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Jane Austen’s last novel, Persuasion, follows the story of two past lovers and their journey back to each other. Set in the early 1800s, the novel’s main protagonists, Anne and Captain Wentworth, have ended their engagement and become miserable. They and several other characters are given the opportunity to claim happiness. While some rejected the opportunity, others took advantage and benefited from it. Austen highlights this motif of happiness to leave a lasting impression to readers that happiness is a choice and can be found. In Persuasion by Jane Austen, the theme that one has the ability to control their own happiness is displayed through the Musgroves, Anne’s character development, and Anne and Wentworth’s relationship.

Although not as wealthy or superior to the Elliots, the Musgrove family finds happiness in each other and what they have. The Musgroves are a friendly middle-class family living in an estate called uppercross. They recognize they are wealthy, but not of aristocratic lineage. Anne Elliot characterizes them as “[some] of the happiest creatures” (Austen 39). Mrs. Musgrove expresses “how nonsensical some [people] are about their place” (Austen 45), revealing that they are not as concerned with status and possessions. They acknowledge the benefits of status and the nice things they have, but they don’t let that control their happiness. The Musgroves could choose to be downhearted and wallow in what they don’t have like the Elliots do. Instead, they engage in time with each other, social gatherings, dancing, music, and other things in life that make them happy. The Musgroves choose to have a positive attitude and outlook on life, even when situations aren’t ideal. They choose to find ways to be happy because happiness is valuable to them. The Musgroves are a positive change of scene for Anne from her father and sister’s neglect. Their value of happiness helps Anne discover who she is and take control of her own happiness

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Anne Elliot has continuously been overlooked by her family and had her happiness determined by others. She experienced the loss of her mother at fourteen and then separation from Captain Wentworth at nineteen. Since the tragedies, she has devoted and lost herself to pleasing others to distract herself from her pain. When visiting Bath, The cheerful Musgrove family treats Anne better than her own family ever did. Anne’s “spirits improved by change of place and subject” (Austen 44) and the caring person she is found a new healthy responsibility to care for Musgroves. Anne is able to think for herself and be acknowledged by them, which is a breath of fresh air from the neglect of her father and sister. Her new spirit encourages her to engage in and discover what she is passionate about such as literature and the importance of compatibility in couples. She focuses on herself and not what others want for her, raising her spirits more. She grows distant from her father, sister, and Lady Russell; all of whom have held Anne back from being happy. She no longer relies on them to decide what’s best for her. She takes control of her happiness by surrounding herself with people who value her, prioritizing her passions, and trusting herself. Anne’s newfound character and attitude encourage her to rekindle her relationship with Captain Wentworth.

Perhaps the greatest display of one having the ability to control their own happiness is the relationship between Anne Elliot and Captain Fredrick Wentworth. Eight years prior to the events of the novel, Lady Russell and Sir Elliot persuaded Anne to call off her engagement to Wentworth because he was not worthy. Anne, being a people pleaser, allowed them to control her future and happiness by taking away the one thing that made her happy. Anne and Wentworth were separated by lineage, wealth, and status; all of which are out of their control. Both had become broken, lost, and unhappy. Over time Anne had found herself and Wentworth rose in rank; the door was wide open to rekindle their relationship. Once Anne found herself, she dismissed her family’s interest in marrying her cousin, William Elliot, which is something the old Anne wouldn’t have done. She doesn’t conform to what others want for her by prioritizing and listening to her own feelings and judgment. While having a friendly debate with Captain Harville about gender and love, Anne states that women’s feelings are strongest because they “[bear] the most rough usage, and [ride] out the heaviest of weather” (Austen 219). Wentworth overhears her and realizes she is referencing their relationship. Recognizing the door is wide open and his feelings for Anne remain, he puts aside his past bitterness and writes Anne a letter declaring his love for her. He put away his pain to take action and control his future. Anne and Wentworth fought and took action for their relationship and happiness instead of letting others decide for them.

Through the Musgroves, Anne’s character development, and Anne and Wentworth’s relationship, Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion demonstrates the theme that one has the ability to control their happiness. Austen gives the Musgroves, Anne, and Wentworth difficult situations that take their happiness. She also told them that they needed to find it again and all of them took advantage of it. Through the Musgroves, Anne, and Wentworth, readers see that happiness is not easy to obtain, but it’s more than possible. Readers see that one can’t wait around for happiness to come, one must take action and make the best of the situation they are given. Austen shows that with the right people, mindset, and time, the choice of happiness is possible.

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