jasnamnmarketing
Feb 26, 2018

Society vs. Naval Men: Rank is Rank...Or Is It?

2 comments

In Persuasion, men of society, such as Sir Walter and Mr. Elliot, view navy men as lacking in polish and refinement. Do the naval officers in this novel corroborate or disprove this view?

candice
Mar 1, 2018

I suspect that the upper classes felt that ordinary soldiers and sailors were not to be tolerated, but that officers were acceptable, especially army officers, who generally had to purchase their commissions and promotions, ie they came from money. Most naval officers were required to start as a midshipman (which were purchased positions so, again, they came from affluent families), but had to earn their way up the ranks through hard work and discipline. Promotions in the navy could not be purchased. Those who worked their way up to admiral were quite revered in most circles. And, of course, Admiral Lord Nelson was practically deified. It always tickled me that one of Sir Walter's primary criticisms of a navy man was his sun-tanned face. A gentleman in those days prided himself on his clear, white skin, which indicated that he did not labor out of doors.

 

As to whether the naval officers in Persuasion lived up to Sir Walter's negative view of them, I'd have to say that each of them demonstrated more honor, more strength of character than the pale-faced gentleman of Elliot set.

amthorn
Mar 10, 2018

I struggle to see how anyone could look at a man such as Admiral Croft, or the Captains Wentworth, Harville, or Benwich and not see a man of character, unless of course you're looking through an elitist-lens full of snobbery.

 

It's rather amusing, actually, to think that Sir Walter and Mr. Elliot would look down their noses at these Navy men who epitomize so many of the qualities Sir Walter and Mr. Elliot (falsely) claim as their own: respect among men of good standing, elegance, honor, social skills, and more.

 

The gentlemen doth protest too much, me thinks.

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