In both Persuasion by Jane Austen and Angela Carter's The Magic Toyshop, the past has significance both in terms of characterisation and of plot.
Persuasion focuses on a renewal of an old love between the main character, Anne Elliot, and Captain Frederick Wentworth. Eight years before Anne accepted a marriage proposal from Wentworth thinking of nothing but her love for him. However, she is persuaded by her friend and mentor not to marry him, her social class too high for it to be a 'suitable' match. Her former home is now let to Frederick Wentworth's sister and he becomes integrated into Anne's social circle, now a wealthy man eight years on.
Anne essentially loses her youth through the regrets she holds of a decision that she was influenced into taking while still so young.
The novel centres on the impact that Anne's earlier decision has on their relationship now, years later.
The extent of this impact is debatable, as an old flame is rekindled in the end. However, a past which links so closely to the present creates new plot opportunities to Austen who carefully constructs new perspectives for both the reader, herself and her characters by the past and present love stories between Anne and the Captain.
Melanie, the main character of Carter's novel, is also affected by her own past. She is a silly pubescent girl who's grown up in a typically symmetrical, middle class family. After her parent's death she moves into her Uncle Philips house - a man who personifies the very essence of patriarchy.
He is working class and at first Melanie's grandiosity excludes her from the family; she refuses to let go of her past. There is a significant turning point where Melanie lets go and unlike Anne, who renews her link, Melanie...