Jane Austen’s last completed novel is also one of her most popular works. First published December 20, 1817, six months following her death, Persuasion is the story of a mature heroine and second chances.
Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?
The characters are subject to different types of persuasion. Who is persuaded by rank/class/family connections? Who is persuaded by self-interest? Who is persuaded by self-importance?
Clearly, Lady Russell was persuaded by rank and fortune when she discouraged Anne from marrying Capt. Wentworth. And at the time, Anne allowed herself to be persuaded by Lady Russell's opinion. In the end (good for her!) Anne allowed herself to be persuaded by love.
Both of Anne's sisters were persuaded by self-importance. Elizabeth was consumed with her connection to rank and class ... and where did that get her? A well-dressed, arrogant spinster with no prospects. She is the true daughter of the self-important Sir Walter. Mary, with less reason to be so, was also driven by self-importance and family connections, persuaded that she ranked above Anne simply by being married, and that she, not Anne, was the proper person to stay behind with the injured Louisa despite the fact that she was no help at all.
Every character in this novel is persuaded by personal or societal pressures to behave a certain way, sometimes justly, sometimes not. Therefore, the novel is perfectly titled, even if it was not Jane's title. Her brother Henry gave it the title Persuasion when he had it published after Jane's death