Location representing change

The heroine of Persuasion moves from place to place more than any of Jane Austen's other female protagonists:

  • Anne's movement echoes the increasing mobility of society: professional people could hope to improve their status by adapting to new locations
  • Anne's physical movement reflects her inner journey as she gains the confidence to express and follow her instincts
  • Each location has a particular effect on Anne, and she on it.

Kellynch Hall (Chapters 1-4)

This family seat of the Elliots is a symbol of the power that families with wealth and land held in British society at that time:

  • When the Crofts move in, that power is symbolically inverted, as the new professional classes take over
  • The emotional atmosphere at Kellynch is cold and sterile. In it, Anne's unnurtured spirit has faded along with her looks.

Uppercross (Chapters 5-10, and 13)

The Great House was built in the traditional style, but the Musgrove sisters have added bits and pieces to the interior in an attempt to update it. The combination of these two elements results in a kind of jolly chaos which symbolises the state of British society as it transitions from the old order to the new. The effect on the house is not shown to be unpleasant and leads us to believe the same could be true of a society undergoing changes.

Uppercross Cottage (Chapters 5-10)

The overly eye-catching and unsympathetic updates that the cottage has undergone are symbolic:

  • Mary is preoccupied with status and tries to be at the centre of attention, reflected by fashionable ‘innovations' to her home
  • Its faded and worn interior:
    • Reflects Mary's ennui, which Anne has to work so hard to cajole her out of
    • Suggests the wearing effect of the landed gentry's disregard for its social responsibilities.

Lyme (Chapter 11and12)

It is clear from Jane Austen's letters that she had a fondness for Lyme, arising from visits she and her family made there. She chooses this seaside town for her pivotal scene and describes the beauty of the town and its environs more lyrically than usual:

  • The vitality of its rock formations, bays and lush greenness is the backdrop for improvements made to the town, the two combining to make a very attractive setting
  • This is where Anne first meets the Harvilles and is struck by the cosiness of their small house
  • The combination of the natural setting, town and the lodgings of the naval family serves to underscore that the navy itself is a combination of ‘old wonders' (good morals, a good work ethic and devotion to duty) and ‘new improvements' (their rising status in society)
  • In Lyme, the Harvilles have created an atmosphere of unaffected hospitality which prompts Louisa to give utmost credit to the navy.

Bath (Chapters 14-24)

Jane Austen was not a fan of Bath and gives us an impression of it which contrasts the one we have of Lyme. In this way she symbolises the contrast between the landed gentry and the up-and-coming naval officers:

  • Anne dreads being in Bath and sees it as an imprisonment in contrast to the expansive atmosphere of Lyme
  • The sterile elegance of Sir Walter and Elizabeth's lodgings is set against the snugness of the Harvilles' home
  • Bath society has a polish that conceals an emotional poverty, as opposed to the unaffected manners and sincerity of the naval officers
  • Bath society depends on addresses and titles as indicators of rank and worth, instead of the substance of character that defines the worth of the Harvilles, despite their lowly and inexpensive accommodation.

Investigating location

  • Why do you think Jane Austen chose Bath as the setting for the fulfilment of Anne and Wentworth's relationship?
  • What may she be trying to integrate?
  • What might Austen be saying about how the personal may affect society at large?
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