Appearance and reality in Jane Austen’s <i>Persuasion</i>
The word ‘real’ occurs with significant frequency in Persuasion, indicating a theme which, more than that of ‘persuasion’, connects most of the main areas of the novel, and all the characters. It associates a series of contrasts between reality and appearance – the genuine and the bogus – which are developed throughout. The contrast is seen in different areas of the novel: respectability, friendship, hospitality, health, understanding, and taste, and between the superficiality of the aristocratic Sir Walter Elliot and the genuineness of the naval fraternity. The gradual recognition by Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth that they share the values identified as real and worthy is what finally brings them together, providing the novel’s inner plot.