“You misled me by the term gentleman”: A Final Farewell to “foppery and nonsense”
This chapter examines Mr. Woodhouse's successors in gallantry in order to expose the evils that Mr. Woodhouse's age and hypochondria mask. Sir Walter Elliot's lament ostensibly regarding the inability to determine rank from a person's name, points to the state of flux regarding the term gentleman and the rising status of the professions. Wentworth represents Jane Austen's final contribution to the masculinity debate and the culmination of the process of social reorganization observed by Defoe in The Compleat Gentleman. Austen reveals that Fitzwilliam Darcy is a gentleman who regards his responsibilities with professional seriousness over the course of Pride and Prejudice by removing his fashionable disguise and teaching him that solid worth, regardless of its origins, is far more important. Persuasion essentially begins with the problem of defining the gentleman. Many critics have considered the role of the navy in their interpretations of Austen's social vision as articulated in Persuasion.