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What does Persuasion change from Jane Austen’s novel?

The new adaptation stars Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot.

Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot in Netflix's Persuasion
Nick Wall/Netflix
Published: Friday, 15th July 2022 at 8:00 am
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Adapting the work of an author as beloved as Jane Austen is always a tricky task – but it's one that director Carrie Cracknell has taken on with her new film Persuasion.

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It sees Dakota Johnson take on the starring role of Anne Elliot, and it has already come in for some criticism concerning the ways in which it changes Austen's text.

But what exactly does the film change from the novel? Read on for everything you need to know.

What does Persuasion change from Jane Austen’s novel?

From a narrative point of view, the film sticks reasonably closely to Austen's novel – key plot points such as the re-emergence of Frederick Wentworth after several years, Louisa Musgrove's fall, and William Elliot's role are all taken directly from the text.

The film does change a few character details – for example, the background of Lady Russell – but by and large the film is a faithful adaptation as far as the major events are concerned.

But where there are major differences between the book and film are when it comes to tone– with Cracknell keen to update the film for a modern audience, especially the dialogue.

Austen's words are changed to reflect modern parlance, with lead character Anne Elliott re-imagined as Fleabag-esque character who frequently breaks the fourth wall and quips directly to camera.

"We wanted to adapt this story with a version of Anne who’s incredibly contemporary, strident, and funny," she explained in the film's press notes. "Someone who messes up, gets herself into awkward situations, and gets things wrong.

"We wanted to take the spirit of the original character and drag her into the current day," she added. "What excited me most was the idea of a younger generation coming to the material and finding themselves represented in more aspects of the story than ever before.

"We wanted to honor the tropes and traditions of Jane Austen while making the characters more diverse, current, and emotionally available, where people could really see themselves in the characters."

"Austen’s writing is often so steeped in class structure, but the theme that excited us most in Persuasion is the idea of second chances," added producer Andrew Lazar.

"It’s a relevant and contemporary part of the story, and unlike some of Austen’s other stories, which are very much about money and class, we felt that everyone could relate to having had love and letting it get away."

And another producer, Christina Weiss Lurie, said: "I grew up in England reading all of Austen’s books and am such a huge admirer of her. She wrote these novels 200 years ago yet her emotional intelligence couldn’t be more apt for today’s world.

"The issue of Persuasion is how we make our own choices — are they the right ones, are we persuaded by others, by voices we hear in society. This is something that everyone has had to deal with. That and the lovely option of getting a second chance at love."

Persuasion will be available to stream on Netflix from 15th July 2022. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.

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The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now, featuring an interview with Persuasion star Ben Bailey Smith – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.

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