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by Jane Austen

Persuasion Theme of Foolishness and Folly

Does older = wiser? Well, one of the oldest characters in Persuasion is the vain Sir Walter, so the answer is definitely not a resounding "yes." But there's plenty of foolishness among the young too. So how does a character get out of folly into wisdom? Suffering seems to help, as does thinking about the past to learn from mistakes – and admitting mistakes in the first place. It's not how old you are that makes for folly, it's whether you think you're always right.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. What kinds of behaviors does the book label "foolish"? What's wrong with these behaviors? Do they create a consistent idea of folly in the novel, or are there some pieces that don't fit with each other?
  2. Are people who act foolishly in the novel always to blame for their actions? Do they have a real choice between acting foolishly and acting wisely? Do they ever choose to act foolishly on purpose, and if so, why?
  3. Why are some characters able to learn from their mistakes, but others are not? How does this learning take place, and what results does it produce?

Chew on This

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

Wentworth's folly is that he is too proud to come back to Anne after she rejected him.

Wentworth's folly is that he's not very observant of others' feelings.

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