The seasonal setting

A Romantic conceit

Autumn, photo by Martin Heiß, available through Creative CommonsPersuasion begins in the autumn. Although Jane Austen doesn't use many of the devices of Romantic literature, the interplay between the outer landscape and Anne's inner landscape is redolent of the Romantic tradition.

Negative connotations

The few descriptions of nature refer to its aura of sadness and melancholy as leaves fade and flowers fall:

  • Anne's grief at her estrangement from Captain Wentworth has faded her youthful bloom which is reflected in the fading bloom of nature
  • The autumnal landscape arouses feelings in Anne and prompts her to think poetically about her surroundings (Ch. 10). This foreshadows her conversation with Captain Benwick in the next chapter about the dangers of poetry on the grieving heart
  • The dreary drizzle of autumnal rain provides the backdrop when Anne is feeling especially low on her last day at Uppercross (Ch. 13 / Vol. 2, Ch. 1).

Positive connotations

  • Captain Wentworth points to the hazelnut as the symbol of inner fortitude. His comments are directed at Louisa, but it is Anne's fortitude that helps Louisa when her wilfulness results in injury
  • There is also the sense of the fruitfulness of autumn, as it in mid-November that Louisa's fall yields the opportunity for Captain Wentworth to rediscover Anne's qualities.

The novel ends with spring around the corner as Anne enters her ‘second spring of youth and beauty' (Vol. 2, Ch. 1 / Ch. 13) and the promise of a new life with Captain Wentworth.

Investigating Austen's use of nature
  • Jane Austen is careful to balance the more Romantic treatments of nature with more practical and realistic details.
  • How does she achieve this through her description of agriculture on the walk to Winthrop (Ch.10)?
  • Can you point to any other instances of this?
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