Subversion of Class and Gender Roles in Jane Austen's Persuasion

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Subversion of Class and Gender Roles in Jane Austen's Persuasion

In Jane Austen's Persuasion, Mrs. Croft makes but few appearances and delivers little dialogue. Nevertheless, Austen gives her significant narrative and thematic importance. Mrs. Croft provides a foil for several of the Elliots, while developing a commonality with the frequently ostracized Anne. This bond between Mrs. Croft and Austen's heroine valorizes Mrs. Croft's radical views concerning feminism and marriage. Beyond signifying a paradigm shift in such social morals, though, the roles of Admiral and Mrs. Croft allow Austen to subvert the dominant upper class culture. By exhibiting superior but genuine manners, by demonstrating the complacency
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Because of this clear characterization of Mary, when we hear of Mrs. Croft's mild sea-sickness, we admire her fortitude while recognising Mary's sacrifice.

Mrs. Croft thus differentiates herself from Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Mary. She also redefines femininity among these acquaintances. Although not conventionally pretty, "neither tall nor fat" (34), she has "bright dark eyes, good teeth, and altogether an agreeable face" (34). According to Anne, then, an unconventional woman can still be attractive. Furthermore, to describe her "weather-beaten complexion" (34), Anne gently describes how Mrs. Croft "[seems] to have lived some years longer in the world than her real eight-and-thirty" (35). The emphasis on living in the world, instead of on aesthetic descriptions like aged or wrinkled, indicates that Anne, (and therefore Austen), values experience and intellect, more than physical beauty.

Similarly, Mrs. Croft defies conventional notions of domesticity as the female realm. Mr. Shepherd reveals that, while considering leasing Kellynch Hall, Mrs. Croft "asked more questions about the house, and terms, and taxes, than the Admiral himself" (17). Thus, Mrs. Croft manages perfectly well in financial affairs. Furthermore, Mrs. Croft does not exhibit the female delicacy, as does Elizabeth, who relies utterly

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