Persuasion ? Jane Austen Silence And Signals Essay, Research Paper
Persuasion – Jane Austen
Silence and Signals
Direct communication is impossible due to social rules and proprieties. The prose style becomes chaotic and troubled as it is reflects a tormented mind filled with repetitions (”Eight years, almost eight years had passed”), urgent rhetorical questions (”What might eight years not do?”), exclamations (”how natural, how certain too!”), and interjections (”Alas! With all her reasonings she found that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing”). So Anne’s consciousness permeates the presentation of their meeting and pinpoints the difficulties of polite society, the veil behind all must act, he signals and performs enough to mark an “easy footing”. We see then the importance of physiognomy, gesture, countenance and looks in the interpretation of character and thoughts. The mention of Captain Wentworth by Mrs Croft in Chapter VI produces a wish to control her countenance, which signifies her feelings in the physical manifestation of colouring:
“Anne hoped she had outlived the age of blushing; but the age of emotion she certainly had not”
From the start of Wentworth’s return into her social world, their relationship is governed by faulty or indirect communication in the form of overheard or heard second hand. Mary tells Anne Captain Wentworth’s observance to somebody else that Anne was so altered, that he should not of known her again. This communication was not supposed to be related to her and erects another obstacle between them and the resolution of their love. Whilst this revelation shatters her it also erases her hope: a conviction in which she stoically rejoices. Her time then is spent agonizing between the emotional and passionate self and the composed sober self, hope and circumspection.
The reader is privileged with an insight into his mind and we see that he is still hurt but ultimately still feels the same towards her as he did eight years ago, and the potential of the renewal of his love:
“He had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill, deserted and disappointed him She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion His bright proud eye spoke the happy conviction that he was nice; and Anne Elliot was not out of his thoughts, when he more than seriously described the woman he wished to meet with. ‘A strong mind, with sweetness of manner’, made the first and last of the description”.
Whilst we are thus informed by this mixed method of presentation of different types of consciousness, Anne is left floundering, guessing and interpreting his gestures and glances. He does not speak to her other than to say what civilities would demand, leading Anne to contrast past with present. The presence and influence of the past in their relationship is pinpointed in chapter VIII in attention to Wentworth’s talk of the ‘year six’:
“There must be the same immediate association of thought, though she was very far from convincing it to be of equal pain.”
She is forced then to rely on interpretation of gestures and fastens on every sign of his feeling towards herself, for example when he silently pulls the child off her back making her equally “speechless”. Likewise he silently but firmly hands her into the carriage noticing, perceiving and reading her feelings of discomfort and tiredness.
“He could not forgive her,- but he could not be unfeeling … though perfectly careless of her, and though becoming attached to another, still he could not see her suffer without the desire of giving her relief”(Chapter X)
This is a significant and promising moment for Anne. Events seem all laid out for the engagement of Louisa and Wentworth’s engagement due to Henrietta’s resignation from the marital competition for Wentworth’s affections as she makes her way to Charles Hayter’s anticipating their reunion instead. This however is a sign of a glimmer of care and affection remaining towards Anne. In Wentworth’s interest in Anne’s proposal from Charles Musgrove and curiosity in her life (p.88) we can see a re-emergence of feelings heightened and read by Anne in his reaction to the gentleman’s approval