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Monday, 27 June 2016

Economy of Dialogue in Jane Austen's 'Persuasion'

Far more so than men, women are drawn to the subtle - interpreting body language, actions, conversations. They know how to assign method and motive to every utterance, to every message, to the shift of an eye during certain points in conversations. Persuasion makes even more of these skills than Jane Austen's earlier works. It is a story in which the spoken word is used more sparingly and analytical comment more widely. The heroine, Anne Elliot, really says remarkably little.

In fact, after the first three chapters, we are not yet sure she is to be the central figure (though 'clues' have been dropped - reminiscent of those concerning Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax) that some event in the past has had a deep effect on her. This is a thinking, watching, and interpreting work.

Chapter Eight of Persuasion concerns a dinner and dance at the Musgroves'. There is plenty of lively conversation. Yet Anne Elliot - the heroine and central character of the novel - does not say a single word (at least, in direct speech).