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Literary analysis: Persuasion, by Jane Austen
by Megan Marquart
Created on: May 14, 2009 Last Updated: May 15, 2009 Jane Austen tells us little in Persuasion about Anne Elliot's appearance. In fact, she provides only the barest phyiscal descriptions for all her heroines. These ladies are defined by their morality: if they are beautiful, it's a secondary consideration. In Persuasion, Austen goes out of her way to emphasize Anne's lack of beauty while still being sparse on details. The most constant aspect of her description is that she has lost the bloom of youth and the only concrete knowledge we have of her exterior regards her eyes: her father found little to admire in her, (so totally different were her delicate features and mild dark eyes from his own); there could be nothing in them now that she was faded and thin, to excite his esteem. (12) It's not a flattering description and while Anne is eventually elevated to beauty as the novel progresses, we never learn more about her physically than in this sad description. It is Anne's character that defines her image for the reader and that description is impeccably complete, despite the vagueness of her form. We know Anne Elliot thoroughly through her traits: they provide the sustenance that brings her to life.
It's these traits that form her true introduction in a portrait of her character that proceeds the sad physical description quoted above: "...but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character , which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister: her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way;-she was only Anne." (11) Here Austen establishes the essence of Anne Elliot: she is intelligent, she is kind, and she is simultaneously imposed upon and underestimated by her relatives - a father and sister who value only those physical...