Here we are in week 3 of our Persuasion Read-a-long. This week we get a short emotional break from the tension between Anne and Captain Wentworth. It doesn’t last long, but we shift in that time to Mr. Walter Elliot, the heir and distant cousin.
So, when I wrote my modernization, two characters generated a lot of changes through my draft. One was Mrs. Clay and the other was Mr. Elliot. For much the same reason: greed wasn’t a theme I wanted to focus on and it is at the heart of what both characters motivation. In case of Mrs. Clay, it is what people fear is motivating her. In the case of Mr. Elliot, as we learn in this section, it is entirely what is motivating him. It’s not that greed or assumed greed are absent from modern motivations, it simply was going to distract from my main themes of second chances and the emotions tied to regret.
I always struggle with Mr. Elliot, but the entire system of inheritance always rubs me the wrong way. That, in a family of all daughters, one sister had a strong motivation to marry the heir. Austen plays with this issue repeatedly, Pride & Prejudice being the other novel where it is a major motivating factor. Part of me likes that he is trying to repair a bridge he burned, but knowing that he is insincere plays him against both Anne and Captain Wentworth. They regret, but in the end have a deep desire to repair. Mr. Elliot enchants so many, but young Captain Wentworth pushed so many buttons. Neither had/has money, but one has the power of future position. It says so much about British culture that you can have nothing but a title and still be considered better than those who have plenty, but lack title. It’s a constant theme in Austen’s work too.
What Mr. Elliot does best is provide more tension between Anne and Captain Wentworth. It is the one moment when I wish we were seeing things from Wentworth’s point of view rather than Anne’s. There is no tension for Anne other than what she recognizes in the man she loves. His anxiety causes her anxiety. I keep stopped and yelling “JUST KISS ALREADY!” I do that a lot in this section of the story.
What about you? What did you take away from this section? Any favorite quotes? Any irritations? Share them in the comments!