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Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Death of Dick Musgrove (Jane Austen's 'Persuasion')

Can anyone explain why Jane Austen is so uncharitable in her attitude to Dick Musgrove's death and his mother's grief? It leaves an uncomfortable feeling.

Homer wrote as unsympathetically about Elpenor, who fell to his death on board after a night of debauchery. But Homer's tone is not Jane Austen's.

Possibly Jane was being caustic about families who decide a child is worthless at an early age and ship him off to the navy to have it make a man of him? Possibly she was using the boy's death to poke fun at large false sighs from a parent who did not value the child when he was alive. Certainly, the Musgroves hardly thought of the boy after he went to sea and scarcely regretted him even when they received word of his death, an event which happened two years before the action of the story.

Maybe Mrs. Musgrove is taking advantage of an opportunity to indulge in the pleasure of high emotion rather than actually grieving. Also, perhaps, there is an implied contrast between Mrs. Musgrove's display of grief and Anne's self-control.