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One of the key points of interest about this novel is that it explores the expectations of what it means to be masculine and feminine, in relation to both domestic life and public life. At the time that Jane Austen was writing the understanding was that the man would be responsible for financial and legal matters and that the woman would take care of the house. The Crofts are a couple that represent a potentially ideal version of marriage in that there are no distinct boundaries in their roles as husband and wife.
The hero of Persuasion is Anne Elliot who develops a romantic relationship with the Naval man Wentworth who she had spurned the offer of marriage from eight years before the action of the novel begins. Like all of Austen’s central characters, and like us as readers, Anne experiences both happiness and sadness in her day to day life. Like other Austen heroes, too, Anne enjoys reading and is particularly responsive to nature poetry.
As in Austen’s other novels, the drama of the story is based around the conflict and connections between private and public life and inner and outer lives of the characters. Connecting these concepts is Jane Austen’s recurrent interest in the relationship between reason and emotion or overt displays of thought and feeling in contrast with reticence. In chapter ten, Anne walks to Winthrop and on the walk her feelings are both accentuated and counterpointed by the nature poetry that she reads. As in other Austen novels, reading and literature hold important, enriching places in peoples’ private lives. This event is an ideal example of how, in all of Jane Austen’s novels, when characters take a walk it is often as a way for character development to be expressed as characters talk with each other or quietly reflect on past events. Here is an excerpt from chapter ten:
“Anne's object was not to be in the way of anybody; and where the narrow paths across the fields made many separations necessary, to keep with her brother and sister. Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling. She occupied her mind as much as possible in such-like musings and quotations; but it was not possible, that when within reach of Captain Wentworth's conversation with either of the Miss Musgroves, she should not try to hear it; yet she caught little very remarkable. It was mere lively chat, such as any young persons, on an intimate footing, might fall into. He was more engaged with Louisa than with Henrietta.”
Anne is a very believably written character and, again, the example of this protagonist reminds us of how Austen’s novels have something ‘timeless’ about them as they do not dwell too overtly on the details of the time in which the story is set. As such, Austen’s writing allows our imaginations to place the characters in a context that is familiar to us, wherever we may be living.