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Almond, R. (2008). On: Object Loss, Renewed Mourning, and Psychic Change in Jane Austen's Persuasion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(1):195-195.

(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(1):195-195

Letters to the Editors

On: Object Loss, Renewed Mourning, and Psychic Change in Jane Austen's Persuasion Related Papers

Richard Almond

Dear Editors,

Margaret Hanly (2007) argues convincingly — persuasively, one could say — that Anne Elliot suffers from unresolved adolescent grief. This interferes with her capacity to resolve her Oedipal conflicts and carry through her 19-year-old engagement to the exciting and loving Captain Wentworth. I believe Hanly has got it wrong: putting so much emphasis on grief, because she is taking a literary convention — literally. The convention is the early death of Anne's mother. The death of a parent is a commonplace device in literature — for example, in another great Jane Austen novel, Emma, the heroine's mother has also succumbed long before the action of the novel. Likewise in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and in any number of other novels and fairy tales, mothers (or fathers) meet their demise before the narrative begins. The convention speaks to the psychological state of the heroine: a psychological situation that has oedipal (or other) connotations. In Austen, when the mother remains alive the same narrative purpose is served in some other way — the mother is psychologically discredited by silliness (Pride and Prejudice); class and distance (Mansfield Park); or affable unawareness (Sense and Sensibility). The narrative of Persuasion revolves around the psychological problems of triumph — guilt, anxiety, fears of sexuality, adolescent defenses against gratification, masochistic renunciation. Hanly acknowledges all of these. Almost all Hanly's arguments specifically for mourning come from the psychoanalytic literature.

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