Monday, July 20, 2015

Persuasion and Prayers Read-Along: Day 11



Welcome to Day 11 of the Persuasion and Prayers Read-Along! You can follow along on this three-week discussion of Persuasion and The Prayers of Jane Austen by checking out the read-along tag or by clicking the button in the sidebar.

Today we're going to discuss chapters 17 and 18 of Persuasion. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts below! Otherwise, feel free to check in later today after you've had a chance to read today's chapters. Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

P.S. If you're a blogger, please feel free to put together your own post using the button above and linking back to the Persuasion and Prayers Read-Along tag, if you'd prefer to participate in the discussion that way. :)

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Persuasion Chapters 17 and 18

Discussion Format: One quote to ponder, one observation, and one question for each day's reading.

Quote to Ponder

"Here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from nature alone. It was the choicest gift of Heaven" (emphasis added).

[This is another chapter with a wealth of noteworthy quotes. Had to share some of my other favorites below!]

Honorable Mentions:

"Hers is a line for seeing human nature; and she has a fund of good sense and observation, which, as a companion, make her infinitely superior to thousands of those who having only received 'the best education in the world,' know nothing worth attending to." - Mrs. Smith

"There are so many who forget to think seriously till it is almost too late." - Mrs. Smith

"She [Anne] prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others. Warmth and enthusiasm did captivate her still. She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped."

"There, take my arm; that's right; I do not feel comfortable if I have not a woman there." - Admiral Croft

[Ah, Admiral Croft...that charmer! Doesn't it seem like Austen must have had a wonderful time creating the Admiral and his wife? I bet she simply fell in love with them!]

"Do not you think, Miss Elliot, we had better try to get him [Captain Wentworth] to Bath?" - Admiral Croft

[My response? Um, hello - yes!!!]

Observation

At the beginning of chapter 18, it is said of the Crofts that "they were people whom her [Anne's] heart turned to very naturally."

One point that seems so sweetly featured in these two chapters is that the company we choose to keep - and the company we're drawn to - can say quite a bit about our own character. While Anne's father and sister disdain her for choosing a poor widow's company over their wealthy and high-class connections, it's Anne's friends who have so much wisdom and admirable examples and kindness to impart to her. And Anne is the better for it! Even though Mr. Elliot's intentions are in question, I think he got it right when he considered Anne "a most extraordinary woman; in her temper, manners, mind, a model of female excellence."

Indeed!

I loved the scenes in this chapter with Mrs. Smith and with Admiral Croft. Mrs. Smith's attitude is so inspiring! I was thinking today about singleness (bear with me; I'm going somewhere with this!). I suppose bridal showers will do that to a girl, even if she's happy for the bride-to-be and glad to be a part of the festivities. :) I decided that one of the hardest things about being single is the feeling of missing out on a rite of passage. And unlike natural rites of passage (like growing into womanhood) or ones you can earn (like getting your education), this particular rite is one you have no real control over. And sometimes it's just so darn hard to accept that and to not feel left out or unwanted!

But here in this book is Mrs. Smith, someone almost entirely cast aside through circumstances beyond her control. Anne lists the poor woman's hardships: she lost the man she loved and also her respected position in society all at once; she lost her wealth; she has no children to care for her; she lives in a small and dismal residence; she needs help getting from one room to the other; she can hardly do anything for herself. And yet Anne observes that Mrs. Smith "had moments only of languor and depression" vs. "hours of occupation and enjoyment."

It puzzles Anne, who determines to understand it. She comes to the conclusion that it is a part of Mrs. Smith's very character, "that power of turning readily from evil to good."

I'd like to add, if I may, that perhaps that power isn't just something that you have or don't have, and that's the end of it. While I believe it might be harder for some personalities more than others to seek the positive, the power to do it lies with the God, through whom we "can do all things" (Philippians 4:13).

And one of the other interesting things about Anne's observation? She refers to Mrs. Smith's "elasticity of mind." That phrase, coupled with the "moments only of languor and depression" paint a picture of honest struggles. Yes, "evil" and depressing thoughts come to us all, especially when circumstances are painful. But it's the "elasticity" - the choice to quickly switch gears and focus on the good - that we need. (Not negating time for grieving or honestly pouring out our hearts, of course! As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, there is "a time to every purpose under the heaven." I'm just speaking of the general tendency of our thoughts.)

May God more and more often bring to mind the truth that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). I know I can learn a lot from the example of Anne's friend! I would do well to accept what Anne calls "the choicest gift of Heaven." :)

Question

Who is your favorite character in the story so far, and what is it that you love most about him or her? What can you learn from that character?

Giveaway!

Don't forget to log your giveaway entries this week using the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a hardcover copy of The Prayers of Jane Austen!

(Giveaway open to US residents only. Prize donated by the book's editor, Terry Glaspey. Thanks, Terry!)

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Which quote to ponder, observation, and question/response would you like to share?

Join us tomorrow to discuss chapters 19 and 20!

7 comments:

Julie said...

Quote to ponder: "We had better leave the Crofts to find their own level. There are several odd-looking men walking about here, who, I am told, are sailors. The Crofts will associate with them." Elizabeth

Oh my goodness, once again I had to tsk with disgust at Elizabeth and Sir Walter. I don't know if I've ever read characters that have such an inflated impression of their own selves!

"I am no match-maker, as you well know, said Lady Russell, being much too well aware of the uncertainty of all human events and calculations. I only mean that if Mr. Elliot should some time hence pay his addresses to you, and if you should be disposed to accept him, I think there would be every possibility of your being happy together. A most suitable connection everybody must consider it, but I think it might be a very happy one."

Ugh! More and more I am seeing this woman is definitely no judge of character! Thank goodness Anne seems to not be persuaded by her much anymore. At least she sees that there is something about Mr. Elliot that isn't totally forthcoming.

"Westgate Buildings! said he, and who is Miss Anne Elliot to be visiting in Westgate Buildings? A Mrs. Smith. A widow Mrs. Smith; and who was her husband? One of the five thousand Mr. Smiths whose names are to be met with everywhere. And what is her attraction? that she is old and sickly. Upon my word, Miss Anne Elliot, you have the most extraordinary taste! Everything that revolts other people, low company, paltry rooms, foul air, disgusting associations, are inviting to you. But surely you may put off this old lady till tomorrow; she is not so near her end, I presume, but that she may hope to see another day. What is her age? Forty?"

Oh my gosh! Sir Walter just needs to stop talking! OLD LADY?! FORTY! How the heck old is he if he is considering this poor woman at 40 being old? And it just kind of upset me because I am going to be 50 next week and I don't consider myself old! Bwahaha! So poor, clueless Sir Walter just sealed his fate as being my least likeable character in this book!

Question:

Who is your favorite character in the story so far, and what is it that you love most about him or her? What can you learn from that character?

I guess I would have to say that Anne is my favorite character so far. She is poised, she holds her tongue in the midst of stupidity, and she has become wiser as the story develops. I think she is an observer as well. When you place yourself outside of the social event and "people watch" I think you start to see people's characters and I think Anne has learned from her observations. I also like the Crofts. They amuse me!

Amber Stokes said...

Julie,

LOL. You always pick out such entertaining (although sometimes painfully so!) quotes, Julie. ;) And yes, Sir Walter really would do well with thinking before he speaks - or just not speaking as much, because I'm not sure he'd get it even if he spent time thinking about it. (That might be unkind of me to say so, though!)

In any case, happy early birthday!! Fifty years young. :D That's not old at all! I'm thinking you're right in Sir Walter being rather hypocritical to be judging someone else by their supposed age of 40; he couldn't very well be as young as that himself, or else he'd have been a child when he first became a father! Haha. I will say, though, that I'm sure life spans were a bit different then - although that hardly makes 40 "old," and that definitely doesn't excuse Sir Walter in his insufferable rudeness!

In any case, are you doing something exciting for your birthday? Hope it's a wonderful one! :)

I love your choices for your favorite characters. Anne certainly grows on the reader, doesn't she? And I'm definitely fond of the Crofts - as well as Anne's school friend, Mrs. Smith. Now those are some friends one would be blessed to be associated with!

~Amber

Courtney Clark said...

Amber, I think this is my favorite day of your observations so far! Such great points concerning friendship, singleness, and trusting in God through all circumstances. Thank you for that :) I needed to hear it.

I love how Anne’s transformation so far is subtle to anyone observing from the outside, yet so significant to her strength of character. Her choices to remain a loyal friend and stick to her own judgments (this time) are the reason she is growing. I would dare say that, even if Captain Wentworth did not become a permanent part of her life :), the outcome of this story would be her newfound happiness and purpose somehow.

My favorite quote was one of your honorable mentions: “She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.”

My favorite TWO characters would have to be Anne and Mr. Croft. He is just so jolly and sweet to her in these chapters!!! Here’s another quote from chapter 17 that shows why I love Anne: “Twelve years had changed Anne from the blooming, silent, unformed girl of fifteen to the elegant little woman of seven-and-twenty, with every beauty excepting bloom, and with manners as consciously right as they were invariably gentle.”

Julie, I love all the funny and insightful quotes you shared! And happy, happy birthday to you this week!!!!

Amber Stokes said...

Courtney,

First off, I'm so sorry that I've taken forever to respond to these comments!

I'm grateful to know that my rambling thoughts in this post resonated with you. :) Thank you for reading them!

I love what you note about Anne. It really is the choices we make day to day that contribute to our character...

Beware: Tanent Ahead!

I've been thinking lately about how life really is a battle that has to be fought every day. You can build off of the progress of yesterday, but you can't count on it to make up for any lack of progress today. I know I'm totally not the first to say pretty much this exact thing, but still. ;) I guess it's because I've been struggling with my book obsession (my constant obtaining of new books) and some not-so-great eating habits, and I feel like at this point it's too scary to think of cutting back in the long-term. Matthew 6:34 has taken on new significance - not just worrying about risks and outside circumstances but worrying about temptations and failures that could be waiting just around the bend. "Each day has enough trouble of its own." And so we fight the battle day by day, choice by choice.

To try to bring this back around to Persuasion, perhaps we could say that, choice by choice, day by day, Anne's been fighting the battle for independent thought and standing up for her own convictions. Maybe that's a long stretch to try to connect my rambling thoughts, but there you go, for what it's worth. ;)

Tangent Over...For Now

Anyway, I also LOVE what you say about the outcome of the story - that Anne would have gotten some form of "happily-ever-after" either way, because she was growing into a better, stronger person who could embrace happiness because it was no longer dictated by anyone else. :) Great thoughts!

Also, you picked some great quotes, and I totally agree about Admiral Croft! Such a fun and sweet character, especially when paired with his loyal, fun, and thoughtful wife. :)

Thanks so much for your comment!

~Amber

Amber Stokes said...

*Tangent

Courtney Clark said...

What a wonderful tangent!!! Yes, it's a great reminder that life is a daily battle. I wonder sometimes, if we could know what our future will be like, if we would be excited or scared? It just makes me thankful that God DOES know our future, and that we can trust Him. But sometimes trust is hard. Oh well, we aren't promised an easy road, just a constant Savior.

Ok, maybe I went on a little tangent there... :)

Amber Stokes said...

Courtney,

Love this!! => "We aren't promised an easy road, just a constant Savior."

That's beautiful. ♥

And thank you for not only tolerating my tangent, but for understanding it and taking the time to read it. :) You're awesome, friend!

~Amber