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Well, Janeites, it's time to see what I thought of the middle of Persuasion with my responses to the 2nd set of Read Along discussion questions! Can't wait to hear what you thought of this section (the tension! The seaside!), so if you've done your own response, don't forget to link it up so everyone can see what you thought and join you in the discussion!
Need to catch up? See my answers to Part 1, or go sign up and get the full set of discussion questions here!
MIDDLE (chapters 8-18)
- Now that we've gotten to know most of them a bit, discuss the side characters: who is your favorite? least favorite? Were there things Austen did with these side characters that you absolutely loved or hated?
I truly love to hate almost everyone in Anne's life on a regular basis. I mean, I don't hate them as much as I hate everyone (everyone) surrounding Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, but they do provide a lot of fodder for a good old-fashioned growling... But at the same time, some of the new characters who enter Anne's life, or those she doesn't get to see as much, inspire just as much love as her family does hate.
I think my favorite characters are probably the Crofts (how fantastic are they?) and the Musgroves (you can really see how much they appreciate Anne and wish they'd gotten her in their sons marriage and not so much Mary...) I even like Henrietta and Louisa, and don't hate on Louisa as much as some do - it's not her fault she's getting in the way of Anne and Wentworth! I mean, who can blame her for going after that...
My least faves (but in a good way, because as I said, I love to hate them) would definitely be the members of Anne's immediate family. Mary is just effing obnoxious, and I'd love to see her have one moment of real hardship... Sir Elliot and Elizabeth - gah, what tools! They're so self-important and ridiculous, you just want to shake them!! But the great thing about ALL of these characters, good and bad, is that they act as this really great background to show you just how awesome Anne is, even though she is so outwardly quiet and passive. Seeing her reactions and what she deals with really gives you sympathy for her, and for her picture of what her life from here on out must be...and it's bleak.
- As Anne and Wentworth are thrown together more and more, how do you feel about the fact that they never address their shared history? Do you find either to be irrational or unjust in not being open with the other and broaching the topic? Do you find Anne too self-sacrificing?
What I love most in any love story (or story in general) are the "almost" moments. There are times when these 2 come so close to getting through to each other, coming clean, reconnecting, etc., and it's just palpable. I love that! I don't think they're necessarily being irrational because, given their situation, it would be damn near impossible to be honest - Wentworth is still too hurt, first of all, and 2nd, is convinced that Anne is still being led around by the nose (she turned down C. Musgrove, you'll recall, on Lady R's advice, according to Louisa, which must remind Wentworth painfully of how his own hopes were thwarted); Anne has spent the better part of a decade being pushed from any kind of happiness, and I think has begun to believe that she'll never have it; she's sort of defeated, and this isn't helped by immediately being told by Mary how "ungallant" Wentworth was toward her appearance. They're both stuck in this limbo where they've been packed into these little boxes that they can't get out of, and that's what makes for such great tension and "almost" romance, "almost" tragedy...
- Is there ever a time you dislike Capt. Wentworth? Were you put off by his treatment of Anne?
The first time I read this, no. Maybe even the first few times I read this, I wasn't really bothered by Wentworth's treatment of Anne because I could clearly see in it just how affected by her he was... On subsequent readings, though, I have started to question him a bit more (gasp! The stars have left my eyes...); I have come to consider how...noble a character he can really be when he's not only actively hurting Anne (which I can still excuse a bit, because she actively hurt him), but is also using other people's lives like pawns in his need to prove to her - and himself - that he's over her. I don't think he can help it, necessarily, and I think he's in too deep before he even realizes what he's about... but still. I can't help but note such things now, at the very least.
- Discuss the incidents at Lyme; consider Louisa's fall from the cob and Wentworth's subsequent praise of Anne, the appearance of Mr Elliot and his reaction to Anne (and Wentworth's reaction to him), etc.
My stomach becomes one big pit of butterflies as soon as Lyme is even mentioned. I think the first time I read this, this was the point that the story really got a good firm grip on my heart, and it kept that grip straight through Bath. This is where Anne finally starts to come alive, and also where Wentworth begins to take note of her (and realize what he's gotten himself into with Louisa... A few meetings here and there are one thing, but there's nothing like days spent with a person to show you their true character...) I think this is where the reader gets to connect with Anne the most because she starts stepping out of her shell a bit and voicing her opinion (first with Benwick, and expanding out from there until she becomes the Anne we all (well, most of us) love). Plus there's just so much that happens in Lyme! And who doesn't love a trip to the beach?
- Discuss Anne's arrival in Bath, considering the continued presence of Mr Elliot, Anne's reaction to her family and the way she begins to distance herself from them and stand up for herself more than she has been known to do.
I sort of touched on this above, but I love that by this point, Anne has begun to step out. She's a dynamic character - she starts the book one way, and by the end she has become something much fuller and alive, and that's what makes you connect to a character. I love that she begins to voice her opinion - even forcefully, even to flat-out disagree, try to persuade someone, or go so far as to tell her family, No - you go grovel for a distant rich relative, I'm going to go visit my unfashionable friend... She goes from being fairly passive to fairly active, even going so far as to pursue Wentworth, where before she would have just waited with baited breath - but perhaps that's dipping too far into Part 3...
Don't forget to let us know your thoughts, either in the comments or through the Read Along linky!