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Persuasion

by: Jane Austen

Anne Elliot

Anne Elliot, the protagonist of Persuasion, is, like most Austen heroines, witty, clever, and considerate. Austen referred to her in one of her letters as "a heroine who is almost too good for me." Though Austen very frankly notes that the bloom of youth has left Anne, and that she is not the prettiest of the young ladies in the novel, Anne becomes most decidedly more attractive when her better qualities are noted. Anne is proud of her appearance, and she is deeply hurt after overhearing that Captain Wentworth thinks her appearance much changed for the worst. Unlike her father, Anne also takes pride in practicality, intellect, and patience.

Anne is feminine while possessing none of what Austen clearly sees as the negative characteristics of her gender; Anne is neither catty, flighty, nor hysterical. On the contrary, she is level-headed in difficult situations and constant in her affections. Such qualities make her the desirable sister to marry; she is the first choice of Charles Musgrove, Captain Wentworth, and Mr. Elliot.

That Anne has her own mind is clear from the way she rebels against the vanity of her father and elder sister. But Anne is not one to avoid her responsibility and duty as a member of the upper class. She understands and respects the importance of making a "suitable" match, and is offended by the prospect of someone as low as Mrs. Clay entering into her family through marriage. She is conscious of the social structure in which her relations operate, and though she may seek a bit more flexibility, she by no means wishes to seriously challenge notions of class.

In the end, Anne concludes that she is right to have been persuaded by Lady Russell, even if the advice itself was misguided. The conclusion implies that what might be considered Anne's flaw, her ability to be persuaded by others, is not really a flaw at all. It is left to the reader to agree or disagree with this. But overall, she must be highly regarded; for in her respect for duty and with an independent mind, Anne balances passion and practicality.