Of Things Unseen: Finding the Estate in Jane Austen’s Persuasion
In Persuasion, Jane Austen draws a connection between Anne Elliot's loss of the Kellynch Hall estate and the pervasive presence of war. Expanding upon Favret's (2010) valuable discussion of Persuasion as a record of the Napoleonic Wars, I put forward that the war assumes symbolic significance as an expression of Anne's loss of the estate. Both are conditions defined by uncertainty, disorder, and a lack of security. For this reason, the members of the navy with whom Anne establishes friendships, in particular Admiral Croft and Captains Harville and Wentworth, provide her with the most satisfactory model for living that she will encounter upon leaving the estate; their experiences under conditions of war are similar to her own dislocation from Kellynch. Anne appreciates the idea of peace these men have established upon the creative capacity of the individual. While Monaghan (1980) suggests that Anne's failure to find an adequate substitute for the estate represents a key weakness of Persuasion, I suggest instead that this is, in fact, the novel's greatest strength. Austen deliberately divorces her heroine from place in order to affirm the estate as an essentially spiritual, rather than physical, institution. Anne is therefore challenged in a way no other of Austen's heroines has been; she is challenged both to believe in, and cultivate, an ideal which she is no longer able to see.
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University of Victoria