by Jane Austen
Persuasion Marriage Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Lady Elliot had been an excellent woman, sensible and amiable; whose judgement and conduct, if they might be pardoned the youthful infatuation which made her Lady Elliot, had never required indulgence afterwards.--She had humoured, or softened, or concealed his failings, and promoted his real respectability for seventeen years; and though not the very happiest being in the world herself, had found enough in her duties, her friends, and her children, to attach her to life, and make it no matter of indifference to her when she was called on to quit them. (1.7)
The novel presents several different versions of what a wife can be -- the Lady Elliot version is (to borrow from Virginia Woolf in A Room of One's Own) a mirror who reflects her husband at twice his actual size. This passage also suggests the amount of sheer labor that goes into creating that effect – and it's a job with no vacation time.
Always to be presented with the date of her [Elizabeth's] own birth and see no marriage follow but that of a youngest sister, made the book an evil; and more than once, when her father had left it open on the table near her, had she closed it, with averted eyes, and pushed it away. (1.13)
Elizabeth buys into the social rule that marriage is the goal of a young woman's existence – even though she seems happy enough in her life, except for this expectation that she get married.
He was, at that time, a remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit, and brilliancy; and Anne an extremely pretty girl, with gentleness, modesty, taste, and feeling. Half the sum of attraction, on either side, might have been enough, for he had nothing to do, and she had hardly anybody to love; but the encounter of such lavish recommendations could not fail. They were gradually acquainted, and when acquainted, rapidly and deeply in love. It would be difficult to say which had seen highest perfection in the other, or which had been the happiest: she, in receiving his declarations and proposals, or he in having them accepted. (4.1)
While the novel may ultimately be a romance, it doesn't shy away from cynical views of love: just like Louisa and Captain Benwick, a major factor in Anne and Wentworth's great love affair is that they're available, bored, and living in the same area. Of course, once they've fallen in love, they never meet anyone else to compare, but that first fall seems founded on shaky ground – and yet, the novel suggests, all romance works that way.