Jane Austen, Persuasion, Waterloo, War, Mrs. Croft, Navy


In Jane Austen’s last novel, Persuasion, she offers a glimpse into a character that breaks past the societal restraints women typically experience. Mrs. Croft, ostensibly, is the first Austen woman to find her way out of England; the Napoleon wars afford her the opportunity to travel the seas with her Admiral husband and participate in traditionally masculine experiences. Though other women in Austen novels do travel, they remain in-country, and they always find their way back to their original society. Throughout many wars in history, the absence of men as they fight in the military offers women the opportunity to break out of their domestic spheres. The common post-war trend, then, is that women do not want to return to their previous station. Anne Eliot, the novels heroine, develops throughout the novel to become more like Mrs. Croft, exemplifying the influence of the war on Austen’s writing. Mrs. Croft and Anne’s experiences can be connected through economics, movement, intelligence, and outsider-characteristics, with Mrs. Croft as the model who allows Anne to evolve from Austen’s pre-war heroines into a post-war, Sophia Croft-like figure. As Austen writes Persuasion in a post-Waterloo society, is it possible that she is re-evaluating her female characters’ ability for movement outside of their original communities? If war changes opportunities for women, Persuasion may be an example of Austen playing with a new kind of female; a post-war lady who is able to move in different ways than Austen’s pre-war women.

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