A Discussion of the Romantic Element in Austen's Persuasion

"[A] persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness as a very resolute character." (Persuasion, Ch. 12)

Persuasion seems to draw on the deep divide in the two then contemporary forms of the novel - one based on Augustan values, in which the rational precedes the irrational, and the second based on Romanticist taste, in which the inner world of imaginings precedes the outer world of evidence. While Austen's earlier novels had consistently affirmed an Augustan taste, in Persuasion she seems to concede some validity to the Romantic view, and at least leaves the reader to ponder an ambivalent response to the question of whether Anne Elliot acted correctly in succumbing to Lady Russell's persuasion, when her initial, instinctive desire for a relationship with Captain Wentworth remained ultimately unchanged. Broadly, the issue becomes whether Anne was correct in letting herself be led by seemingly well-intentioned caution, or whether she would have been better advised to take a risk and follow the dictates of her heart.

And though Austen makes an attempt to chart out a middle course between these two options, this debate is nowhere more manifest than in the closing chapters, where Austen...

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