In Jane Austens novel Sense and Sensibility, she portrays sense and sensibility through Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Elinor Dashwood represents sense, in contrast her sister Marianne Dashwood represents sensibility. Throughout the novel, the actions, thoughts and conversations help the reader realize not only how different the characters are, but how each truly embodies one of the title characteristics.
Elinor Dashwood, age nineteen, represents sense. She has the ability to govern and control her feelings. She shows reason and restraint. Elinor also tries to help anyone that she can help. Although Elinor is the epitome of sense, she is still passionate.
“Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding and coolness of judgment which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart; her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong, but she knew govern them. It was a knowledge which her mother had yet to one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.” (Austen, 8.)
This quote is the first time you can actually see Elinor’s portrayal of sense.
Elinor meets Edward Ferrars, Fanny’s brother, when he visits Norland. Edward is shy and not very handsome, but he is very affectionate. She falls in love with him, but she denies it. She only admits that she likes him. This is one example of how she portrays sense.
“Edward Ferrars was not recommended to their good opinion by any peculiar graces of person or address. He was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing. He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behaviour gave every indication of an open, affectionate heart. His understanding was good, and his education had given it solid improvement. But he was neither fitted by abilities nor disposition to answer the wishes of his mother and sister, who longed to see him distinguished as-they hardly knew what. They wanted him to make a fine figure in the world in some manner or other.” (Austen, 17.)
This quote shows how Edward Ferrars, like Elinor, portrays sense.
Marianne Dashwood, Elinor’s younger sister, represents sensibility. She is spontaneous, impulsive, and very emotional. Marianne is also very devoted to what she loves. Although, Marianne is not always foolish and headstrong. She wants a handsome man, with grace and spirit.
“”Perhaps,” said Marianne, “I may consider it with some surprise. Edward is very amiable, and I love him tenderly. But yet, he is not the kind of young man; there is a something wanting-his figure is not striking; it has none of that grace which I should expect in the man who could seriously attach my sister. His eyes want all that spirit, that fire, which at once announce virtue and intelligence. And besides all this, I am afraid, mamma, he has no real taste. Music seems scarcely to attract him; and though he admires Elinor’s drawings very much, it is not the admiration of a person who can understand their worth. It is evident, in spite of his frequent attention to her while she draws, that, in fact, he knows nothing of the matter. He admires as a lover, not as a connoisseur. To satisfy me, those characters must be united. I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own. He must enter into all my feelings; the same books, the same music, must charm us bothâ€¦” (Austen, 19.)
This quote explains exactly what Marianne is looking for in a man, the complete opposite of her sister.
After moving to Barton Cottage, Marianne and Margaret, their thirteen year old sister, decide to explore the hills of Barton. It begins pouring raining out of nowhere and the girls run down the hill in a hurry to get home. While running down the hill, Marianne falls and twists her ankle. John Willoughby, a handsome young man, sees Marianne and Margaret, and helps Marianne get home. Willoughby visits Marianne almost every day after that. She finds that they have a lot in common and begins to like him. Marianne openly proclaims her love for John Willoughby, unlike her sister hiding her love for Edward Ferrars. Although, Willoughby eventually stops going to see Marianne. Willoughby and Marianne end up getting married to other people. Willoughby, like Marianne, represents sensibility.
“Marianne’s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor’s. She was sensible and clever, but eager in everything: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting; she was everything but prudent.” (Austen, 8.)
This quote is the first time the reader sees how Marianne embodies sensibility.
After Mr. Dashwood and Henry die, Marianne portrays her sensibility through excessive mourning. Elinor shows her sense, because she does not show her emotions as openly as Marianne. Elinor’s emotions are more repressed. Marianne and Elinor are both depressed about leaving Norland, also. Marianne is very dramatic about it, while Elinor’s depression is not that noticeable.
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“Both Elinor and Marianne fall in love, then appear to have been betrayed by their lovers, and the novel vividly dramatizes their widely differing responses, with the primary heroine (Elinor) guided by sense and the desire to control her grief, while Marianne cultivates and intensifies her suffering, regardless of the consequences to herself and to her family. What happens to each sister matters less than how each deals with her disappointment.” (Sternlicht)
This quote shows how Marianne’s emotions are over dramatic and Elinor’s emotions are more suppressed.
Elinor eventually finds out that Edward is also engaged to Lucy Steele. When Elinor finds this out, she is very rational about it. She believes that Lucy and Edward’s engagement is youthful infatuation.
Eventually, Marianne marries Colonel Brandon. Like Marianne, Brandon represents sensibility. “Brandon was always willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of others. He is inherently a man of sensibility and highly developed moral sense, whether by eighteen th-century or modem standards.” (Ray) Marianne basically says that she wants a man that is just like her, which makes it weird for these two to get married.
Many characters in the book, besides Marianne, show sensibility. A few of these characters are Mrs. Dashwood, Margaret, and John Willoughby. The only person that represents sense throughout the book is Elinor, that is why she is the epitome of sense in this novel. Marianne is the only character that really takes it to the extreme, though.
“Marianne is young, intolerant, an absolutist of sensibility. “I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own,” she observes at the outset of the novel, and imagines that she has found such a man in Willoughby. Emotion must be intense, or it is unreal. There can be no doubt of the reality of Marianne’s grief when she finally acknowledges Willoughby’s treachery – it nearly kills her.” (Sternlicht)
This book reflects Jane Austen’s life. She represents sense and her sister represents sensibility. Many of the things that happen in this book, happened in Jane Austen’s personal life.
“Austen’s situation as a young woman mirrored that of the Dashwood sisters at the outset of the novel: after her father’s death, Austen, along with her mother and sister, was forced to rely on the benevolence of relatives (in Austen’s case, her brothers) for financial support. Although the novel is not autobiographical, Austen understood the position of women who were deprived of the means to earn an income but needed to maintain their social standing. Much critical commentary on Sense and Sensibility deals with the terms referred to in the title-“sense” versus “sensibility.” Some have concluded that Austen advocated a woman’s possessing “sense,” not “sensibility.”” (Explanation of: ‘Sense and Sensibility’)
This book had a lot to do with what was going on around her too. She wrote this book in the eighteenth century between two cultural movements. This could be why she chooses to go with the “sense” vs. “sensibility” theme.
In conclusion, this book was written in the eighteenth century between two cultural movements. Most of the events that take place in this book reflect Jane Austen’s life. She portrays sense, like Elinor Dashwood. Although sense and sensibility can go hand in hand, these two characters are completely different. Elinor Dashwood is the epitome of sense, while her sister Marianne is the exact opposite. Elinor has the ability to govern and control her feelings. She shows reason and restraint. Elinor also tries to help anyone that she can help. Elinor is more suppressed than her sister. She is very quiet with her love life and she tries to hide it from everybody. Elinor feels like an outcast in her family, because both of her sisters and her mom portray sensibility, so she is the oddball of the family. On the other hand, Marianne Dashwood represents sensibility. She is spontaneous, impulsive, and very emotional. She is also very devoted to what she loves. Marianne is very passionate about everything she does. Marianne is the epitome of sensibility. She takes it to the extreme and is one of the most dramatic characters in this novel. Although Marianne portrays sensibility, she is still very headstrong and she is not foolish. She falls deeply in love and she is not afraid to show it. Many characters in this book also show signs of sensibility. These include: Margaret Dashwood, Mrs. Dashwood, and John Willoughby. Marianne falls in love with John Willoughby, but he ends up leaving her. Marianne eventually gets married to Colonel Brandon. Elinor gets married to Edward Ferrars. But, while they are married he gets engaged to Lucy Steele. There are many ups and downs in this book. Elinor and Marianne become depressed when their father, Mr. Dashwood, and Henry die. They are also depressed when they have to move from Norland to Barton Cottage. Elinor and Marianne have very different ways of showing their depression, though. Elinor’s depression is rather repressed and Marianne’s depression is very known and dramatic. Marianne grieves through excessive mourning, while Elinor is rational about everything. Marianne and Elinor Dashwood are very strong characters in this novel. Although one is more open about it than the other, Marianne and Elinor both fall in love and get hurt. They are both very upset, but Elinor is rational about it while Marianne is very dramatic. These characters portray sense and sensibility through their words and their actions. Many people today portray these characteristics. It may not be as noticeable now, but it is still there. There is a little bit of Marianne Dashwoood or Elinor Dashwood in everybody.
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