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Suzanna Geiser

Parental Authority and Its Legal Limits

Teaching Notes


"Parental Authority and Its Legal Limits" was first presented at the Jane Austen Summer Program of 2017, entitled "Persuasion at 200."  Suzanna Geiser provides social and legal context for Austen's portrayal of various family structures in Persuasion

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are Sir Walter and Lady Russell’s objections to Anne’s prospective marriage to Wentworth? What do these objections tell us about what Sir Walter and Lady Russell value in family government? Are these parental figures acting in Anne’s “best interests”? Why does Anne break off the engagement and how does her decision shape her development? Is there a case to be made for Anne’s marrying Mr. Elliot?

  2. How does Austen characterize Persuasion's mother figures? What do these representations of motherhood suggest about the limited legal authority England gave its mothers? What do they suggest about the reality of the mother's authority in the home? 

"Parental Authority and Its Legal Limits" handout
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