Jane Austen's Persuasion - Short Sample Answers
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Table of Contents
Does Persuasion challenge or defend the status of class structure in early nineteenth century British society? How?
Austen challenges the class structure of her society. She employs irony and satire to poke fun at people in positions of high social consequence. Sir Walter is a perfect example of a caricature of a titled landowner. Austen's treatment of him is subtly subversive; by making his vanity a joke, she lessens the grandeur and respect of his position.
Austen also treats the Navy favourably. As a means of social mobility which undercuts the traditional landed gentry system, the Navy is a relatively progressive institution. This novel supports the 'domestic virtues' of the Navy, and therefore may be thought to challenge existing ideas of class.
On the other hand, Persuasion does defend the relatively rigid class structure in some ways. Anne Elliot strongly dislikes Mrs. Clay, and is averse to any marriage between her father and a woman of a lower class. Anne finally concludes that she was right to allow herself to be persuaded and that she ought to have upheld her class duty. Anne's marriage to Captain Wentworth of course does not disrupt the class system. Wentworth has risen in wealth and...