Persuasion is a story so focused on time. It is in this novel that Austen dates the events of the story. She sets it in the summer of 1814 and recalls events that took place in 1806. As mentioned in class, the choice by Austen to set the novel at this time was a conscious one. She wanted to set it at the time of the “false peace”. The historical events that would follow the novel would undoubtedly affect the characters. But still the past comes charge back into the lives of the characters
The impact of the past is felt the most by Anne in the story. She feels it with the return of Captain Frederick. He returns from both a life in the navy and the events of Anne’s past. He brings with him all the feelings that Anne felt for him. At times, it becomes too much for her to handle. In particular, she will interact with him and she becomes physically unaware of it. This occurs when he removes young Walter from her shoulders. The narrator describes “before she knew that Captain Wentworth had done it. Her sensations on this discovery made her perfectly speechless. She could not even thank him.” (69). He crosses over into her presence and she is left without the knowledge of what to do next.
The same can be said for the overall experience of him returning into her life. Will she go back to the great love of her past or continue to soldier on in misery? It comes down to the title of the novel, persuasion. Eight years earlier, she was persuaded by Lady Russell not to accept Wentworth’s hand in marriage. Wentworth proves his undying devotion to Anne through a letter and persuades her to marry him. Overall she is persuaded to welcome the past back into her life.
Once she is though, she must deal with the impending future. The novel closes with this sentiment “the dread of a future war all that could dim her sunshine” (203). If the novel were to continue on, it may see Wentworth leave Anne to go fight in war.
Examine whether the past has a greater impact on or the future has the greater potential to impact Anne. Overall judge whether events that occurred previous to a novel or hypothetical events to follow matter more to the development of a character such as Anne. Is she more aware of her past or her future in the novel?