be a bit too old for the parts that they played.