Mary Musgrove Persuasion Character Analysis

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“I wish you could persuade Mary not to be always fancying herself ill” (Austen 42). These are Charles Musgrove’s exasperated words to Anne Elliot concerning his valetudinarian wife. Throughout her novel Persuasion, Jane Austen writes much about Mary Musgrove’s grievances against unsuitable conditions, ranging from supposed illness to mistreatment by others. By infusing the caricature of Mary with an unwavering obsession and discontent with her health, reputation and situation, Austen shows that victim mentality leads only to childish and self-serving behavior. Mary is inordinately self-absorbed, especially regarding her own health. When Anne first visits her younger sister in Uppercross Cottage, Mary alleges she can “hardly speak” and is “so very unwell” (Austen 36-37). However, after “[a] little farther perseverance in patience, and forced cheerfulness on Anne’s side,” Mary rapidly recovers from her indisposition, even “forgetting to think of it” and suggesting a brief stroll (Austen 38). If Anne’s conduct alone is sufficient to cure Mary, and Mary must be attentive to her malady before noticing its symptoms, then her illness is not quite so severe as she professes. Mary’s delusion persists…show more content…
By constantly fretting about her own health, she has become a valetudinarian who seeks the attention of others. Mary also maintains an unreasonable worry for her position in family and society, wishing to maximize her dignity in the eyes of the crowd. What is more, her “Elliot self-importance” extends all the way to natural occurrences, leading her to invoke “unfairness” in situations that seem to overlook her own ideal benefit. By characterizing Mary from a hyperbolic, satirical perspective, Jane Austen ridicules the conceited and silly behavior of many who do not deserve what they seek, because they think they
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