emmaclifford, April 02, 2014
Sense and Sensibility is a novel by the English novelist Jane Austen. Published in 1811, it was the first of Austen’s novels to be published, under the pseudonym “A Lady”. Sense and Sensibility is set in southwest England, London and Kent in the early 19th Century, and portrays the life and loves of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. The novel follows the young ladies to their new home, a cottage on a distant relative's property, where they experience love, romance and heartbreak. The reader must decide whether sense and sensibility have truly merged. As a reader, I enjoyed reading it immensely. It’s honest, witty, and heartachingly real storyline grabbed my attention instantly. The characters (the Dashwood sisters, Edward Ferrars, Colonel Brandon, etc) were perhaps the most developed and thought out part of the novel, and it’s through them and their respective journeys that we see the most growth.
Austen clearly intended to justify Elinor’s sense and practicality through her expressed point of view, and on the simplest level, the novel may be read as a parody of the Romanticism (Marianne references the movement several times in the beginning of the novel) and sensibility that was fashionable around the 1790s. Yet Austen’s treatment of the two sisters is complex and multi-faceted. Austen gives Marianne every attractive quality: intelligence, musical talent, frankness, and the capacity to love deeply. She also acknowledges that Willoughby, with all his faults, continues to love and, in some measure, appreciate Marianne. For these reasons, some readers find Marianne’s ultimate marriage to Colonel Brandon an unsatisfactory ending. The ending does, however, finally and completely manifest themes of sense and sensibility by having the sensible sister marry her true love after long, romantic obstacles, while the emotional sister finds happiness with a man whom she did not initially love, but who was an consistently sensible and worthy of being her husband.
The story revolves around Elinor and Marianne, two daughters of Mr. Dashwood by his second wife. They have a younger sister, Margaret, and an older half-brother named John. When their father dies, the family estate passes to John, and the Dashwood women are left in reduced circumstances. The novel follows the Dashwood sisters to their new home, a cottage on a distant relative’s property, where they experience both romance and heartbreak. The contrast between the sisters’ characters is eventually resolved as they each find love and lasting happiness. This leads many to believe that the book’s title describes how Elinor and Marianne find a balance between sense and sensibility in life and love.
Austen’s most significant goal in writing Sense and Sensibility seems to be that she wanted to comment on the titular theme of love and logic, and the way she does that is distinctly feminist in nature. By creating the two extremes of the archetype young woman (drastically practical or dangerously romantic), Austen then takes those and blends them together, showing the reader that young females don’t need to be put in a box with their characterization. Her consistent show of emotion (and sometimes, lack thereof) from her female characters, Marianne and Elinor particularly, told the readers that any form of expression is encouraged, and though you may feel pulled to one extreme, you can choose it however you want. The Dashwood sisters provide examples for all young women, then and now, to believe that their thoughts and feelings - no matter how reserved or passionate - are important and worth communicating. I believe that all young girls can find a voice in Sense and Sensibility that they can connect with and take power in. I personally resonated with Elinor the most, and the way she touched me and taught me about the way I express myself makes me want to recommend this novel to everyone I know, especially the ladies. Austen’s goal was well executed and the sagacity of her comments make for a novel well worth your time. The plot and setting of Sense and Sensibility are complex and hard to understand at first, especially given the high-level language used, but when you focus more on the characters and tone, the meaning shifts. It becomes more about the empowerment of the young women, and you find yourself cheering for them in hopes they all find what they’re looking for. It’s only through Austen’s commanding power of characterization that allows her to create characters within her novel that leave lasting impressions.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen is about two young women who search for and experience love and life in very different ways. However, despite this contrast in their personalities, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood are genuine, honest characters that lay their flaws out and go through hell and back to grow and mature. Marianne falls head over heels for a man who is actually engaged to someone else, and who we find out is actually a huge jerk. Elinor has to watch the man she loves become engaged to another woman - and watch as everyone around her prays for them to succeed against the odds. Then, when hope is lost, they both get married, maybe not to the men they originally planned, but to the men that’s right for them. I can think of no other Jane Austen character who deserves a happily ever after than these sisters.