Development of the narrative

Moving from place to place

As in three of Jane Austen's other novels, Persuasion opens with its heroine leaving home. We watch Anne Elliot travel from Kellynch, to Uppercross, to Lyme, to Bath, and into the world beyond as she contemplates her life as a sailor's wife. This movement from place to place assists the development of various aspects of the narrative:

  • Each place has its own distinct atmosphere which casts a certain light on the events and interactions that occur there
  • It enables Anne's character to unfurl as she moves from the stifling and sterile atmosphere at Kellynch to places where she is increasingly less marginalised
  • It helps advance the theme of change in societal attitudes and the expansion of thoughts and ideas
  • It exposes us to different social groups and helps us to understand what they signify as we see them interact with one another and with Anne.


There is actually very little physical description of people and places in Persuasion. Since the novel was set in the present, Jane Austen's contemporary readers would have needed little help to imagine the surroundings. She tended to include only as much description as was needed to understand the story. The lack of detail has several important effects:

  • The narrative moves more quickly without the interruption of descriptive passages
  • We understand the characters as much through their interaction with one another as through the narrative description of them
  • As there are so few descriptive passages, they have more weight when they do occur and we pay more attention to them.

The most descriptive passages are of the walk across the fields to Winthrop, and down to the Cobb at Lyme:

  • Jane Austen's use of adjectives gives the passages a poetic quality not seen elsewhere in the novel
  • Both situations emphasise Anne's state of mind:
    • The autumnal scene echoes Anne's loss of youth, love, and hope
    • The scene at Lyme foreshadows the lightening of Anne's spirits that will occur there.
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