Movement, Mobility and Modernity

The solution to the Elliots’ problem is arrived at and presented deftly by the lawyer: Mr Shepherd is to rent Kellynch hall to one of the rich naval officers. This means the removal of Sir Walter and Elizabeth to Bath, and Anne is to visit Mary Musgrove and Lady Russell and then onto Bath. This introduces the world of the Navy into the sphere of formally fixed social order as Sir Walter epitomises an aristocracy unwilling to recognise a world of growing social mobility and transition. In an increasingly democratic society separations of roles emerge as Sir Walter fails in the job he is born into and enjoys the privileges of and individuals such as Admiral Croft assume roles they were not born into. In Persuasion we see the beginning then of a critique of established power systems since when the Elliots move out and the Crofts come in their place, Anne is struck that, "they were gone who deserved not to stay, and that Kellynch- Hall had passed into better hands than its owners" (Chapter XIII).

Thus, some radical critics have seen Austen as laying bare the cracks in the structure of the establishment and questioning the aristocracy’s fitness for government. Whilst Anne recommends and defends the Navy her father scornfully speaks of them, objecting to their lack of ancestry and weathered appearance:

"it is in two points offensive to me ... as being the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction ... and secondly, as it cuts up a man’s youth and vigour most horribly; a sailor grows old sooner than any other man". (Chapter III)

Here then we can see the superficiality of Sir Walter’s social standards and values hich is set against the deep respect Anne has for the navy and the identification she has with them. Mrs Croft, wife of the proposed tenant Admiral Croft, is the sister of a former curate of the district and hence, as Anne knows, of the Captain Wentworth to whom she was briefly engaged to eight years ago. So we see from the beginning a connection to the navy, which Anne later furthers in her enjoyable stay with the Harvilles at Lyme, her affection for the Crofts and her marriage to Captain Wentworth at the end of the novel.

We learn that Lady Russell, Anne’s fallible mentor, in line with her father advised Anne eight years ago against the match. She "deprecated the connexion in every light" due to Wentworth’s lack of fortune. Her class snobbery and "prejudices on the side of ancestry" and "value for rank and consequence" necessitated the abrupt end to Anne and Wentworth’s engagement. Here we can see the an critique against patriarchal privilege and its marital criteria, because not only does Captain Wentworth rise to social respectability and acceptability but such a prejudice induces eight years of misery for the heroine:

"Her attachment and regrets had, for a long time, clouded every enjoyment of youth, and an early loss of bloom and spirits had been their lasting effect". (Chapter IV)

Anne Elliot then listened to the arguments of society, the persuasions of family and prudence. However, as she gets older and matures, she experiences a change in sentiments. She appears as the reversal of heroine’s such as Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility as Anne learns to rate the dictates of the heart and private life over that of the public responsibilities and familial duty:

"She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning" (Chapter IV)

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