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by Jane Austen

Persuasion Theme of Appearances

Appearances can be deceiving – but they can also be revealing. What they reveal, however, can be more about the observer than the observed. Beauty is really about attractiveness, which is about desire – what one person wants from another. The characters who receive compliments from others on their appearances are often those who have something the others desire to have or share.

Questions About Appearances

  1. Is there a connection between appearance and identity? Does a person's appearance tell you anything about who they are in the novel?
  2. How does the novel relate beauty to social class? Is beauty portrayed as innate, or as something that you have to work for? What does that suggest about beauty (or ugliness) as a character trait?
  3. Does the novel reinforce or undermine the idea that beauty is important? Or, if it does both, is there a way to resolve that contradiction?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

While the ostensible message of the novel is that physical appearance is not a clear marker of character, the novel does often link the way a character looks with who he or she is.

Anne gets prettier as she gets happier, suggesting that physical appearance is more than just superficial.

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