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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why Pesuasion has never been made into a (good) film

Persuasion isn't Jane Austen's best novel, but it's her strangest (& last), she herself seems impatient with the story and eager to wrap it up. The last chapter, typical of a romantic comedy, is pretty much a fact-check, bringing us up to date on the fates of all the major characters: Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot marry of course, and he expresses regret about his failure to connect w/ her 6 (?) years sooner when he'd come back to England after his service in the Navy - he is by far the most shy and reserved of all Austen heroes, almost comically so. Why has Persuasion, to my knowledge, never been adapted for film (unlike Austen's other major works)? - because male lead stuck with Wentworth's lines would be laughed at, he's so wooden, serious, upright, even pompous. A female fantasy of the powerful but pliant male? Maybe (though the contemporary analog that comes to mind is the narcissitic male lead in Bridges of Madison County). Most of Austen's works are classified as comedies of manners, which is accurate as much of their action and development is about social graces and how characters interact with one another in social settings. Persuasion is truly more of a romantic comedy, as the characters don't really interact very much: the two lead characters remain unaware that they each still love each other until at last they break the ice and re-commit their love. They are surrounded by characters who had been and could be obstacles to their marriage, most notably Anne's snobbish and narcissist family members, father in particular, and her "friend" Lady Russell, who had talked Anne out of the marriage some 9 (?) years back. She could have been a real obstacle this time, but Austen seems to give up the fight: in the final chapter she limply states that Lady Russell gave up her objections (of course, Capt Wentworth had earned a lot of money and proved his "worth") and Wentworth forgives her for her past opposition. To the said, there was a subplot involving a cousin, Mr. Elliot, plotting to marry Anne to gain the family title, aided by a Mrs. Clay - and I'm not really sure what her game was - but in any event they both retreat from the plot as well. So Anne and Capt W. are to be married, but what a world they will live in - a dark and selfish world. This would be a better novel had they turned their backs on this society - had they triumphed over prejudice and adversity. (For example, what if Wentworth were not well to do and successful, but Anne married him anyway?)

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