Jane Austen’s Persuasion And John Keats’ “The Eve Of ST. Agnes”: Compare And Contrast Essays Example
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Jane Austen’s Persuasion and John Keats’ “The Eve of St. Agnes” present two narratives about romances that elicit certain emotions from the reader by the end. Both of these literary works explore similar themes despite the differences in both content and narrative structure. Such disparities in content may be attributed to the fact that each work had a specific agenda is because of the specific kind of story or one is structured as a poem while one is a novel aimed at critiquing social and cultural ills that defined the nineteenth century. Both Austen and Keats provide compelling narratives that explore gender issues in a unique manner yet nonetheless bring the authors to arrive at similar conclusions regarding gender, class, and the role of marriage in western civilization.
Jane Austen was unequivocally preoccupied with the role and pace of women in society through a cogent discussion of the limitations women clearly faced throughout the novel. As such, Austen limns marriage as an avenue through which women could exercise a degree of economic security and agency as well as social and financial mobility. At the outset of Persuasion, Jane Austen gives the reader a general overview of Frederick Wentworth’s marriage proposal to Anne Elliot, describing how Elliot’s family explicitly disapproved of the couple’s engagement. As a result of her family’s disapproval, Anne breaks off the engagement, which may account for why Austen titled her novel Persuasion. The family, namely Anne’s father Sir Walter and Lady Russell, eschewed Wentworth’s status and decried the notion that her marriage to Wentworth was commensurate with Anne throwing her life away. At the outset of chapter four, Austen delves deeper into how Anne’s father feels about the engagement. Austen notes that Sir Walter “thought it a very degrading alliance” due mostly to his vain character. Indeed, for English women who lived during the nineteenth century in a society conditioned by Victorian ideologies and a stringent moral canon, marriage represented the only means for them to lead fulfilling lives and procure economic security. The practice of coverture in which a woman’s identity and status became subsumed under those of their husbands rendered the dependent and subservient to their male corollary.
Similarly, when the nurse Angela warns Porphyry to leave, she speaks with a sense of urgency because Madeline’s family dislikes her spouse, which Keats alludes to at the end of stanza eleven and stanza twelve of “The Eve of St. Agnes.” Angela declares: “Mercy, Porphyro! hie thee from this place;/ They are all here to-night, the whole blood-thirsty race!;” Not only does Angela convey a sense of urgency, but she also admonishes Porphyro and emotionally charged diction due to the fact that Madeline comes from a noble and affluent family, which Porphyro comes from humble beginnings, which accounts for why there is such strong disapproval of Porphyro for Madeline’s spouse. Keats unequivocally considers Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet throughout his poem despite the fact that Romeo and Juliet both came front wealthy families and their families just hate one another.
Austen’s Persuasion and Keats “The Eve of St. Agnes” are very similar in their exposition about class status and how status plays a formative role in determining suitors and marriage. The act of persuasion is involved in both literary works as well, which is evident when Angela attempts to persuade Porphyro to leave as well as when Lady Russell persuades Anne to break off her engagement to a man who comes from an inferior social class. However, both characters decide to act off their own will and volition. Porphyro runs away with Madeline while Anne gets engaged to Captain Wentworth. As such, both lovers at the center of both of these works exercise agency by choosing to live off their own accord rather than succumb to greater social forces.
Stanzas thirty-eight and thirty-nine of “The Eve of St. Agnes” poetically portray Porphyro’s feelings for Madeline:
"My Madeline! sweet dreamer! lovely bride!
Say, may I be for aye thy vassal blest?
Thy beauty's shield, heart-shap'd and vermeil dyed?
Ah, silver shrine, here will I take my rest
After so many hours of toil and quest,
A famish'd pilgrim,—sav'd by miracle.
Though I have found, I will not rob thy nest
Saving of thy sweet self; if thou think'st well
"Hark! 'tis an elfin-storm from faery land,
Of haggard seeming, but a boon indeed:
Arise—arise! the morning is at hand;—
The bloated wassaillers will never heed:—
Let us away, my love, with happy speed;
There are no ears to hear, or eyes to see,—
Drown'd all in Rhenish and the sleepy mead:
Awake! arise! my love, and fearless be,
For o'er the southern moors I have a home for thee."
Porphyro conveys his undying love for Madeline, which persuades her to leave with him rather than listen to . In the middle of chapter twenty-three of “Persuasion”, Captain Wentworth writes a beautiful letter to Anne expressing his feelings in a persuading description of his lasting love for her.
“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F.W. “I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never”
Both monologues in content are very romantic and produce the same theme. They are written from a lover to a beloved and although Porphyro’s is all the more dramatic, they both have beautiful phrases filled with romantic words.
Porphyro’s monologue to Madeline is captivating because it is dramatic “My Madeline! Sweet dreamer! Lovely bride!”, which is similar to sentiments articulated in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in which Juliet opines, “Romeo! Oh Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” The beginning of Captain Wentworth’s letter is also quite captivating: “I can listen no longer in silence.” Both beginnings lead the reader to believe that one person longs for the other. Austen’s protagonist is far more believable than Poryphyro is, which is reinforced by the language and discursive framing he deploys. This observation must be understood through the distinction between realism and romanticism. The texts are also similar in that they both involve some sort of journey. Porphyro’s journey was coming to see Madeline. He describes his journey as difficult and tumultuous:, “Ah silver shrine, here will I take my rest/ After so many hours of toil and quest.” Captain Wentworth’s journey was being without Anne for so many years after the break of the engagement and coming back. “I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.” Though both journeys are somewhat different, they are making the same point. That everything that I have done up until now was for the constancy of our love.
In understanding both texts to be similar the reader must first understand from what theme and narrative each work is written. Even though both works are romantic, is that supposed to mean that they are both fantasy or that they are both real? Even though they both have similar underlying outlooks, does that mean that the literary tone will be the same? Even though Anne and Madeline share traits, they are quite different. Madeline is actually trying to represent the beautiful Agnes of Rome. She is pure and wants Agnes to deliver her dream guy, which in this case is Porphyro. She believes in praying and fasting on St. Agnes’ Eve for the man that she wants. Anne is quite the opposite in this case in that she has her own mind. One may think that if she did, she would never have broken the engagement. But Anne also felt that her duty was to her family “If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty”
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