Thomas Edison State College | March 2013
Dr. Christine Hansen
One Writer’s Vision ENG-393 | Written Assignment 3
April 17, 2013
Admiral Croft who was among the nouveau rich, had the financial means to rent Kellnych from Sir Walter, one of the so-called landed gentry. How does Jane Austen's treatment of class and social mobility reveal about these men and their women such as Anne Elliot and Mrs. Smith? Which group fares better and why?
Class in Persuasion
Jane Austen’s Persuasion challenges the notion that one’s social class determines one’s happiness. In the novel there is the upper class, which includes Sir Walter Elliot and his family; the nouveau rich, such as Admiral Croft and Captain Wentworth; and the poor lower class, such as Mrs. Smith. While it is natural to think that it would be most desirable to be the richest and most socially elite, the contrast drawn between the classes is quite surprising.
Sir Walter Elliot is a caricature of the landed gentry—landowners who did not have to work for a living. He is a vain baronet whose room is lined with mirrors and refuses to be in public with those who are not pleasant to behold. The only book he ever reads is the Baronetage, particularly the page that says “Elliot of Kellynch-Hall” (Austen 3). Silly yet harmless, Austen uses the character of Sir Walter to make fun of the shallowness of the aristocracy of his time. His wife, Lady Elliot, had possessed the good judgment that he was lacking, but her unfortunate passing leaves him with three daughters, Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary. Elizabeth, who is most like him, is favored because of her beauty. Mary marries into the Musgrove family of Uppercross, and thereby gains some importance in his eyes. Anne, however, bears the brunt of Sir Walter’s folly: …Anne Elliot had been a very pretty girl, but her bloom had vanished early; and as even in its height, her father had 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” (Austen 5). Her opinion and happiness is of no importance to him or Elizabeth; when Anne was engaged to Captain Frederick Wentworth of no fortune at age nineteen, Sir Walter showed his disapproval of the match with coldness and silence, saying he would not give her a dowry if she married him (Austen 18). Sir Walter squanders his wealth in order to keep up appearances of abundance, forcing him and his family to quit Kellynch Hall and relocate to Bath. There they stay in the best house in Camden-place, and he and Elizabeth boast of all the people who want to make their acquaintance.
When at last love is rekindled between Anne and Captain Wentworth (who now possesses a good reputation and 25,000 pounds), Sir Walter does not object to the match. On the contrary, when he saw more of Captain Wentworth, saw him repeatedly by daylight and eyed him well, he was very much struck by his personal claims, and felt that his superiority of appearance might be not unfairly balanced against her superiority of rank; and all this, assisted by his well-sounding name, enabled Sir Walter at last to prepare his pen with a very good grace for the insertion of the marriage in the volume of honor (Austen 165). Captain Wentworth and his brother-in-law, Admiral Croft, represent the nouveau rich. Though not a part of the upper crust, they earn their wealth and social esteem. Admiral and Mrs. Croft, who have the financial means to rent Kellynch Hall, are the picture of a happily married couple who treasure going through life together no matter where their travels take them. They are often seen arm-in-arm, enjoying nature or exploring the grounds at Kellynch Hall. Perhaps a somewhat unconventional couple, Admiral Croft allows his wife to take the reins in a carriage (Austen 62) and go with him on his naval journeys. When they visit Bath, they have no shortage of...
Cited: Austen, Jane. Persuasion. 1st ed. Ed. Patricia Meyer Spacks. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1995. Print.
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