Structure by theme

Recurrent themes in Persuasion help to shape the novel. One of the central ideas is morality and manners. Jane Austen explores the attitudes to this as exemplified by two different groups:

On one side are Anne, the naval group, and Mrs. Smith:

  • Anne values morality and supports her beliefs with the appropriate manners
  • The naval group is shown to have less refined manners, but this does not undermine their virtue, thus showing that morals are more important than manners
  • Mrs. Smith also combines Christian virtue with good manners. That she can exhibit these in the context of her poverty demonstrates that integrity does not have to be limited to the wealthy.

On the other side are Sir Walter, Elizabeth, Mary, William Elliot, Mrs. Clay, and the Dalrymples:

  • Their vanity and preoccupation with themselves and their status runs counter to Christian morality, demonstrating their manners to be a sham
  • The Dalrymples illustrate that it is possible to have all the advantages of wealth and yet lack moral authenticity.

From these examples we can see how theme provides a structure which supports the interweaving of different components of the novel.

Investigating the structuring of Persuasion according to theme
  • Consider how the following recurrent themes of the novel provide structure
    • Love and marriage
    • The changing role of women
    • Parents and children
    • Society and the individual
    • Persuasion and resolve
    • Appearance and reality
  • Explore their relationship with other components of the novel. 
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