Persuasion: The Art of Persuading Readers to Find Irony

            As I have previously discussed, Jane Austen is well known for her satiric critique of social class, and Persuasion is not exempt from this Austen-esque mannerism. From its very opening line, Austen makes it clear that that this novel is to prominently feature status and wealth within its pages. She exemplifies her satiric style in many ways throughout Persuasion, beginning with the way she crafts her characters to create her desired tone.
Characters - Jane Austen for children - Part 5 | Jane Austen Brazil:             Although it seems simple, the way Austen writes her characters illustrates her critique upon social class. She crafts many characters who focus themselves upon status, wealth, and looks. For starters, we have the Elliot family. Sir Walter Elliot is so concerned with status that the only book he concerns himself with is the Baronetage, which is a record of British nobility. He even goes so far as to criticize the Navy because it has a “means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of” and he also believes “it cuts up a man's youth and vigour most horribly” (19). Although Anne Elliot had pointed out that they were deserving, hardworking men, Sir Walter made sure to emphasize the point that it gives them a false sense of status and ruins their looks – the two qualities he holds to the highest regard. The way she crafted such a character conveys satire in a very specific manner; Sir Walter Elliot serves as a device to help Austen establish an ironic tone in the beginning of the novel. He is the first character we are introduced to, and right off the bat we are given a character of nobility who is only concerned with status; he exudes conceit and arrogance, which are characteristics of the high society-types Austen is satirizing.              
            This pattern is continued throughout Persuasion with a multitude of other characters. We are presented with others such as the rest of the Elliot family and Lady Russell, Anne’s mentor who encouraged her to end her relationship with Wentworth as she deemed him unworthy. Although he comes into great wealth later on, when he and Anne first meet, he is not believed to be of high enough income or status to marry her. Her family and mentor look down upon him in result, which furthers the tone Austen is trying to create; in spite of the fact that Anne is happily in love, the main concern here is social status, so her family really does not care and they encourage her to end things anyway.
           Austen’s classic criticism of social class shines through in Persuasion just as it does in any other – her social climbing characters help to carry on her witty and ironic style and prove her satiric work. Their mannerisms, attitudes, and auras all emanate the impression that they are better than everyone else; they come across as the conceited, upper class characters Austen meant to criticize. For Austen, revealing this ironic tone is an art and she does so differently each time. In the case of Persuasion, Sir Walter Elliot harbored it and portrayed it from the very beginning. 

"O": A Film Review

Cast: Julia Stiles, Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, Andrew Keegan

Director: Tim Blake Nelson

Avg. Rating: 

My Rating: 

Thanks to my new-found love of Othello (and my everlasting love of Josh Hartnett), I found myself watching O. For those who don't know, O is a rather modern retelling of Shakespeare's Othello in which the characters are high school students in attendance at a prep school. The movie as a whole, while not unpleasant, was just so far from Shakespearean quality that one cannot help but think of it in a disapproving light.
I felt that O was a decent film; it followed the basic plot and structure of Othello, the actors were all rather suitable, and the overall atmosphere felt reminiscent of the original work. In spite of this, the film just could not pull together to form a stellar adaptation. Here we have Odin (Othello) and Hugo (Iago). The setting of the film and nature of their friendship makes the film feel very Othello meets A Separate Peace - you have these two friends who, although on the surface appear to be fine, have underlying issues as Hugo feels Odin is outshining him in all areas. This could have made for a great film had it not been an adaptation, however, I have just become so partial to the original work that I can no longer picture it in any other way.  
         Disregarding the text, the film still could have used work. Although the actors did a fair job at conveying the emotions required for a Shakespearean adaptation, the overall plot dragged the quality down. The fact that Odin and Hugo were basketball playing teens in attendance of a prep school made some parts of the film seem tacky and overdone. The soundtrack was right there to reinforce this atmosphere.
          As a whole, O was not a film I looked upon with distaste. I found myself enjoying the film here in there because it gave Othello a modernized feel and made it more relatable; everyone experiences jealousy, but translating the story to the present day made it feel more realistic to me (although I still enjoy the original more). I feel that if I were to look at O and Othello as separate entities, each would hold their own qualities that would make them great.

The Significance of Social Status

            It was once recommended to me that if I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, I should continue my Jane Austen experience with Persuasion. When given the task of selecting a work of satire to read and blog about, this recommendation immediately came to mind. When reading Pride and Prejudice, I really enjoyed the way Austen satirized social class; her effortless wit and eloquent diction made for an agreeable read. If I enjoyed my first Jane Austen novel so much, what would make the second any different?
Jane Austen:             Although I may only be roughly halfway through the novel, Persuasion has not failed my theory quite yet. From its very first lines, I knew that her commentary on social classes would be right up to par with that of Pride and Prejudice; I was utterly convinced as Austen drew me in with, “Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somershire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage…” (3). For those who don’t know, the Baronetage Austen speaks of is in reference to The Baronetage of England, a book which lists all British nobility. Right from the start, it becomes clear that Austen is satirizing the way people of her time viewed wealth and status as she references this book that tracks those of high society.
            Now, don’t get me wrong here – Austen’s style and commentary did catch my attention, but they were not the first thing that came to mind as I perused the first half of Persuasion. What truly caught my attention is that Austen’s criticism can still be pertinent 198 years later (score one for literary merit!). Just yesterday I finished the satiric Crazy Rich Asians duology written by Kevin Kwan and I found myself making so many comparisons between these two novels and Persuasion; although Kwan was published within the last few years, his work has been compared to that of Austen’s countless times as he sarcastically writes about wealth, status, and love. As a reader, it is a pleasurable experience to find novels published approximately 200 years apart, yet still have the opportunity to find parallels between them. The blend of history and the present day has already made Persuasion all the more exciting to read!
            As I make my way through the rest of Persuasion, I’m hoping that I am able to find more features that are still relevant to life today. We still view social status with high regard in the modern day whether we realize it or not, and seeing what Austen has to say about it in her day is fascinating. My goal for the end of the year is to have made my way through as many of Austen's works as I possibly can; I would like to wade through each novel and examine her satirical commentary.


Who's to Blame?

       Because Othello by William Shakespeare follows a complex course of events, I often found myself confounded. It wasn’t that I did not understand what was happening, it wasn’t a miscomprehension of Shakespearean language, and it wasn’t a general lack of knowledge pertaining to the play. The problem with Othello was simple: who is to blame? Is it our tragic hero, Othello, thanks to his hamartia? Could it be Iago, his ancient, with his manipulative tongue and wicked demeanor?

       For me, it is extremely difficult to place blame on one or the other. Both had their fair share of actions that spiraled into further problems, but with further contemplation, I felt that Iago was the clear choice. No matter what the happenings were within the play, Iago could be found in their midst, typically controlling the situation through is lies and devious actions.

       To begin his madness, Iago finds it most suitable to inform Desdemona’s father of her elopement to Othello. However, it must be clear that he does not do this on his own, but he enlists the help of Roderigo. Right from the start, he traps four people within his elaborate plot for revenge. Once Brabantio is aware of the marriage, he is just as angered as Iago would have hoped for. Although this was simply fate assisting Iago’s scheme, he was the man who got the ball rolling.

       As Iago is driving a wedge between Othello, Desdemona, and her father, he is also thinking of ways to weave Cassio into his plan. When he sees Cassio greeting women with a polite kiss, he begins to consider the idea that he can convince Othello that Desdemona is truly in love with his lieutenant. Since he is Iago, he can’t simply end things here, so he gets Cassio drunks, starts a fight, and Othello fires Cassio. Still think Othello could be to blame for the tragedy?

       Just when you think Iago is filled to the brim with blame, he plans another scheme. He musters up a plot to solidify the idea that Cassio will get involved in his revenge; Iago, under the false pretenses that he is helping Cassio, suggests that he appeals to Desdemona to get his job back. After a long sequence of events, this leads to Cassio ending up in possession of Desdemona’s handkerchief, which he gives to his mistress. Of course, Othello happens to see this, and the endless tragedies follow suit.

       One may argue that had fate not come into play, Iago’s plans would have crumbled beneath him. However, he still pursued these endeavors, all while Othello was kept in the dark. Throughout Othello, the only people made aware of the truth were Iago and the audience; if Othello had been unknowingly falling into Iago’s trap, how could be to blame? Othello made it clear that he felt so passionately for Desdemona that nothing else mattered to him; he was so blinded by love, so ardent about their marriage that he was willing to do anything. Iago was aware of this fervor and took advantage of that as he sought revenge, and for that he is truly to blame.