SENSE AND SENSIBILITY has more twists to its plot than should be allowed, and is far too complex for reconstruction here. Suffice it to say that in Elinor and Marianne Dashwood we are presented with contrasting qualities of character, the one practical and conventional, the other emotional and sentimental. The outcome turns on these young women mastering their primary characteristics and finding true happiness when in the one sense gives way to sensibility, and in the other sensibility to sense.
Anyone who has ever had a sister can appreciate and connect with Austen's two heroines, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. The two, early in the novel, are opposites in perspective, expression and, of course, sense. Marianne is the angsty teenager, Elinor the elder, calmer, more pragmatic young adult. For sisters, their relationship is relatively typical: the younger drama queen thinks she knows it all; the elder goody two-shoes frets in overly-maternal fashion and tries to gently enlighten her sister about how the world really works. Of course, in the context of the reserved Regency period, their interactions are much more sedate than the melodrama to which 21st century television has accustomed the current reader, but genuine emotion -- love, heartbreak, frustration, respect, injury -- pervades their connection.
The core of the novel is the transformation of these two young women. Over the span of the plot, they become each a little bit more like the other (with significant transformative weight given to the common sense and reserve of Elinor, who is the obvious role model throughout -- she becomes a little bit more open, like Marianne, while Marianne becomes a great deal more like her in comparison) and each a little wiser in the world. Of course, the mechanism of their respective transformations involves romantic love, foolishness and family interference, as much of life does.
The gentlemen who provide agency of transformation range from the tragically selfish Willoughby to the solidly dependable Edward. For my money, however, the ideal male figure in the novel is Colonel Brandon, who offers up a mysterious and sad history that could have graced a Gothic character, combined with gentlemanly manners, unflagging devotion, and a quiet, eternal romanticism. Each of these characters is fleshed with particular realism but highlighted with a certain glow of the ideal that makes them appealing when the novel needs them to be so.
The true masterpieces of this particular Austen novel, however, are the characters who are utterly untouched by any ideal. However fond we might be of our heroines and their love interests, it is the rest of the cast -- each character pocked and pitted with personality quirks ranging from the quixotic to the flat-out bitchy -- that makes the book a genuine pleasure. From the early chapters, in which Fanny Dashwood's snipes about money and property prompt the reader's ire and humor, through the hilarity of Mrs. Jennings' ridiculousness, to the deliciously snide self-righteousness of Miss Lucy Steele, the novel is thoroughly populated with satire and social indictment. Austen's eye for the true ridiculousness of humanity makes the genius here.
Overall, while some may not find this to be a quick and bright as Austen's pinnacle, the novel does present a rich reading experience, authenticity of emotion, and brilliant satirical observations. Granted, I am biased, as a Jane Austen fan of long-standing and having read the novel several times, but for me the bottom line is this: 'Sense and Sensibility' is exactly what a classic ought to be.
This was my fist Jane Austen novel and I was at first immediately charmed by her irony and the witty dialogue, in particular when describing the unpleasant Fanny Dashwood and other secondary characters, such as Edward's fiancée Lucy Steele. But the drama! The bitter disappointments! The dashed hopes which are magically restored! It was too much like a soap opera for me and I couldn't help but groan and wish for zombies to come in and bite people's heads off, even though zombies really aren't my thing. Will I read more Austen novels? Yes, I plan on reading Pride and Prejudice next. Am I likely to be counted among Austen's legions of devoted fans? Not likely, if I don't find a stronger injection of irony thrown into the mix. But one can always hope.
I'm just kind of done with Austen. Engagements and secret affairs and dances and going to London during the season. Families full of daughters. Country estates.
All good. All well-written. All in all an easy and quick read. The good guy generally wins. The good girl always does. The good girl then serves to deliver slightly heavy-handed moral allegory. Not that the morals are in any way not those that we should strive for--it's just a bit of a pretty picture.
Highlights include the adolescent pleasure that the emotional middle daughter Marianne takes in the intensity of her deepest heartbreak, coming down with the inevitable serious fever after distraught, long, solo walks in wet long grass, moping in an estate's chintzy, teen-pathos-eliciting, faux-Grecian 'temple.' Sir John Middleton with his sherry-fueled grins and hunting dogs makes a gorgeous caricature of the jolly English landed gentry.
Unlike in Pride and Prejudice, however, Austen's jibes at the banal conceit of certain characters lack the subtlety that her later novels have. Funny, yes, biting, still, but so obvious as to be somewhat dulled in their impact. But, in its defense, the book's characters, at least some of them, are flawed in some appealing ways: Elinor's holier than thou moralizing, their mother's mawkish mothery-ness, and Willoughby's--well, I'll leave it to you to find out about Willoughby.
If this sounds dry--well, almost no Austen novel is without a large leavening of humor--just look at the second chapter where by degrees, their sister-in-law convinces their half-brother not to help them so that finally she has him convinced their needs are so modest they "will be much more able to give you something." That's typical of Austen. The sharp characterizations that are so funny because they're timeless in their illustrations of human foibles and how being scrupulously polite and socially correct can cover pettiness, cruelty while being of itself at times comic and ridiculous.
I'll admit Elinor is my favorite. The one in the family who is sensible in a family of sentimental romantics. Who doesn't have much room to assert her own feelings because someone has to be the grownup. But I feel for Marianne too. I don't, like some, feel she "settled." I think she simply grew through her experiences to appreciate qualities that would have been lost on her earlier.
That's the way of the Austen novels and rather why I love them. Love isn't something that solves problems and brings on the happy ending but an experience that, even when you're disappointed, widens and deepens you so you become wiser and so more capable of happiness. At least if you blend a bit of a romantic sensibility with a modicum of sense.
Why? Well, first of all, I dislike every single character. The "bad" characters are wimpy in their deviousness, and the "good" characters are ridiculously naive. Elinor's sense makes her preachy, and Marianne's emotional sensibility causes her to make a complete fool of herself. She is adored by all, but I cannot understand why - I mean, the girl is such a ninny that she nearly dies just because a man leads her on. And Elinor, who loves Edward, is so proper that she never tells him how she feels, and is ready to let him marry another woman.
Next, I feel as though these characters are merely sketches of the much more entertaining characters in Pride and Prejudice. Willoughby is a lesser version of Wickham, Mrs. Dashwood a tamer Mrs. Bennett, and Colonel Brandon a less romantic Mr. Darcy. Sense and Sensibility was like rough work for the masterpiece that is Pride and Prejudice. Even some of the storylines are similar, particularly the scandal involving Willoughby.
Of course, Sense and Sensibility is still an Austen novel, and so it is still beautifully written. No one quite compares with Jane when it comes to manipulating words, and so this novel was a pleasure to listen to - music to the ears. But, I'm a reader who cannot subsist on good writing alone; I need a story and characters I can care about, and here, Austen fails.
Note: Of course, this is all just my opinion. I know lots of people love this book, and I have had an especially trying week, which may have made me a more disgruntled reviewer than normal!
Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen's first published novel. It contains all the elements that have made her such an enduring literary figure: well-drawn characters, elegant prose, nice romantic tension and sheer readability. Though not as well-liked as Pride and Prejudice, it's a wonderful novel capable of standing tall on its own merits.
Austen employs a fairly standard structure here: she presents the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as embodiments of particular worldviews. Elinor has a great deal of sense; she's practical, down-to-earth and considerate of others. Marianne is mostly concerned with what the world can do for her; she's passionate, articulate, and throughly committed to living life her way. Austen uses the novel's events to soften each sister's character, bringing them both to a middle point at which Elinor has gained some passion and Marianne has gained some sense.
These events are primarily romantic and, as is Austen's usual wont, there are problems aplenty. The atmosphere is always rife with tension as both sisters discover and deal with terrible truths about their suitors. The book can be read as a simple, literary romance novel, filled with the usual sorts of mistakes and moments of forgiveness.
This is far from a one-dimmensional novel, though. One can easily delve deeper. Personally, I found that Austen did some interesting things with the whole idea of self-control. As the characters live in a very formal, polite society, it's often impossible for them to say what they really think. This leads to some wonderful dialogue as each character dances around their true meaning, finding some way to express themselves without breaking any social rules or being untrue to themselves. This results in some absolutely hilarious moments, and not a few heartbreaking ones.
Overall, this is most certainly worth your time. Recommended.
This time it’s the love stories of the Miss Dashwoods, Elinor and Marianne. The heroes are Edwards Ferrars and Colonel Brandon. The black sheep this time is Willoughby (who resembles Wickham from Pride and Prejudice).
Jane successfully gives a faithful and acute portray of the 18th century England, giving us a detailed look at the view of the society at that time about man and woman relationship, about family, about money and virtue. As in Pride and Prejudice (which was actually published two years after this book), in Sense and Sensibility it is very clear how dependent women are financially on their families or husbands. Not a situation to be envied on.
It is very interesting as well to see how view has change over the time from then to now. The Dashwood sisters seem to forgive Willoughby’s conducts toward Marianne more easily after it was known that he left her for money. They hated him more when they thought that he was only pretending to fall in love with Marianne. I would’ve hated him no less if a guy is to leave me for financial reason! Maybe in those days people have resigned to the fact that fortune often obstructs love. Maybe this is the reason that Willoughby’s long defence of his attitude to Elinor is not depicted in the modern film adaptation (1995, starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman).
It is interesting to see Jane’s descriptions of mothers. It doesn’t seem that she has a very good opinion on them. In Pride and Prejudice Mrs Bennet is borderline annoying in her stupidity. In this book Mrs Dashwood is kind and smart enough, but still too romantic to be wise.
Perhaps Jane’s books including this one is always well liked because it appeals to our romantic sides, and also in her books the good will always be rewarded and the bad punished. Goodness of heart, wisdom and sense prevail.
Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are incredibly close sisters but could not be more different. Elinor is strong and reserved, Marianne is emotional and prone to outbursts on any opinion she might have. They are opposites in many ways with the exception of their love lives which can be described as nothing more than shambles. Elinor is in love with Edward and she feels, and her family is assured, that she will someday be his wife. Marianne falls for a man named Willoughby . He is dashing, daring, and falls amicably in love with Marianne soon after their first ill-fated meeting. Her happiness is not meant to last and, after leading her on, he leaves her with no warning.
When an opportunity arises for the sisters to be in London, Marianne readily agrees much against the more strident arguments of Elinor to stay at the cottage with their mother. It is in London that Willoughby is sited and Marianne’s hopes rise only to be completely dashed when it is rumored that he is to marry someone very rich, something Marianne is not and has no hope to ever be. The death of their father and the miserly ways of their half brother, John, have left the Dashwood women rather less endowed.
While in London, Marianne goes into a stupor on finding out about Willoughby and Elinor does her best to care for her. Unbeknownst to Marianne, Elinor is experiencing much the same torment --- she has heard from an acquaintance, Lucy Steele, that Edward is engaged. In fact, he is engaged to Lucy and Elinor is forced to listen to her drivel about their difficulties in not being able to express their love openly and to marry. Elinor is strong under the strain but somehow, while reading, you just wish she would sit and give in to her emotion but she doesn’t. That is the beauty in reading Austen, she pulls at the heartstrings but her characters can take it.
An illness strands Elinor and Marianne on their way home but thanks to the help, and love, of a family friend, they are reunited with their mother and return home where each has time to recover from their love ordeals. After a few weeks, Elinor is surprised by Edward and an offer of marriage she had convinced herself was impossible and Marianne finds happiness in love in the place she least expected.
The one thing I adore about the Austen novels I have read are the characters and this book does not fall short. The Dashwoods’ sister-in-law, Mrs. John Dashwood (Fanny) is probably one of the most conniving and annoying characters in the book. Her cheap nature, mean spiritedness, and jealously for the sisters is appropriately aggravating. In one scene, she complains about having to give away the good china when she of all people is forcing the Dashwoods from their beloved home now that her husband has inherited it upon of the death of his father. She plays a very small part but is unforgettable for me and one character I cannot stand to come across. She is so conniving she is wonderful and makes you want to hate all sister-in-laws even if you love you own.
Why do I re-read this book over and over? Each time I find something new to love. I feel more and more each time for Marianne and the deep depression she falls into over losing Willoughby and what she thought, and was led to believe, would happen between them. Willoughby becomes more and more of a rascal, to use a proper Austen term, and so viciously cruel that Marianne’s torment becomes even greater. And dear Elinor, the strong sister who seems capable of running the world if given the chance with her calm and cool demeanor, to suffer so in silence almost to the end is just heart wrenching. When the happy ending arrives you almost want to celebrate and cry along with the characters.
I was continually struck by the eloquence with which this book is written and the gracious manner in which the primary characters endeavored to conduct themselves. Did people really speak to each other that way in that era? How interesting that even one described as ‘illiterate’ can issue such a statement as "I am sure you think me very strange, for enquiring about her in such
a way, but perhaps there may be reasons--I wish I might venture; but however I hope you will do me the justice of believing that I do not mean to be
impertinent." The articulacy of the text was almost confusing at first because the poor standards by which most modern authors express themselves is what I am used to reading and speaking. However, that difficulty was soon overcome, and I found _myself_ both speaking and writing with greater vocabulary and altered cadence.
I was also surprised that I could find a tale consisting mostly of the conversations between the idle members of British society so suspenseful. I found myself invested in the characters and their eventual happiness so much that I was quite eager to turn the page.
Highly recommended. Compared to this, the romantic tales of the 21st century are vulgar and coarse.
I found the characters to have little depth, and the plot was hardly novel. Despite this, the characters (or at least Marianne) do evolve a bit to reach the unsurprising ending: they all make good marriages (makes me wonder if there is more to life than that).
Final opinion: watch the movies/mini-series and you'll be more entertained than with the book.
On another note, I'm not sure what Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is about (I suppose there will be sea monsters in it, but after my experience with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies I am in no rush to find out), but if anyone wants to make a remake of this book in which little Margaret turns out to be an evil murderess possessed by the devil, killing everyone on revenge because they spend the entire book ignoring her, I'll read it. Because I'm not entirely sure why there was a need for a third sister if she is to be forgotten during most of the book.
Sense and Sensibility, the first novel of Jane Austen’s to be published, was written in 1811 and is an excellent example of what is known as a novel of manners. It deals with the behavior and manners of the gentry of Regency England, which had strict codes of conduct and dealt harshly with anyone who broke those codes. Sense and Sensibility shows this through the scandalous behavior of Marianne and Willoughby. Marianne flouts the code in order to live by her passions, while her sister, Elinor, follows the code strictly, never allowing anyone to know the depths of her feelings.
I truly love this novel. The characters are fresh and original, the plot is never contrived, and the resolution to the stories is fulfilling. I especially love the character of Colonel Brandon (although that may be due to Alan Rickman’s portrayal).
Here is a sampling of the language at the time in some of my favorite quotes:
1. “Nor I,” answered Marianne with energy, “our situations then are alike. We have neither of us any thing to tell; you, because you do not communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.”
2. She [Fanny] took the first opportunity of affronting her mother-in-law on the occasion, talking to her so expressively of her brother’s great expectations, of Mrs. Ferrars’s resolution that both her sons should marry well, and of the danger attending any young woman who attempted to DRAW HIM IN; that Mrs. Dashwood could neither pretend to be unconscious, nor endeavor to be calm.
3. “Shyness is only the effect of a sense of inferiority in some way or other. If I [Edward] could persuade myself that my manners were perfectly easy and graceful, I should not be shy.”
4. “Brandon is just the kind of man,” said Willoughby one day, when they were talking of him together, “whom every body speaks well of, and nobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see, and nobody remembers to talk to.”
5. Elinor blushed for the insincerity of Edward’s future wife, and replied, “This compliment would effectually frighten me from giving any opinion on the subject had I formed one. It raises my influence much too high; the power of dividing two people so tenderly attached is too much for an indifferent person.”
6. “…I [Mrs. Jennings] have had such good luck in getting my own children off my hands that…if I don’t get one of you at least well married before I have done with you, it shall not be my fault.”
At its best, Sense and Sensibility shimmers with deft observations and exquisite turns of phrase. Is there anyone so adept at painting character whilst presenting backstory? Comic set pieces abound; Edward’s meeting with Elinor and Lucy is almost excruciatingly awkward. But there are also wrenchingly emotional scenes for Marianne and Elinor, respectively, that come across as piercingly real.
The narrator’s sympathy remains consistently with Elinor, but Marianne’s more emotional sensibility is not dismissed, and, when subjected to appropriate reflection attains to sense. They seem encircled by a sea of silly people. But so long as hearts are generous and pure, as in the case of Mrs Jennings and her daughter Charlotte, they are loved. For those that lack genuine fellow feeling there is disdain. Yet, even for these, Elinor offers courtesy and civility.
There is much more that might be said. Perhaps it is enough to say that, as with each of Austen’s novels, this one should be read and read again.
The story of a family of dependent women, whose fate is entirely in the hands of their male relatives, I have always found Sense and Sensibility to contain some of Austen's sharpest social criticism. The Dashwood women find themselves unwelcome guests in their own home when John Dashwood inherits the estate at Norland, and are only saved from the unpleasantness of the horrible Fanny by the kindness of Mrs. Dashwood's (male) cousin, Sir John Middleton. I have always found it fascinating that while Austen clearly endorses the more passive role that Elinor stakes out for herself, vis-a-vis romance, she simultaneously offers a very pointed critique of the enforced passivity of women, when it comes to economic activities and inheritance law.
In the end though, for all its philosophical framework and subtle social commentary, Sense an Sensibility is most successful because Austen understands the complicated relations between women, particularly the bond between sisters.
As I read I couldn't help but compare the relationship of the two Dashwood sisters to myself and my older sister. My sister and I are definitely not as close as Elinor and Marianne but the similarities in our own characters and that of the Dashwoods was there. My sister is a lot like Elinor Dashwood. She's responsible, steady, full of common sense, and usually more in control of her emotions than yours truly. I am much more like Marianne, impulsive, led by emotions, and tend to jump into situations or relationships without thinking them through all the way. I rather enjoyed reading through and comparing the actions of the sisters with what I or my sister would do.
I ended up being quite emotionally invested into the story right from the beginning. The way the Dashwood ladies are pretty much thrown out on their asses by their own brother just broke my heart. Who does that? Apparently spineless men who have snobby, horrible wives. I hated Fanny with a passion right from the start and was secretly hoping a random house would suddenly fall on her. From there on out it was an endless stream of relationship troubles. There was enough drama, secrets and lies going around in that little town that they could create their own soap opera. I'll admit, though, that near the end I was getting confused as to who was in love with whom and how it had happened. In the end, it all works out as it should, of course, so my little romantic heart was happy with it.
Judging by the stories that have survived and remain in our hearts—from Shakespeare to Austen to Dickens to...—there really wasn't much difference in British drama for three hundreds years. Through the quirky interactions of memorable characters, these authors provide entertaining romps through sentimentality with a satirical edge. And yet, I would argue that Austen's stories were more realistic than those of her contemporaries. Certainly, Austen dwelt a bit heavily on the “woes” of the higher class, but the characters' wants and needs transcend status. Unlike many of the two-dimensional characters in the stories of the time, Austen's primary characters are individuals with ever-changing perspectives (secondary characters, not so much). Of course realism from a much more humble point-of-view was just a generation away with authors such as Anne Bronte being born in this era, but clearly Austen had her finger on the pulse of humanity.
And yet these stories lack realism. How anyone can be so oblivious is beyond me. Can two people carry on a conversation for so long without realizing they're talking about two very different things? Sure, it's humorous, but it's not believable. So are these stories meant to be believable, or not? Does love ever come so easily in the end? How is it that the destitute daughters of these tales always find the one descent human in the aristocracy? I think that's the magic of Austen and it certainly works well in Sense and Sensibility. These are characters that are human and though their situations may be very different from our own, they are very much like us. Through struggles and the embrace of all that is “good” and “right,” they enter the fairy tale that so many of us envy. These are the stories that capture the heart of the romantic.
Sense and Sensibility is double the romance. The characters are engaging. The wit is on point. The story is entertaining. And it's all so clever—there's an excellent word for the work of Jane Austen: clever.