Welcome to the Persuasion Happiness Program. Persuasion, like all of Jane Austen’s novels, is more than a book: it’s a roadmap to happiness. Here are lots of ways to lift yourself up with Persuasion!
1.Read Persuasion, and discover that there is always a second chance at happiness. Heroine Anne Elliot goes from lonely resignation to triumphant empowerment. It’s impossible to turn the last page without feeling a little spark inside that says, “that could be me.” Yes, it could, and it will!
2.Read Persuasion, and renew (or form) your faith in men. If you’ve ever wished and hoped that men could be as loyal and as romantic as women, Persuasion will grant your wish. Persuasion has what is perhaps the most romantic declaration of love in all of English literature. But don’t just wish and hope: Believe. Which leads us to:
3. Read Persuasion, and learn that faith in the good is rewarded. Always. As the heroine, Anne Elliot, says to a male friend, “I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman.”
4. Read Persuasion, and develop discernment. Anne Elliot was persuaded at the tender age of 19 to give up her engagement to the man she truly loved; she spent the next eight years regretting it. Not only did she learn to trust her intuition about love, she also learned to rely on her own inner voice at other critical moments. Observe her closely, and follow her example.
5. Read Persuasion, and realize that family flaws—and even our own failings–can be funny. If you’ve ever found family get-togethers unendurable, Persuasion will show you how to find the humor in them. There are many reasons why Austen was a genius, and her ability to make us laugh, no matter what other drama may be be brewing, is one of them. In Persuasion, Austen treats us to three of the most obnoxious and yet the most hilarious characters she ever wrote, all of whom happen to be the close relations of our heroine, Anne Elliot.
Have any family who are self-centered, insensitive, or hypochondriacs? It’s time to laugh at it all! Anne’s sister Mary has all of those qualities. Instead of being annoyed or affronted by the person in your life who is most like Mary, why not take Anne’s example? Anne is all sweetness and mildness and gentle persuasion. She never takes Mary’s insensitivity personally; she just gets on with it. We love Anne for that!
Be the boss, even if they think you’re the servant. Just look at how Anne takes charge in Lyme when there’s a crisis and everyone’s running around in a panic. Yeah she has to put up with a lot, but you don’t. You live in the twenty-first century, and you’re allowed to say NO.
Plagued by vain, selfish, self-deluded relatives? Prepare yourself for a huge laugh: Anne’s father Sir Walter and sister Elizabeth are unwavering in their coldness and self-regard. In their minds, everyone else is aging and deteriorating, while they stay as gorgeous as ever. Can you just imagine Sir Walter and Elizabeth at the respective ages of ninety and sixty fancying themselves as blooming and as handsome as ever? Because you know that’s exactly what they will be thinking.
6. Enjoy what is perhaps Austen’s greatest genius: She always gets us to take a long hard look at ourselves—and always with a huge laugh!! We get to see ourselves not just in the heroines or heroes we aspire to be, but maybe just a tiny bit of ourselves in her less attractive characters. For aren’t we all a bit self-deluded—it’s part of being human, and it’s the better part of being human to recognize it and get real. We may not be as selfish as Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot, but who among us has never looked in the mirror expecting to see our 18-year-old or 25-year-old self instead of whatever age we might be now?
7.See Persuasion as a call to action: Seize the day, and make happiness your own. Instead of being sad that you’re not as perky looking now as you were back then, or that you “wasted” years of your life regretting the past or putting up with whatever you’ve put up with, why not see the happiness of having lived x-number of years past the year that stays frozen in your mind–and resolve to live every moment of every succeeding year feeling grateful for being alive, pursuing your dreams, and continuing to read Jane Austen?
8.Read Persuasion, and have fun imagining what happens next in the story. Austen didn’t write a sequel, but your imagination sure can. Will Mrs. Clay indeed become the next Lady Eliot? How will Mary’s health survive it? Or Elizabeth’s pride? Will Mr. Eliot thus get his just desserts? Will Anne and Frederick ever visit the new Sir William and Lady Eliot? On a pleasanter note, will Capt. Wentworth allow his wife on board his ship? If so, what exciting places will Anne visit?
Or the 2007 version of Persuasion. Although the latter compresses Austen’s story into a scant 93 minutes, it is also worth watching, particularly if you love Rupert Penry-Jones and/or Sally Hawkins.
10.Visit Bath, and retrace the steps of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Persuasion gives you as good an excuse as any to go to this jewel of a city, which is one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited–steeped in history yet youthful and vibrant. Bath may not have started out as Anne Elliot’s favorite place, but there’s no doubt the city went way up in her estimation by the end of the novel. Besides, Bath is the setting for not only Persuasion, but also Northanger Abbey. And though Catherine Morland and Anne Elliot are very different heroines, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion can be considered bookends: the former represents youthful freshness and coming of age, while the latter explores of emotional maturity and second chances.
Looking for more happiness tips? Check out the Northanger Abbey Happiness Program.