August 22, 2012

Persuasion Read Along #2

MIDDLE (chapters 8-18)

Here are my Persuasion read along questions for the middle part of the book. Once again, this read along is part of Austen in August, hosted by The Book Rat.

1. Now that we've gotten to know most of them a bit, discuss the side characters: who is your favorite? least favorite? Were there things Austen did with these side characters that you absolutely loved or hated?

Through the middle part of the book I continued to hate Anne's father and two sisters, although thankfully Mary is Anne's only relation that we really had to read about here. Mary acts like she's entitled, is selfish, petty, and a bad mother who doesn't care about her children. It made me so angry to read how Mary keeps putting Anne down, by refusing to recognize that Anne could actually  be a good caregiver for Louisa, by telling Anne that Benwick really does not like her, by a thousand little snide comments she makes. I kept hoping Mary would actually get sick and leave the story by becoming bedridden or dying. Nice of me, I know.

The majority of the side characters, or at least those in Lyme, I actually ended up liking. Charles Musgrove seems pretty decent, as do Captains Benwick and Harville. And the Crofts and Mrs. Harville are all also pretty good with me. Neither Louisa or Henrietta really gave me a reason to dislike them. And, in that same vein, I didn't really dislike Mrs. Clay, although it's clear that Anne does.

Of course Captain Wentworth is the enigma here for me who doesn't fit into any category very well.

2. As Anne and Wentworth are thrown together more and more, how do you feel about the fact that they never address their shared history? Do you find either to be irrational or unjust in not being open with the other and broaching the topic? Do you find Anne too self-sacrificing?

There is so much tension between Anne and Wentworth! Their actions towards each other, especially how they refuse to address their shared history, infuriated me to no end. While I would not call their inability to broach the topic irrational or unjust, I did find it to be rather immature. I understand it's a sore subject and a point of contention between them. But really they just want to ignore the elephant in the room? Anne is obviously just trying to suppress everything to avoid conflicts, which I realize is a part of her nature. She even makes a comment about how she's hardened herself against being in contact with him so that she no longer notices or is affected by him whenever he enters a room. I just think it's so sad that this is Anne's way of coping. I wanted to shake both of them and tell them to start acting like adults instead of teenagers who dated each other for a little while and can no longer speak or even look at each other.

3. Is there ever a time you dislike Capt. Wentworth? Were you put off by his treatment of Anne?

Yes, definitely. It bothered me to no end how Captain Wentworth allows Henrietta and Louisa to both vie for his affections. From the narration, I believe that he is fully aware of what he's doing here. As for his treatment of Anne, I believe that I kind of answer that above. I understand the situation is awkward between them, but why they both want the awkwardness to stay there and simmer between them makes no sense. 

4. Discuss the incidents at Lyme; consider Louisa's fall from the cob and Wentworth's subsequent praise of Anne, the appearance of Mr Elliot and his reaction to Anne (and Wentworth's reaction to him), etc.

Am I the only one who doesn't really understand what happened to Louisa? I interpreted the accident as Louisa jumping up some steps and then slipping and falling? But I don't understand how it would hurt her to such a degree that she'd suffer a concussion and become bedridden. Except for that part, I really enjoyed the foray into Lyme. It is unfortunate that Mary has to be there, but otherwise there are so many good things that came out of visiting Lyme. I enjoyed basically all of the other characters. It was also nice to read about two additional sailors, Captains Harville and Benwick, and get more of a perspective of the navy. And although things do not work out between them, I was so happy to see a potential romantic interest spark between Anne and Benwick. I feel like this interest is exactly what Anne needed to start feeling better about herself and her self-worth. And also realizing Mr. Elliot finds her to be attractive. And I love that Wentworth is jealous of Mr. Elliot! Not overtly, but he noticed how Mr. Elliot looked at Anne, and then how this gentleman of status and good looks is to be her father's heir. Wentworth's praise of Anne made me happy as well. He acknowledges that Anne is proper and capable and rational. It's like bits of cold front he puts on in front of Anne are crumbling as he sees her more and more. For me the Lyme section of the story was just more enjoyable in general and I read it faster.

5. Discuss Anne's arrival in Bath, considering the continued presence of Mr Elliot, Anne's reaction to her family and the way she begins to distance herself from them and stand up for herself more than she has been known to do.

I am not sure it's fair to say that Mr. Elliot's continued presence in Bath is what causes Anne to distance herself from her family and stand up for herself. I think Anne's stay at Lyme is what really started giving her a sense of self-worth. It was at Lyme that people start to value Anne's presence a little more. Above all the others, it is Anne who is asked to stay and care for Lydia (although Mary cannot allow that to happen). Here in Lyme Captain Wentworth starts to acknowledge Anne's presence a bit more. And Austen describes how being near the sea in Lyme helps to enliven Anne and give her a bloom of second youth. I'm sure Anne's awareness that Captain Benwick and Mr. Elliot find her attractive also helps. I think that the combined factors of Anne's time in Lyme, in addition to being able to spend time away from her toxic family, makes Anne realize that she has some worth and her interests and opinions do matter. I was so happy to read about the Anne who travels to Bath, because this Anne is still the same good and caring person, but she does have a bit more self-assurance and decides to do things like visit old acquaintances instead of being bullied to go where her family expects her to go.

Random observation: Has anyone else noticed how many times Jane Austen is able to add the word persuade into Persuasion? It's ridiculous. It seems like at least once a chapter a character speaks of someone else persuading him or her to do something. It makes me wonder if there's some specific instance that Austen wanted to refer to by choosing this title, or rather if she's making a commentary of how easily people are persuaded and influenced by the thoughts and opinions of others.
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. Can we discuss how the bloom of youth is lost at age 27?!


    -Mary @ My Sisters Bookshelf

    1. I know! It is a bit ridiculous lol. But she does regain her youth and happiness by the end of the story at least.


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