Is Persuasion’s Anne Elliot Based on a Real Person?

Image Credit: Nick Wall/Netflix

‘Persuasion’ is a romantic drama movie directed by Carrie Cracknell. It is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, first published in December 1817. The film stars Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, a young noblewoman who rekindles a romance with former lover Captain Frederick Wentworth years after their separation.

Since Anne is the story’s protagonist and presents some poignant viewers on love, romance, heartbreak, and courtship, it is natural for viewers to wonder if the character is based on a real person. If you are looking for an answer about the inspiration behind Anne Elliot in ‘Persuasion,’ here is everything we have gathered on the matter! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Is Anne Elliot Based on a Real Person?

Anne Elliot is the protagonist of Jane Austen’s last completed novel ‘Persuasion’ which was first published in December 1817. Anne is the daughter of Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall. She is nineteen years old when she meets and falls in love with Frederick Wentworth, a promising young lieutenant in the Royal Navy. However, she breaks off her engagement with Wentworth after her family persuades her to do so. She reunites with Wentworth nearly seven years later, and the two attempt to reconnect. The same backstory for Anne is present in the novel’s film adaption, with actress Dakota Johnson essaying the role.

Image Credit: Nick Wall/Netflix

Austen’s novels are loosely inspired by her real-life experiences. Therefore, readers might often find direct real-life counterparts for some of her characters. When it comes to Anne Elliot, the author hasn’t herself stated whether a real person inspired the character. However, in one of her letters to her beloved niece Fanny Knight, Austen drew a parallel between Fanny and Anne. In the letter, Austen states the book’s protagonist reminds her of her niece. In reality, Fanny had sought advice from her aunt after John Plumtre asked for Fanny’s hand in marriage.

Although Austen advised Fanny to make the decision herself, it is unclear whether the author influenced the decision. Fanny eventually turned down the proposal and married a different man. The incident took place in 1814 and might have inspired Austen to write the novel. However, there is no confirmation on the matter. Fanny Knight was the daughter of Austen’s brother Edward Austen and his wife,
Elizabeth Bridges. She later married Edward Knatchbull in 1820 and had four children. Fanny passed away in 1882.

Ultimately, while it is unclear whether Fanny Knight is the inspiration behind the character of Anne Elliot, author Jane Austen certainly saw similarities between the two. Nonetheless, Anne is a fictional character who mainly exists within Austen’s work. Austen presents Anne as a level-headed and warmhearted girl who has an overtly romantic nature.

However, the character also represents Austen’s disdain for the aristocracy. The same is evident in Anne’s feminist attitude and her decision to marry for love over any political or economic benefits. Austen also highlights Anne’s melancholy over her heartbreak and her independent spirit. Hence, Anne is an effective tool for Austen to explore the theme of persuasion and its effects on human communication and relationships. As a result, Anne is a unique fictional character who breaks the mold of a typical Austen protagonist.

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