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Persuasion

Persuasion

by Jane Austen

Memory and the Past Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

"The last hours were certainly very painful," replied Anne; "but when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure. One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering, which was by no means the case at Lyme. We were only in anxiety and distress during the last two hours, and previously there had been a great deal of enjoyment. So much novelty and beauty! I have travelled so little, that every fresh place would be interesting to me; but there is real beauty at Lyme; and in short" (with a faint blush at some recollections), "altogether my impressions of the place are very agreeable." (20.16)

Although Anne here says that memory can transform pain into pleasure, it seems for her the reverse has been more often true, as remembering the pleasures of her happy days with Wentworth became painful when she thought they were lost, never to be repeated.

Quote #8

The truth was, that Elizabeth had been long enough in Bath to understand the importance of a man of such an air and appearance as his. The past was nothing. The present was that Captain Wentworth would move about well in her drawing-room. The card was pointedly given, and Sir Walter and Elizabeth arose and disappeared. (22.63)

Even Elizabeth has to bow to merit, at least when public opinion says she should. Still, it's only Wentworth's "air and appearance" that matter to her: how he will look, and how those looks will reflect upon her as hostess, rather than who he is.

Quote #9

Soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk, where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed, and prepare it for all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own future lives could bestow. There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting. And there, as they slowly paced the gradual ascent, heedless of every group around them, seeing neither sauntering politicians, bustling housekeepers, flirting girls, nor nursery-maids and children, they could indulge in those retrospections and acknowledgements, and especially in those explanations of what had directly preceded the present moment, which were so poignant and so ceaseless in interest. All the little variations of the last week were gone through; and of yesterday and today there could scarcely be an end. (23.58)

There's a strange double-ness in this scene – not only do Anne and Wentworth talk about their memories of how they got to this point, they're also very conscious of how they will remember this present instant in the future. It's like they've lived on their memories for so long they can't help but think about how things will look from that future perspective.

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