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Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen depicts a social life that is a collision between linear concerns (finding a husband, establishing a family, securing the future) and later concerns (savoring the present, assuring sociability, behaving justly). Mrs. Dashwood maintains a belief that her daughters will all marry above their social class and thus be able to keep her in comfort for the rest of her life. "Some mothers might have encouraged the intimacy from motives of interestand some might have repressed it from motives of prudence. But Mrs. Dashwood was alike uninfluenced by either consideration. A simple thing such as money should never keep young lovers apart, and in the proper marriage, Elinor will be "settled for life".

The main characters in Sense & Sensibility are the Dashwood sisters:

  • Elinor - the sensible, rational sibling
  • Marianne - the impulsive, romantic middle sister Marianne.

The Dashwood family is rounded out by:

  • Mrs. Henry Dashwood - the girls' mother,
  • John Dashwood - the girl's older brother,
  • John's wife Fanny - with whom the Dashwood girls have a mutual dislike.

Other major characters include:

  • Edward Ferrars (Fanny's brother) with whom Elinor falls in love, but he is engaged to Lucy Steele, an ambitious and mean person.
  • There is also Willoughby, who falls in love with Marianne after rescuing her, but is a total rake.
  • Colonel Brandon, an older gentleman who also falls for Marianne.

Elinor is the representation of Jane, the character who masters the art of living in uncertainty, and whose veil of decorum masks a generosity of heart, an act of love. Marianne is more concerned with finding the proper suitor, one whose "person and manners must ornament his goodness with every possible charm". This clearly resembles Cassandra, who apparently was the more attractive socialite. Marianne is emotional and fond of romantic poetry. She falls in love with Willoughby because he is handsome and gallant and shares the same favorite poet as she. Because Marianne seems so in love with being in love, she fails to see that Willoughby is a complete rake. The girls' overriding concern with finding a wealthy husband leads them to make choices based on economics, before true love finds its way.

Sense and Sensibility is the product of a young girl. In 1919, George Moore wrote:

Remember the theme if the book is disappointment in love, and never was one better written, more poignant, more dramatic. We all know how terrible these disappointments are, and how they crush and break up life.

And when are the disappointments in life and love more dramatic that during youth? Jane wrote about the world and the people she knew, bouncing the work off Cassandra for approval. Jane and Cassandra during the 1790s were attractive, eligible young ladies of some means who probably spent most of their energy in finding a suitable husband, it was what young ladies traditionally did.

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