"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 6
It took about three years, but we got the Club back together again . . . Or did we???
I'm reminded of the Ship of Theseus--the question of whether a ship whose parts are all gradually replaced over time remains the same ship in the end. (And now I also wonder how our answer to this has changed since we learned that all the cells in the human body are replaced every seven years.) Yes, I'm still around--to the great annoyance of my imaginary detractors (Hi, guys!)--but I don't think that anyone else who joined the first five Book Club meetings will show up for the next five (or more).
Anyway, I hope you've brought the refreshments, because I never remember them in time.
Chapters 1 to 4
If you've come this far in your reading, then you know that Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth are what we would call each other's "exes." (What an unromantic term, aye?) They were engaged to be married for a while, but Anne was persuaded (Ahem!) to break the engagement by a well-meaning older woman, who worried that Captain Wentworth--not yet tried in his career--would prove a bad risk in marriage.
Now, I usually don't like using images from a screen adaptation in a discussion of a novel, but I thought the sight of Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth would help everyone see why Anne was so smitten with him--and why her godmother Lady Russell was so alarmed. (Or maybe I just want an excuse to comb through the image search results for the perfect Captain Wentworth picture and embed it.)
Captain Wentworth had no fortune. He had been lucky in his profession, but spending freely, what had come freely, had realised nothing. But, he was confident that he should soon be rich;--full of life and ardour, he knew that he should soon have a ship, and soon be on a station that would lead to everything he wanted. He had always been lucky; he knew he knew he should be so still.
Jane Austen, as narrator, also underlines his "confidence, powerful in its own warmth, and bewitching in the wit which often expressed it" and his "sanguine temper, and fearlessness of mind,"--both as admirable to Anne as they were horrifying to her godmother.
So what do you think? Was Lady Russell right to advise Anne to break off the engagement at once?
As for Anne herself, Austen sets her up so that we have to love her, mentioning her "elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding," and adding that her silly father has never appreciated her properly. But we soon see that even people for whom Anne is "placed high" actually don't have any "real understanding" of her mind and character. Lady Russell obviously never imagined that Anne had it in her to remain in love with a man despite not seeing him or hearing from him in over seven years.
I had a professor who liked to look for "the Lady Catherine de Bourgh" in every Austen novel. I think we've found the one in Persuasion. =)
But back to our heroine now . . .
She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older--the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.
What isn't natural is that one get a second chance. My edition of Persuasion has an Introduction by Gillian Beer, who juxtaposes Anne's lost love to Austen's own lost love, and describes this novel as a "ghost story" in which a love that should be dead, comes back to life.
And you know, that is exactly why I wanted to read it this month.
I hope it's as good a read for you as it is turning out to be for me. =)
Image Sources: a) Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth, b) Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot