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Mapping Jane
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Short as it is, I've been finding Jane Austen's Persuasion tough going. Austen's world is much different from our own. A world of quaint English villages and country estates where everyone you meet seems to be your cousin.

I had a lot of trouble keeping track of the family relationships. When you start talking about the son of the sister of the wife of your sister's father-in-law, I'm flummoxed. If I were told that Anne was batting .237 and Captain Wentworth played centerfield, that's the sort of information that would stick in my head, but I doubt baseball was very popular amongst their social set back at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

My own family is so small we barely have a family tree. It's more like a telephone pole. I'm not attuned to such matters.

Then I recalled making maps while playing computer text games. The protoypical interactive adventure is set in a cave which is explored by typing directional commands to move. One might proceed west to the pit, northeast to the narrow tunnel, then southwest to the dark cavern. Since there are no graphics, but only descriptions, it's hard to keep track of the geography. The best policy is to draw a map on a piece of paper, recording the relative positions of position of the locations as you visit them.

It struck me that navigating the relationships of Jane Austen's characters was not unlike spelunking my way through a confusing cave. I went back to the beginning of Persuasion and retraced my steps, charting family members as I met them. Now that I have it all on a sheet of paper in front of me while I read, I can easily trace the tortuous path from Mrs Hayter to Walter Elliot if I care to. Much better.

That's a trick they never taught me that in my college lit courses.

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