In her final novel, as in her earlier ones, Jane Austen
uses a love story to explore and gently satirize social pretensions and emotional confusion. Persuasion
follows the romance of Anne Elliot and naval officer Frederick Wentworth. They were happily engaged until Anne’s friend, Lady Russell, persuaded her that Frederick was “unworthy.” Now, eight years later, Frederick returns, a wealthy captain in the navy, while Anne’s family teeters on the edge of bankruptcy. They still love each other, but their past mistakes threaten to keep them apart.
Austen may seem to paint on a small canvas, but her characters contain the full range of human passion and moral complexity, and the author’s generous spirit renders them all with understanding, compassion, and humor.
Susan Ostrov Weisser is a professor of English at Adelphi University, where she specializes in nineteenth-century literature and women’s studies. Weisser also wrote the introduction to the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Jane Eyre.