Published in 1811, Sense and Sensibility has delighted generations of readers with its masterfully crafted portrait of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Forced to leave their home after their father's death, Elinor and Marianne must rely on making good marriages as their means of support. But unscrupulous cads, meddlesome matriarchs, and various guileless and artful women impinge on their chances for love and happiness. The novelist Elizabeth Bowen wrote, "The technique of ÝJane Austen's novels¨ is beyond praise....Her mastery of the art she chose, or that chose her, is complete." This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition contains a new Introduction by Pulitzer Prize finalist David Gates, in addition to new explanatory notes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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).
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.
After reading Sense and Sensibility, I feel thoroughly initiated into the charming world of Jane Austen. Published almost 200 years ago, the title refers to practical and discreet Elinor Dashwood, and her younger sister, bold and extroverted Marianne. After the death of their beloved father, the Dashwoods - mother Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor, Marianne, and youngest daughter Margaret - must move from their home, to a small cottage owned by Mrs. Dashwood's generous cousin Sir John Middleton. Although their brother John Dashwood and his disagreeable wife Fanny have taken over the family estate at Norland and left the Dashwoods particularly financially pinched, they are very grateful to Sir John and Lady Middleton, and accept their new circumstances humbly.
Elinor and Marianne, though wildly different in their approaches to life, are completely genuine and intelligent - and the young men around recognize them for their sincerity of character. Elinor falls in love with the reserved, socially awkward Edward Ferras, while Marianne's affection is extended to the adventurous hunter John Willoughby. Unfortunately, love and marriage don't come easily, as affections aren't always returned and money and social standing sometimes take precedence over true love.
Sense and Sensibility is full of lovable and obnoxious characters: talkative Mrs. Jennings, who constantly jumps to the wrong conclusions about situations she knows nothing about; Charlotte Palmer, Mrs. Jenning's empty-headed and inappropriate younger daughter; and bad-tempered Mrs. Ferras and her hostile, social-climbing daughter Fanny. The development of the characters alone, make this an exceptionally entertaining read.
There was something very comforting and diverting about reading Sense and Sensibility. Though simple in scale, it sparkles with wit, and is an exceedingly engrossing read. Sense and Sensibility is a timeless piece of literature with a significance that resounds even today. I was entertained from beginning to end, and I highly recommend taking a stroll through a century past, by reading Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.
Each character reflects on another's personality and actions, for good and for bad. For example, Willoughby, who could so easily just be a villain, is charming, warm, intelligent- a potentially wonderful person who has weaknesses more than maliciousness. His nature is mirrored by Edward, who makes the strong choice standing by Lucy, according to his code of conduct, even if it means being disinherited, homeless, and broke. I didn't see this before when I read this book, and it makes me feel like I've grown as a person to see it now.
This book kind of reminds me of the Mister Rogers biography I read earlier. It's a good feeling that I've grown as a person reading Austen's great novels. Sense and Sensibility could be my favorite of them, too.
Sense and Sensibility was written by Jane Austen and published in 1811. Austen lived in Regency Period England, was one of eight children of an Anglican rector. Publication was costly for Austen and she published anonymously. Only her family knew she was aware of the fact that she penned these works. On a positive note, Austen was able to maintain privacy throughout her life. As an observer of her environment, Austen produced many literary works, including Sense and Sensibility, where her quick wit and eye for details creates a great document of society and times of Austen's day.
Sense and Sensibility quickly focuses on the Dashwood family. Patriarch Henry Dashwood dies and leaves all his money to his son and first marriage child, John Dashwood. Henry does not much provide for his second wife and his three daughters due to the dictates of the time. Although Henry prevails upon John to take care of his wife and daughters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, are homeless and have meager income. John's wife talks John out of giving his stepmother and half sisters more and the Dashwood females are invited to live with distant cousins - the Middletons of Barton Park. Sensible Elinor is saddened by this departure since she and her sister-in-law's brother, Edward Ferrars, have become quick friends. Nonetheless, Elinor and emotional, romantic Marianne meet many new people including retired officer Colonel Brandon and the dashing John Willoughby. Willoughby rescues Marianne during a rain storm in which she twisted her ankle. Marianne and Willoughby seem the ideal match until Willoughby has some business to attend to in London. Now, the Dashwoods meet the Steele sisters with whom they have a common relative in Lady Middleton. Lucy Steele turns out to be secretly engaged to Edward Ferriers of all people. Are the Dashwoods doomed or is there true light at the end of the tunnel for them?
While I found the style and relationships of the characters and times to be more stiff and formal than I prefer, I found Sense and Sensibility to be a rewarding read. The form is classic and the problems are not just products of Austen's day. We see problems like this today. I particularly enjoyed Elinor's wit and candor. Austen seemed to have written what she knew and it is commendable.
Obviously, I see the title as alternate names for Elinor (Sense) and Marianne (Sensibility). There is more to this, though. Elinor can be likened to the Age of Reason while Marianne is the figurehead for the ensuing Romantic Era. However, Austen shows the reader that the Age of Reason and the Romantic Era love each other and go hand in hand. They live by one another and have each other's back. These Ages are sisters. Ultimately, you cannot appreciate Romanticism without Rationalism and vice versa.
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.