Structure through time

A natural rhythm

In Jane Austen's novels, time passes chronologically as it does in real life. Typically, the action of her novels spans less than a year. Although there were some errors in her novels, Jane Austen is generally very precise about her months, days and holidays. Critics believe that she consulted almanacs to help her achieve this.

Persuasion has a sense of the natural progression of time which adds to its realism:

  • The novel begins in the autumn and ends in early spring. It is the only novel set in a particular year (1814 - 15)
  • The story is punctuated with references to the seasons of the year, as well as to months and feast-days.

Looking to the past

Persuasion differs from Austen's other novels in that its story is dependent on a love affair that took place eight years prior to the opening of the book. This gives the book a retrospective quality:

  • The allusions to this event by the narrator, as well as by Anne and Captain Wentworth, create a reference point that exists outside the time-span of the novel
  • Anne frequently dwells on this past relationship. She perceives Wentworth in the light of her prior knowledge of him, so despite his detachment and absence from much of the action, we are able to get to know him
  • The delay of the union of the hero and heroine means that they are more mature, and that Anne has grown through this period of suffering
  • The eight years that have elapsed since Wentworth and Anne were together are repeatedly mentioned by Anne in Volume 1 and then by Wentworth in Volume 2. This highlights the long period of Anne's youth that has been lost to grieving for her initial choice not to marry him
  • At the end of the novel, Anne's optimistic outlook toward the future stands out from her melancholy reflections on the past.
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