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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Jane Austen: Novels about 'Women Waiting'

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 word (at least, in direct speech).

Jane Austen gives the readers (but not the heroines) plenty of information on the intentions and thoughts of such men as Darcy and Wentworth. So the suspense arises from the heroines' pondering what the heroes' intentions and thoughts are. The point is sometimes made that Jane Austen's novels are about women waiting. That certainly is what Anne Elliot spends her time doing.

The heroine needs only to interpret body language, actions and conversations, assigning method and motive, to make a novel 'action-packed'. Certainly Chapter Eight is action-packed. Despite her total silence, we are made to respond to every nuance through the perceptions and feelings of Anne. At one point, she is at the piano and 'her eyes would sometimes fill with tears'.