by Jane Austen
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Satirical, Ironic, Melancholy
Persuasion's humor is more like a reality show than a stand-up comedian – instead of pointing and laughing at the absurdities of its characters, most often it lets the characters simply be their absurd selves, leaving it to the reader to supply the laugh track. At the same time, there's an undercurrent of sadness to the laughter: Sir Walter may be ridiculous, but he's done a lot of damage in Anne's life; Captain Benwick may be a bit dramatic, but at least some of his grief at losing his fiancée Fanny is real. Balancing these two tones lets us feel for the characters even as we're laughing at them – the novel may poke fun at its characters, but it almost never treats them as merely butts for jokes.