Doctor Who, the long-running science-fiction series that follows a madman in a box, has a curious phenomenon attached to it.
Typically, when one watches the show for the first time, the Doctor they are introduced to tends to top that person’s list of incarnations.
Now, this isn’t the unspoken rule about being a “Whovian,” but from my experience, no matter how many Doctor’s I see, my first, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, will always be number one.
So what does this have to do Jane Austen you ask?
Well, like Doctor Who, I think Jane Austen has this “your first is always your favourite” rule attached to her writing.
Most people’s introduction to Austen is with her 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice and while I have just finished P&P prior to writing this post, and I can see why it is among the most famous of all Austen’s works, I am going to take a big risk by publically declaring that it was not my favourite.
Instead, I can without a doubt say that my favourite novel is Austen’s 1817 novel, Persuasion.
Persuasion was my first introduction to Austen’s work and I admit that I chose it for two very ridiculous reasons.
One, because it was the only book available at my local bookstore published in the Vintage Classic Edition, yes I chose the book based on the cover, I mean come on, it’s beautiful and publishing companies know how to exploit my weakness for pretty books.
And two, classics can be hard to get into and I felt that if I bought Persuasion and didn’t like it, I would only have to “suffer” through 320 pages versus Pride and Prejudice’s 464 pages.
Neither of these reasons had an effect on whether or not I would like the book, but I do have reasons as to why I like Persuasion over Pride and Prejudice.
Anne Elliot was like the Doctor for me. Unlike Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Elliot realized much earlier that she had made a mistake so far as Frederick Wentworth was concerned, and, in my opinion, her realization was a more natural progression than Bennet.
I also think that Elliot is an amazing example of just how far Austen’s writing progressed, as instead of marrying up socially, as Elizabeth Bennet did in Pride and Prejudice to the one and only – and slightly insufferable – Mr. Darcy, Elliot marries Frederick Wentworth, a self-made man.
This idea of the self-made gentleman was a theme in Austen’s England at the time, so it’s nice to see a reflection of that in the novel.
Likewise, Wentworth was a fantastic companion (watch Doctor Who for reference), and reflects the idea of hard working paying off, much like it is taught in today’s society.
I could see many people finding Wentworth more appealing because a lot of his characteristics are better translated to today’s man, which made him more relatable than Mr Darcy, plus, did I mention how insufferable I found that character…
I also enjoyed how positively ridiculous Sir Walter, Elliot’s father, was. He reminded me so much of Pete Tyler, Rose’s dad on Doctor Who, that it made the Who comparison that much more real.
He also reminded me of a reflection of Kitty and Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, which is funny given that he is supposed to be the provider for the family.
However, with that said, I did prefer Mr Bennet as a parental figure because who wouldn’t want their dad to step when faced with a marriage proposal to a less than stellar clergyman.
Honestly, I think Persuasion will always be my favourite because it gave me my first glimpse of the fabulous author that Jane Austen was for her time.
Much like my introduction to Doctor Who, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the story of Persuasion and how it sparked my need to seek out more of the worlds that have made Austen and Who so famous.