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by Jane Austen

Analysis: What’s Up With the Ending?

At first glance, the end of Persuasion might seem all puppies and sunshine. Anne and Captain Wentworth get together at last! Mr. Elliot gets the boot! Even Mrs. Smith gets rich! Sounds like a classic happily-ever-after, riding-unicorns-into-the-rainbow-sunset ending, right?

Well...almost. While the ending does suggest that having eight years to grow up and figure themselves out has made our happy couple even more likely to stay that way, and with the added bonus that Anne's snobby family is finally OK with Wentworth's naval profession, the last sentence of the novel is oddly ambivalent. In fact, it sounds almost like a warning: "[Anne] gloried in being a sailor's wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance" (24.12). While the novel has been boosting sailors from the get-go, it ends with a sobering reminder: the navy is, after all, part of the military, which means that if war should come they're among the first to be affected.

While war is what brought Wentworth his fortune and made his reunion with Anne possible, it's also a continuing threat to their happiness. That particular war may be over, but if Anne and Wentworth have learned anything from their romance, it's that you can't entirely trust an ending to stay ended. Wars and love are like Freddy Krueger: they all have a tendency to keep coming back.

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