Fall 1988 • Vol. X No. 4 Nonfiction |

Doubleness and Refrain in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”

Among the characters in Jane Austen's canon of fiction, the heroine of Persuasion is supremely mysterious. Anne Elliot suggests a residual depth of personality that eludes narrator as well as reader in this, Austen's last completed work. Yet even as character emerges with extraordinary subtlety, this novel's structure and language call themselves to our attention by virtue of their contrasting and conspicuous schematism. The wistful tone of Persuasion is informed by a bizarre and implacable emphasis on doubleness and refrains in diction, plot, themes, and even syntax. Symmetric doubling is not intrinsically remarkable in Austen's fiction, of course. The titles Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility reflect the harmoniously epigrammatic rhythm of eighteenth-century prose. But in that tradition, as in Austen's earlier novels, structural symmetry suggests the dependable order of a stable, rational world. In Persuasion, names and events recur in a disturbingly irrational way,

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