Discuss the significance of this passage in your reading of the novel Persuasion written by Jane Austen
* Look closely at the effects of the writing in the passage
* Comment on ways in which the passage relates to the novel’s methods and concerns
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This passage plays a vital role in displaying Anne’s feelings, something that hasn’t been accounted for too often in the novel so far. Austen uses several effects in creating just the right atmosphere she wants to emphasise the anticipation and tension in the passage between Anne and Captain Wentworth.
From the very beginning of the passage, the reader can feel the build of tension to the final moment that Anne and Captain Wentworth will meet again at last. This tension was helped by all the times they very nearly met and yet never did. And so when the reader comes to this section of the novel, the sense of anxiety and pressure really hits its climax and the reader is forced to empathise with Anne and Wentworth on meeting again for the first time, which then implies the high significance of this passage.
Austen uses repetition in this passage to emphasise the nervous relief in Anne’s speech. For example, after meeting Wentworth, she says, “It is over! It is over!” This encourages the reader to acknowledge her liberation even though we know it may not have been the best outcome she could have hoped for. The repetition of “It is over” suggests that even if she isn’t happy with how it turned out, she is at least happy that she has seen him and the moment has been and gone. There is also the repetition of “Eight years”. This reinforces the knowledge that the readers have already been informed of, but it also shows us how ambivalent she seems to be. At first, throughout the penultimate paragraph, she claims eight years is such a long time and exclaims how pathetic she feels having such strong feelings after such a long time. This allows the reader to see her abilities to try and reason with herself as perhaps only one as level headed and realistic as Anne could. However, this deems to be unsuccessful and in the end she yields to her own attempt at persuasion and claims that eight years is in fact “little more than nothing”.
Another effect that contributes to the anxiety from Anne is the use of short sentences, for example “She had seen him. They had met. They had been once more in the same room.” This is vastly a contradiction to the previous passages in the novel where Austen has used extremely lengthy sentences. This helps to emphasise the short sentences even more, because the reader would not be used to them. As well as this, it also emphasises the shock that Anne was experiencing as a result of meeting Captain Wentworth again. It also creates a very dramatic effect of the event that just took place. It seems that Anne may, almost, be over exaggerating a little on how important it was. However, it cannot be denied that it would certainly seen as significant by her.
The use of exclamations, “banished into distance and indistinctness!” shows us that Anne is hysterical and flustered with the events that had just happened. Again, it emphasises Austen’s intentions of making the reader try to empathise with Anne. This is combined with repeated rhetorical questions, again showing how apprehensive Anne is. The use of rhetorical questions shows us that Anne is unsure with herself and her own decisions. This adds to her characterisation and helps the reader to know what she is thinking about everything, even if it is mixed feelings.
It also is effectively tense because of the lack of direct speech whilst she meets Wentworth. It all described in not very much detail and has a fast pace. This ensures that all that is said is vital to the reader and there is no useless information. This increases the tension in the atmosphere at this point in the novel and adds to the climactic feel of the passage. The short sentences contribute to the fast pace of the passage that almost creates a sort of exhilarating tone to the passage.
The use of free indirect discourse is especially significant in this passage mainly because it is one of the first times that we see Anne’s strong expression of her extremely strong emotions. Towards the end of the passage, this method becomes extremely dominant, with the use of Anne trying to persuade herself that it’s not a big deal. This relates, of course, to one of the novels main concerns of persuasion and how Anne finds it incredibly difficult to keep her own mind and not be persuaded. Here, she very easily isn’t persuaded by herself. It seems that Anne is not only insignificant to those around her, but also to herself as well. It emphasises the busyness of her mind and how she tried to make herself feel better but fails to succeed, because of her lack of strong will. This reminds us of how weak she was when she turned down Captain Wentworth; this is the exact character flaw he sees in her and why he won’t take her back. Austen really emphasises her attempts to persuade herself that it doesn’t matter that she didn’t speak to him and that it has been such a long time, but in the end this has no effect. This is signified with “Alas!” and with that we know that Anne had backed down yet again.
This is a real turning point in Austen’s presentation of Anne’s thoughts and feelings throughout the novel. Up until now, Anne has been displayed as insignificant and unimportant. Her thoughts have only ever been displayed through free indirect discourse and she has barely spoken a word. People disregard her opinions and ignored what she had to say. This was mirrored in Austen’s presentation of Anne, but this passage sees a strong representation of Anne’s thoughts and feelings. There is a sense of hyperbole with the use of words like “banished” and “eight years may be little more than nothing”. This shows us really how significant this moment is for Anne. She feels the need to express herself so strongly. This means that the reader really will get a sense of Anne is feelings, perhaps for one of the first times in the novel.
One could argue that Austen satirises the romanticism and drama of this passage. For example, it is made hugely dramatic when she writes “Her eye half met Capt. Wentworth’s, a bow, a curtsey passed.” It seems almost too dramatic, like a modern day romantic film. The description of the bow and curtsey are made to sound so formal, which perhaps would not be expected by Anne considering they were once an item. One may say that Austen makes fun of the romanticism of this time by over exaggerating and using such hyperbolic language. It adds to the climax in an over dramatic tone, creating a tense atmosphere between the two characters.
In conclusion, this passage is a huge climax to what we have read so far. This makes it highly significant for the reader as we see the first interactions between two vital characters after a very awkward farewell, eight years ago. The use of free indirect discourse, characteristic of Austen, really shows the reader how passionate Anne is about Wentworth, even if she knows she doesn’t have a chance with him anymore. Austen effectively creates huge amounts of tension and anxiety in the atmosphere, making it a point of excitement for the reader, which may not yet have been felt. This makes it significant in the novel as a whole. The passage continues the concern of persuasion even though it is Anne trying to persuade herself. It may also contribute to the idea that Austen is mocking the romanticism of this time by over exaggerating. Overall, the passage is highly significant, because of the events. This is assisted by the effects and methods that Austen continuously uses throughout the novel to build tension and climax.