One feels affection for the protagonist Anne Elliot right from the start – in the company of her vain father Sir Walter Elliot and detestable sister Elizabeth Elliot – and progressively so throughout the novel. Characters are drawn to her maturity, and as a result she is well-loved by most of her family members and friends. Likewise, the reader feels a connection to her.
There is an inevitability to the conclusion – one feels – and the progress of the novel does increase the likelihood of Elliot’s eventual union with Captain Frederick Wentworth, after their unsuccessful engagement years ago. Expressions of regret and apprehension on the part of Elliot also contribute to this, yet the manner of reconciliation (albeit a rushed one) was interesting.
With the exception of the distant relation Mr. William Elliot there are no clear antagonists, and both the plot and setting are straightforward. Perhaps not the most exciting storyline – although there are a few unexpected events and developments – but it centres around Elliot, and the conversations and interactions she has with her counterparts endear her further to the reader. In addition the characters and their residences are tied to the locations, making for a compact read: Kellynch Hall (the family estate of the Elliots, which is let after financial difficulties established early in the novel), in Bath (where Sir Elliot and the eldest Elliot are), Uppercross Hall (the Musgroves), as well as the coastal town of Lyme Regis.
And this is my favourite passage from the novel, after Elliot’s conversation with Captain James Benwick, who was coping with the loss of his fiancée (Fanny Harville, the sister of Captain Harville) after returning from sea: “When the evening was over, [Anne Elliot] could not but be amused at the idea of her coming to Lyme to preach patience and resignation to a young man whom she had never seen before; nor could she help fearing, on more serious reflection, that, like many other great moralists and preachers, she had been eloquent on a point in which her own conduct would ill bear examination.”
The title “Persuasion” comes to mind – even though it was not decided by Jane Austen herself – because characters seek to influence or pressure one another, without necessarily understanding the implications and whether they may be right or wrong.