Assigned: Persuasion. (Separate text; see page bottom for edition details.)
Volume 1, Chapter 1
1. What is the status and current situation of the Elliot clan — that is, what anxieties beset Sir Walter and his two favorites Elizabeth and Mary? How does the narrator size up the position of Anne, the least favored daughter?
2. What attitude does the narrator imply we should take regarding Sir Walter's evident concern for matters of beauty, rank, and wealth? Explain with reference to one or more passages.
Volume 1, Chapter 2
3. What motivates Lady Russell to help Sir Walter Elliot and his family? How does the narrator maintain Lady Russell as a respectable figure while at the same time making clear the limitations of her character? What advantage might it be to Jane Austen as a novelist to criticize without necessarily condemning or harshly satirizing some of her least admirable characters?
Volume 1, Chapter 3
4. Why does Sir Walter Elliot at first look coldly on renting Kellynch Hall to a navy man — what specific objections does he make? How does Mr. Shepherd bring him around to an agreement with Admiral Croft?
Volume 1, Chapter 4
5. This chapter recounts the brief (two-month) romance between Anne and Captain Wentworth seven years before the present narration. Why did the attachment go wrong, and what is unusual about the development of Anne's sensibilities and opinions from that point forwards — what separates her from the rest of her family?
Volume 1, Chapter 5
6. While Sir Walter and Elizabeth (along with Mrs. Clay) travel to Bath, Anne stays behind to tend to her sister Mary at Uppercross Cottage. What qualities of observation does Anne show with regard to her own position in the family and the relations between the Elliots and the Musgroves (i.e. the family of Mary's husband Charles)? Mainly, how does she deal with Mary's complaints and Lady Russell's snubs, and how does she think of Miss Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove?
Volume 1, Chapter 6
7. Anne continues her stay with her sister Mary and Mary's husband Charles Musgrove. What role develops for her there, and what considerations enable the Musgroves to treat her as they do? How does Anne learn of the visit of her old flame Captain Frederick Wentworth?
8. In this chapter we are introduced to the Admiral's wife, Mrs. Croft. Since Jane Austen is excellent at creating suitable first impressions of her characters, examine what she chooses to tell us about Mrs. Croft — what does she include in her description? What doesn't she include?
Volume 1, Chapter 7
9. How does Captain Frederick Wentworth behave towards Anne when he visits the Musgroves? What private thoughts of each of these two former intimates does the narrator pass along to us? What shape do you predict their new romance will take, based upon what you find in this chapter?
Volume 1, Chapter 8
10. With Captain Wentworth a steady presence now, he and Anne can't avoid awkward meetings. Describe at least one of those meetings — what barrier remains between them? And how do Mr. and Mrs. Croft — i.e. Sophia and the Admiral — serve as a model couple in this chapter?
11. The behavior of the elder Musgroves in this chapter seems rather insincere — they lament over their departed son Richard, who served for a time under Captain Wentworth. Do you think Austen condemns insincerity altogether, or only some forms or degrees of it? Explain with reference to the text.
Volume 1, Chapter 9
12. How does this chapter develop the significance of jealousy in love relationships? How does the arrival of the curate Charles Hayter allow Austen to examine this feeling so closely associated with love? To what extent is Anne jealous with regard to Captain Wentworth, who has become the object of Henrietta and Louisa's attentions?
13. In what sense do considerations of love, marriage, and property seem mingled together in this chapter, at least with regard to the Musgroves? Explain with direct reference to the text.
Volume 1, Chapter 10
14. What powers of observation and sentiment does Captain Wentworth show in this chapter, with regard to Louisa and Henrietta as well as Anne? Why might this chapter be seen as an important one in the renewal of the relationship between Anne and Captain Wentworth?
Volume 1, Chapter 11
15. In this chapter, Captain Wentworth visits his old navy friend Captain Harville, with whom another navy man, Captain Benwick, is staying. What view of navy men and their ways has Austen so far presented in Persuasion? In what sense do Wentworth and his associates serve as an alternative model of masculine behavior and sentiment?
16. What advice does Anne offer the unfortunate Captain Benwick regarding his taste for poetry? How does Anne apparently conceive of the difference in function between poetry and non-fiction prose such as literary letters and moral treatises? How might we connect Anne's advice to Jane Austen's interest in exploring love relationships in her novels? (How, that is, does a novel offer different opportunities to explore relationships than non-fiction prose?)
Volume 1, Chapter 12
17. In this chapter, Anne's male cousin takes notice of her, and Louisa foolishly leaps onto the seaside pavement, suffering a bad concussion. What changes have come over Anne in terms of her appearance and her spirits?
18. How do the main characters at the scene of Louisa's fall acquit themselves? Who behaves most sensibly? Are there any surprises here?
19. What effect does Louisa's fall — an unforeseen event — have upon the budding renewal of intimacy between Anne and Captain Wentworth?
Volume 2, Chapter 1
20. In this chapter, Anne accompanies Lady Russell to Kellynch Hall, now occupied by Admiral and Sophy Croft. What feelings does this visit to her old home occasion in Anne?
Volume 2, Chapters 2-3
21. In Chapter 14, Captain Benwick stirs some attention, but does not visit, and attentions shift to Anne's cousin Mr. Elliot, whom Anne meets in Chapter 15. How does Anne size up the person and motivations of this young gentleman?
22. How would you explain Austen's possible motive in dwelling upon the sensibilities of such characters as Sir Walter and his daughter Elizabeth? Is Sir Walter, in particular, merely a caricature or an object of satire to be dismissed, or can we learn something from heeding his ceaseless comments on the pageantry of life and his denigration of others?
Volume 2, Chapter 4
23. This chapter turns on the visit of the Elliots' relation, the Dowager Viscountess Lady Dalrymple. Describe the polite argument Anne engages in with her cousin Mr. Elliot regarding the value of renewing the Elliot's favor with such a visitor — how, for instance, does Anne define "good company," and how does Mr. Elliot rebut her?
Volume 2, Chapter 5
24. How does Anne's renewal of her friendship with Mrs. Smith establish a counterbalance to the Elliot way of thinking about friends and relations? What, for Anne, is a "friend," and what does she seem to view as her responsibilities towards friends?
Volume 2, Chapter 6
25. What explanation does Anne give for this chapter's surprising new development — the match between Louisa Musgrove and Captain Benwick? How are these two supposedly suited to each other?
26. What is the subject of the conversation between Anne and Admiral Croft when the two meet in Bath? How well do they agree on the match between Louisa and Captain Benwick?
Volume 2, Chapters 7-8
27. Who has the advantage in emotional position so far in the continuing saga of Anne and Captain Wentworth? Explore the hints of the sensibilities of each with regard to relative position.
Volume 2, Chapters 9-10
28. In Chapter 9, what does Anne's friend Mrs. Smith reveal to her about the character and motives of young Mr. Elliot? Describe also the process whereby this information comes to light — what accounts for Mrs. Smith's method of revelation here?
Volume 2, Chapter 11
29. How does Anne (conversing with Captain Harville) compare the relative emotional characteristics of men and women? To what extent does the unfolding of this chapter complicate what Anne says on this issue? Explain.
30. Anne learns of Captain Wentworth's agony in a letter — why, with some reference to the way in which the novel has handled its characters' emotional states up to this point, is it appropriate that a letter should be the means by which the Captain initially communicates his sentiments? And what mistakes does he think he made after his first courtship with Anne?
Volume 2, Chapter 12
31. At last, the happy ending comes to pass. Anne and Captain Wentworth are married. How does the narrator deal with the other characters — Anne's family and Lady Russell in particular? Are you left with a worse impression of them than ever, or is the picture softened? How might the statements in this chapter amount to a sifting or sorting out of relative merits amongst such characters?
32. How well do you think the film production captures the novel's characters, situations, and overall significance? What differences did you find between the book and the film? Which did you like better, and why?
Edition. Austen, Jane. Persuasion. Eds. Deidre Shauna Lynch and James Kinsley. 2nd. Edition. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. ISBN 0192802631.