The Complete Jane Austen "Persuasion" by Moxie
From a purely emotional stance, I don't really get why women don't love Persuasion as much as they love Pride and Prejudice. I mean, I love Mr. Darcy as much as the next woman (I even waged a brief campaign to name my second son Fitzwilliam Darcy -----), but it's not as if he's the only romantic hero who ever lived.
Frankly, if we're matching up Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy against Captain Frederick Wentworth, Wentworth comes out ahead. Mr. Darcy is just a rich guy with slightly sub-par social skills, while Wentworth is an actual sea captain. He worked his way up to command his own ship, and led his men in battle on the high seas. He has a field of interest in which he excels, and a career that's both highly specialized and dangerous. That beats Mr. Darcy hands down, because women love a courageous man with skills. (Which is why Tommy Silva and Ming Tsai are sexy, and K-Fed is not.)
And there's certainly not much difference in the dire straits of the heroines. Both Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Elliot are doomed to lives of quiet, wasting boredom if they don't marry, but neither is willing to marry for convenience. The next 30 years stretch out long and bleak in front of each of them.
Anne, though--she's a problem for us. She had a chance with Wentworth, but was persuaded to turn him down. She held perfection in her hand and dropped it like a hot coal! What kind of woman does that? A weak woman. Or a stupid woman. Or a weak and stupid woman.
Elizabeth Bennett has the high road, because Elizabeth is the heroine we've been identifying with for 200 years. She wonders if she's good enough just the way she is. Pick up any modern romance novel, you'll soon see that we're still dealing with that question. Are we too old? Too fat? Are our lips too pouty or not pouty enough? Are we too ambitious or too clever to hold the right man? Of course we love Elizabeth, because she remains exactly the way she is, and still gets her dreamboat. If she can do it, so can we. It makes sense in a society that revolves on the parallel gears of The Secret and the Prosperity Gospel.
Anne's harder to embrace. She found her soul mate, and he wanted to be with her, and she walked away. She walked away from the right man. There's no way we can root for her without violating our own cultural expectations. You only get one chance at happiness. Karma is a bitch. You have to do penance for your sins. What goes around comes around.
If Anne doesn't end up alone, then the world doesn't make any sense.
And yet, Captain Wentworth (played by the dream-inducing Rupert Penry-Jones, who, in a devastating twist of fate appears to be married) reappears after eight years, single, and in want of a wife. He's never married anyone else because no one could compare to Anne.
Call it grace, or redemption, or fantasy, but Anne gets a second chance, and she gets Wentworth. The scene in which she reads his letter and runs frantically through the marketplace to find him came and grabbed me by the throat. You can feel all her emotion cycloning around inside of her as she struggles with convention and her own actions.
How do you deal with regret? And once you finally squash down the demon of regret how can you risk opening up possibility again? It's just too much to process, and it culminates in the mindless prattle of brother-in-law Charles going on about a man in the marketplace, as Anne and Wentworth finally get together. Redemption, pure and simple! I could even forgive the anachronistic kiss on the street in broad daylight.
But then I like being shaken up. I like grace and redemption and second chances. I like thinking that I could be loved for myself, but that I could also be forgiven my stupidity and weakness. And that's why I sobbed through the second half of Persuasion.