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Jane Austen was born 1775 in Hampshire England, and considered to be the first great women novelist. She was educated from her father who was a clergyman. Jane was raised among books and began reading and writing at an early age. Austen’s novels are mostly set in her own upper middle class English environment. They are based on a young woman heroine who struggles with issues of monetary value and the unhappiness it brings, but always ends up happily married, a state Jane herself never felt. Her dreams and plans for the future had failed to materialize. She had a little romantic experience. Only by reading her novels we can see the real Jane. She writes from her own experience and maybe not in her real life but in her novel she fulfils all of her dreams. She was caring, modest and sensible person, always doing what she thought was the best. Her life is pretty close to the novel Pride and Prejudice and closely parallels to the heroine Elizabeth Benet, who met her love at a ball, just like Jane met Tom, and she lived surrounded by her sisters which is maybe what Jane wished for, taking into account she had six brothers and her parents ran a school for boys so she has been surrounded by boys all her life, and also the close relationship between Elizabeth and her sister, just like Jane was extremely close with her sister Cassandra. Women in that period felt immense pressure to get married and Austen highlights the dependence of women of marriage and the tendency to procure a good match. Most of her characters reflect people from her real life. Writing novels she creates an environment where she could determine the effect of situations on the character, not the society. In a way she manifests herself in her characters. Her work is concerned with moral issues intellectual and social standard, responsibility and love and romance on the other hand. It was not until 1795 that Austen began writing Sense and Sensibility, otherwise known as Elinor and Marianne at the time, which would later be introduced as, perhaps, Austen’s best work. It was originally a series of letters between the two sisters, but evolved to become the novel we know and read today. She published the novel anonymously under the pseudonym ‘A Lady’.
The novel begins with a dying father telling his son that he must leave his estate to him and his wife. Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, are cruelly deprived of their home and inheritance on the death of the girls’ father. The law decrees that Norland estate must pass to his son by a previous marriage, the girls’ stepbrother John, who is partnered in life by Fanny, Edward Ferrar’s sister. Though John vowed to provide for his stepmother and stepsisters, his selfish wife easily persuades him that they should use the money for their son. It is he, John, and his family that move into Norland estate. Mrs. Dashwood’s cousin, John, saves the Dashwoods from further humiliation. He offers them a new home, Barton Cottage, on his estate in Devonshire. Before they begin their journey, Elinor reaches an understanding with Edward Ferrars, a piece of unfinished business, not at all appreciated by his sister, Fanny. On their arrival to Devonshire, Marianne is rapidly embroiled in her own adventures of the heart as she wavers between Colonel Brandon and John Willoughby, though she did not consider Colonel Brandon to be a suitable suitor due to his “silence, gravity, earnestness, thoughtfulness, sang-froid, and reserve”. But society’s views on money continue to colour the romantic prospects of both girls. And before finally finding happiness, they were forced to learn that sensibility has to always be mixed with some sense.
We find out early that Elinor does not share her feelings. When Edward and Elinor first meet, there was an immediate attraction. She tells no one of her feelings. It was just assumed that they are meant for each other. When Edward has to leave, Elinor says nothing. Edward does promise he will come down and give Margaret an atlas. When the atlas comes and not Edward, the one who ends up crying is Margaret and not Elinor. We do learn, however, that Elinor can get emotional too. When Marianne was playing piano at their new cottage, Elinor cries as she listens. She said the song was her late father’s favourite. Later on in the story, Marianne kept on nagging Elinor for not sharing her feelings. Finally, Elinor would definitely represent sense. She keeps her thoughts to herself. Maybe it is because she thinks she will not end up hurting so bad as Marianne did.
Marianne, on the other hand, represents sensibility. She follows her heart. She does not let anything come in the way of showing her emotions. When she first met Colonel Brandon, it is obvious that he was in love with her at first sight. Marianne shows very clearly that she was not interested in such an old man. However, when Marianne meets Willoughby, it was like a hero rescuing a princess. They fall in love with each other. Marianne does not hide her emotions about Willoughby to anyone; however, in the society that they were in, Willoughby did not think he could marry Marianne because of the social class. In the end, this almost kills Marianne. As she realizes that the Colonel Brandon has always been there, she falls in love with him.
As Austen wrote her novel, Sense and Sensibility, it seems as though she carefully included several main themes that she often describes throughout the pages. Hypocrisy is a theme she seems to touch on often. A number of characters in the novel embody this trait to varying degrees; John and Fanny, Lady Middleton, the Steele girls, Mrs. Ferrars, and Robert, among others, tend to display hypocritical, self-serving flattery, vanity, and professing opinions they do not believe in for self-gain or to get ahead with others. For example, when the Steele girls gush about how wonderful Lady Middleton is, Marianne must keep silent, because “it was impossible for her to say what she did not feel, however trivial the occasion; and upon Elinor therefore the whole task of telling lies when politeness required it, always fell” (Austen 105). Unfortunately, none of these characters is taught any better in the course of the novel, as hypocrisy is an unavoidable part of human nature and a part of society as well.
Self-sacrifice and selfishness also are important to the novel because they both portray themes in Sense and Sensibility. Elinor especially is a model of self-sacrifice, deciding to go to London for her sister’s happiness, and try her best to be civil to everyone to make up for Marianne’s uncivil behaviour. Marianne is the opposite, caring only for herself and her feelings. She needs Elinor’s help and goodwill to get by, but needs to learn how to be giving toward others in order to become her own, independent person.
Marriage is one the larger themes that Austen displays. For Marianne and Elinor, marriage is not a choice, but a necessity; and their need to marry expediently and well is a pressing concern in the novel, as they look for suitors. Young men may choose freely when and whom they marry, and Colonel Brandon is even thirty-five and still unmarried. But even for women who have money, marriage is necessary to secure their positions and ensure financial stability for the future.
Though the previous themes play a large part of Austen’s work, the largest of the themes is money and inheritance. Laws surrounding inheritance are what put the Dashwood women in limbo at the beginning of the novel. For example, Fanny Dashwood works hard to convince her husband he owes his stepmother and stepsisters nothing. Part of her case is: “that when the money is once parted with, it never can return. Your sisters will marry, and it will be gone forever” (Austen 7). Their lack of money, compounded with their powerlessness to work, means that they cannot ease their situation, except though marriage. Money also dictates the eligibility of Elinor and Marianne, as women with larger dowries are of course seen as better prospects for marriage.
Besides the themes, there are two climaxes in the novel and movie. One belongs to Marianne and the other to Elinor. Marianne’s climax in the novel came first. It all began when Willoughby left without telling her goodbye in a sincere manner. In fact, his attitude was rather rude. Marianne’s heart was struck, she cried and mourned for days upon days without talking to anyone much or eating her meals. Later, when Marianne and Elinor went to London with Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton’s mother, Marianne was so eager to see Willoughby. She wrote Willoughby as soon as she reached London. All day, Marianne was so eager to receive Willoughby’s letters. Her heart sank when no sign of Willoughby was seen and no voice of his was heard, yet Marianne continued to write him letters. It was then that “early in February, within a fortnight from the receipt of Willoughby’s letter, Elinor had the painful office of informing her sister that he was married” (Austen 189).
Elinor’s climax in the novel occurred after Marianne’s. It began when Elinor met Lucy, Edward’s fiancée. Elinor was more than shocked to face the truth. However, she still kept her promise of keeping it a secret. Lucy and Edward had been engaged for more than four years, and they were supposed to be married very soon. This thought bothered Elinor. She began to doubt the credibility of Edward, became very confused, and wrote “Being very sure I have long lost your affections. I have thought myself at liberty to bestow my own on another, and have no doubt of being as happy with him as I once used to think I might be with you; but I scorn to accept a hand while the heart was another’sâ€¦” (Austen 320). This climax fell when Elinor finally tells Marianne the pain she has been going through. The climax occurred when Elinor found out Edward had always loved her and not Lucy. It is also during that time that Marianne and the Colonel developed a mutual relationship. Soon, both couples were married. The characteristics joined in the title need the modifying influence of one another, and the balance between them brings happiness to the sisters at the end.
This novel has an amazing film version. Lindsay Doran, producer of Sense and Sensibility, and Ang Lee, director, have created this film, which is, for the most part, entirely faithful to the book while introducing a great many changes and being adapted in a fresh, fun, and somewhat modern way. Characters, such as Lucy Steele’s sister and Margaret were dropped completely from the script. The script seemed as though it had been rearranged and edited. Scenes appear in the film that do not appear in the book. The new scenes and additional dialog are generally adapted from Austen’s editorial comments, and so are true to the original story, even if they are not explicitly in the novel as filmed. If there is one thing that keeps this movie constantly going is the work of the superb actors. The talent of the actors suited the roles they played, and their mastering of the characters bring personality and feeling to the screen. The story of the movie bases around two of these characters who happen to be undergoing the same feelings of love but in strikingly different ways. Kate Winslet plays the wild, fatally romantic Marianne who cannot control her feelings. Opposite her is the experienced Emma Thompson who plays the reserved, intelligent Eleanor who is far more sensitive than she ever lets on. These two sisters embark on a romantic adventure that finds them searching for the right man. The two actors complement each other with their opposite nature which balances the story perfectly.
Yet, as wonderful as these two characters are, Alan Rickman’s Brandon is the core of Sense and Sensibility. His performance is eloquent and beautifully controlled but you can tell the torment he fights inside. His voice may be confident and steady, but his eyes alert you to his true emotions. Brandon’s heartache touches you at the core but this heartache makes him more regal because of his perseverance.
Hugh Grant compliments this array of actors by giving the film some classical slapstick comedy. He fits perfectly against the reserved Emma Thompson who will occasionally bring out that wide smile after one of Grant’s humorous anecdotes. Grant brings just enough charisma to his character of Edward to bring a little excitement to the movie.
Although the film did not need use the blockbuster special effects of more recent movies, they satisfy the needs of the movie and there are no errors to distract the moviegoer. By doing this Ang Lee forced the watcher to envelop themselves into the emotions of the actors and not glitzy special effects. The story sweeps you away, and the added quality production work was just bonus to an already outstanding film. All the pieces of the film all seemed to fit in place and this is thanks to the work of the director. Ang Lee made sure that everything was perfect, from the historic costumes to the accents of the actors. This is also a compliment to Emma Thompson who had the trouble of constructing a screenplay that would honour the book, but would also move at a fast enough paces to entertain the reader.
Sense and Sensibility shows us exactly what a movie should be. The movie’s witty romanticism helps illustrate the Victorian era whose love is not so different from our own. This success is due to the actors who brought the story to a personal level. Without them we would not have felt the emotions of the characters, which made us long to love as they did.
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