Persuasion: Family and Sir Walter Essay

Submitted By spineda
Words: 1399
Pages: 6

Already in this first sentence of the last of Jane Austen’s finished novels, Persuasion, we find one of the main Marxist themes – that class is what is most important. As the reader proceeds further into the novel, the opinion that class is the only thing that matters is made even more obvious. Unless someone is of a certain class, the fact that he or she has money does not matter – birth alone counts. When someone openly values money over class, such as Mr Elliot in his choice of a wife, this person is frowned upon. We are also presented with a different point of view: that of Mr Elliot, who, as a young man, valued money more than the title he would eventually inherit.

“Sir Walter Elliot... was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there... he could read his own history with an interest which never failed – this was the page at which the favourite volume always opened” This passage establishes Sir Walter’s attitude towards class in the beginning of the novel. The only thing that can cheer Sir Walter up is, apparently, to read about his own status in society, never mind that he has three daughters. This outlook on life shows the vanity that is so obvious in Sir Walter, both regarding his appearance and, more importantly, his place, and the place of his family, in society. In the following pages we are allowed to learn of Sir Walter’s attitude towards his own children, which is also tainted by the importance of class; Elizabeth is dear to him since she can still be expected to “one day or another, marry suitably”, in other words, add to the status of the family name by raising or emphasizing hers; Mary only “acquired a little artificial importance” as a member of the Elliot family by “becoming Mrs Charles Musgrove”; and Anne is treated badly, neglected and has her feelings and thoughts ignored because “[h]e had never indulged much hope, he had now none, of ever reading her name in any other page of his favourite work.” These short quotations show that the love and attention Sir Walter gives his daughters is dependent on what they have already added or what they can, or what he thinks that they can, add to the social status of the Elliot family name. Mary has already made her match, and since it was a relatively good one, she has been granted the honor of having an additional entry in the all- important Baronetage. Elizabeth still has the potential to marry well, and add to the status of the family, and for this she is highly valued by her father, whereas Anne, in Sir Walter’s mind, is already a lost cause of sorts. He does not expect her to contribute to the status of the family name, so he chooses not to put any effort into his relationship with her; “she was only
Anne”

Furthermore, “[Elizabeth] had, while a very young girl, as soon as she had known [William Elliot] to be, in the event of her having no brother, the future baronet, meant to marry him... and in one of their spring excursions to London, when Elizabeth was in her first bloom, Mr Elliot had been forced into the introduction. He was at that time a very young man, just engaged in the study of the law; and Elizabeth found him extremely agreeable, and every plan in his favour was confirmed. He was invited to Kellynch Hall... but he never came. The following spring he was seen again in town, found equally agreeable, again encouraged, invited and expected, and again he did not come.” This quotation shows Elizabeth’s attitude towards her own social status; she has, already before meeting Mr Elliot, decided to marry him, simply because he is the heir to her father’s title. It does not matter what kind of person he is, how he looks, or if he even deserves her affection; the only thing she is concerned with is the title that would go with the marriage. When actually meeting Mr Elliot, she finds him “extremely agreeable”; whether she actually does find him agreeable or not is impossible to say, because she is…