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Sense and Sensibility (Penguin Hardcover Classics) by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility (Penguin Hardcover Classics)

Esperanza Ramon, March 30, 2012

Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is a novel about two sisters finding their place in a male-dominated world. The book centralizes around the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. After their stepfather’s death, the two must begin a new life in a new town. All they want is to marry for love. However, to achieve this, the sisters must find a way around the confines of male-society. Jane Austen seamlessly combines literary devices and great character development to perfectly create this central theme in her novel: In a male-dominated world, two sisters must stick together and find loopholes in society to get what they want.
The Miss Dashwoods lead an interesting journey in which they must be submissive to rise above their male counterparts. The novel begins with the death of the girls’ father, Henry Dashwood. Their step-brother takes the house, and his selfish wife convinces him not to help his sisters. Elinor and Marianne, along with their mother, Mrs. Dashwood, and youngest sister, Margaret, move to Barton Cottage. While at there, Marianne falls in love with Willoughby, a handsome young man. However, another man, Colonel Brandon, loves her from afar. Elinor’s love, Edward Ferrars, still resides in her hometown of Norland. Things go awry for the two sisters when their loves become more distant and do not visit for a long time. The girls must help each other figure out if love is worth their struggles. Austen puts all of this together chronologically in 50 chapters, and splits it into three volumes. Within these volumes, Austen uses point of view to shed more light on her characters.
Sense and Sensibility is written in third-person omniscient; this allows readers access to the minds of every character. Although Austen writes her novel in the past tense, her point of view allows readers to connect with characters in the present. Readers create strong connections because they can clearly observe each character’s thoughts. The narrator’s job is to tell the story of the Dashwoods, and how they rise above the limitations of their society. Austen also uses this point of view to shed light on her characters.
Three principle characters in the work are Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and Colonel Brandon. Elinor is 19 and the oldest sister. She is protective, collected, and kind, which the narrator notes here, “She had an excellent heart; - her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern them” (8). Elinor’s younger sister, Marianne, is 17. Marianne is passionate, romantic, and naïve. An example of her extreme emotions comes when she has her heart broken for the first time, “Misery such as mine has no pride. I care not who knows I am wretched. The triumph of seeing me so may be open to all the world…I must feel �" I must be wretched” (179). Her crazy emotions act as a foil to her sister by providing opposition to Elinor’s reserved, emotional conduct. Then there is Colonel Brandon; he is 35 and “very much in love with Marianne Dashwood” (38). He is calm, collected, and reserved. His soft and consistent kindness, hidden under his reserved manner, act as a foil to Marianne, who feels every emotion to its full extent. These key characters are accented by the setting Austen employs throughout the novel.
The novel occurs in the early 1800s in England. The main locations are Norland, Barton Cottage, and London. Norland represents the past because it is where the Dashwoods grew up. Barton Cottage symbolizes hope and the present. Because it is their new home, it also symbolizes a fresh start. Throughout the novel it ultimately becomes not just a house, but a home. London represents the future and what could have been. It is a distant place, and when the girls visit there, they only find distress. The things they think they want become impossible there. Aside from location, Austen also uses weather a few times to add to the emotions in her novel. For example, when Marianne falls and hurts her ankle in the hills, it is raining outside. The locations and weather in the novel still have more symbolism.
Austen mainly uses setting and the weather to create symbolism. For example, Barton cottage mirrors the girls’ journey throughout the novel. It is a bit rough in the beginning, but at the end it is beautiful and well put together. In contrast, London symbolizes mystery, uncertainty, and hard-times. However, no matter where they are, poor weather always symbolizes that something bad will happen; Marianne hurts her ankle in the hills when “Suddenly, the clouds united over their heads, and driving rain set full in their face” (43). This symbolism all takes place within central themes in Austen’s novel.
The main theme Austen addresses is in post-modern times, women had to learn to navigate male-governed societies to get what they wanted in life. The irony is that by being submissive women could rise above their male counterparts. This theme was close to Austen’s heart because she was a female writer in a time where male writers ruled literature. She continues with the secondary theme that sisters should always be loyal to each other, no matter what. They can navigate the world on their own, but Elinor having Marianne and vice versa helps the women greatly in the novel. They are always there when the other needs them most. These central themes create a final opinion about the novel.
Sense and Sensibility, is truly a work of art. Her beautiful imagery and symbolic settings prove this point. This element provides insight to the overall meaning of the book; the emotions of the characters almost always match the setting. The book achieved its goals by well describing the strife of women in post-modern times. They had to be submissive to men in order to rise about them and get what they truly wanted. This book will definitely stay with me. It is not a fast read however there is a true beauty to a novel that takes its time. I feel like I truly connected with Elinor and Marianne. Their spirits lifted from the pages and found a place in my heart forever. The imagery, emotions, and strong women will definitely keep me coming back for more!
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