Raven Symoné

Raven Symoné

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Satire in Persuasion

Jane Austen's Persuasion revolves around Anne Elliot, reserved daughter of fatuous and snobbish Sir Walter, and the trials and tribulations in both her family and love lives. Jane Austen focuses on satire in many of her great works, from Pride & Prejudice to Sense & Sensibility to her latest work Persuasion, where she pokes fun at the social extravagance and absurdity of her time. Many characters in Austen's Persuasion encompass the satirical ideas that she was looking to shed light on. Firstly, Anne's father, Sir Walter could most likely be the most satirical character in the entire novel for a few reasons. Firstly, Sir Walter is extremely vain and has multitudes of mirrors set up in his house, showing Austen's mocking of her society's complete arrogance and conceitedness. Sir Walter is also a satirical character due to his constant obsession with class and/or rank. This obsession is exemplified in a few of Walter's actions throughout Persuasion: initially, Sir Walter's favorite book is the Baronetcy (a book of all of the class and ranking of people in his society). Also, Walter refuses to associate with a man of the navy due to both their low class and ugly, worn out features. These both show satirical elements as he was so obsessed with rank, yet he frivolously spent money to the point of him moving out of his own home to control spending: clear irony (as well as showing his obsession with the superficial through his hatred of Navy men, Austen's way of satirizing the vanity of her time). Sir Walter's vanity (in both physicality and ranking), a purposely satirized element in his character is obvious throughout the text, very directly characterized by Austen: "Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion" (Austen 6). 
Other satirical characters include Elizabeth Elliot, much like her father, vain and arrogant, who although is so full of herself and obsessed with her "beauty", as well as being the older sister, is still single and quite lonely. This ironic element Elizabeth exemplified shows Austen's twisting of a usual family's values and practices back in her day. Overall, it's clear that Austen uses satire to poke fun at her society's slightly twisted and self-absorbed ways in Persuasion. By bringing out characters' flaws such as vanity and class-hunger, Austen successfully portrayed these foibles as crucial elements of her satirical games she so greatly demonstrates so very often. 

1 comment:

  1. Kudos Jake! I totally agree with you on Jane Austen's satirization of vanity and class-hunger. However, it does raise the question as to why Austen might be scrutinizing society so bluntly. Do you think she has some sort of experimental bias that might cause her to criticize the wealthy? Or was she perhaps just looking for humorous material on which she would base her story?