The Importance Of Reading In Jane Austen's Persuasion

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I. Introduction

Jane Austen’s Persuasion contains an abundance of references to reading and literature. Characters often read something, be it a book, a newspaper, a navy list or an advertisement. Examining the episodes in which reading or literary works play a part provides an excellent opportunity to study and interpret the novel from a specific and well-defined point of view.
The first section of this paper explores the representations of reading in the novel. The representation of the characters as readers will be analyzed in the context of contemporary practices and attitudes towards reading in order to broaden our understanding of their personalities. To narrow the focus of the essay, the reading habits of some characters will be discussed in more detail than others. Lady Russell will be the focal point concerning the rising popularity of reading in Jane Austen’s time. The contrast between Sir Walter Elliot and Captain Wentworth will be used to unveil how the novel presents the social changes England was undergoing at the time and to assess the relevance of these issues to the novel.
In addition, the effects reading has on the characters will also be discussed; specifically the way issues related to female reading are touched upon in the novel, such as the effects of
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Therefore, even though women wrote literature as well as men, unfavourable and unrealistic female stereotypes were still omnipresent in books. However, Anne’s and Harville’s conversation is not just “an indictment of masculine literary tradition” (Pinch 220), but a reference to the contemporary discussions about women and literature as well (Pinch 221; Richardson 183-4). Moreover, based on the context of their exchange, Anne is clearly addressing her words to Wentworth when she is passionately defending women’s constancy, because she has suspected since their encounter that he still loves her (Austen 154) and has noticed Wentworth has been listening to her debate with Harville (Waldron
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