Sense And Sensibility Jane Austen English Literature Essay

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1st Jan 1970 English Literature Reference this

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This essay on Sense and Sensibility deals with letter-writing, one of the narrative techniques used to tell the story, to portray the characters and to convey some of the themes and motifs of the novel.

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In Sense and Sensibility, letters form a vital part of Austen s narrative technique; while some letters are cited verbatim (direct quotation), others are merely mentioned but not seen by the reader (indirect reference). However, while all the main characters communicate through letter-writing, Austen quotes only six letters directly.

Using this statement about the function of letters in the novel as a guide, this essay will provide a critical analysis of the six letters in the novel and will comment on: The way in which each letter-writer addresses the character to whom he or she writes, and the way each letter is signed. Why, in each case, the character has written the letter. (Remember that the reasons, in each case, may be diverse.) How each character portrays himself or herself in the letter and his or her motivation for portraying himself or herself in this way and the extent to which each letter-writer expresses himself or herself with formality or informality, emotion or coolness, sincerity or the intention to manipulate.

The first letter that is mentioned in the novel comes from chapter 4. When Mr. Henry Dashwood dies, leaving all his money to his first wife’s son John Dashwood, his second wife and her three daughters are left with no permanent home and very little income. Under such horrible circumstances a letter is delivered to invite Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret to stay with their distant relations, the Middletons, at Barton Park. The offer is for a small house, on very easy terms that was written personally and for friendly accommodation. Mrs Dashwood had her resolutions formed and instantly replied to accept Sir Johns proposal. The house was simple, and the rent so uncommonly moderate, that she couldn t object on any point. Elinor is sad to leave their home at Norland because she has become closely attached to Edward Ferrars, the brother-in-law of her half-brother John.

We come across a series of letters in chapter 29, after Marianne openly expresses her affections for John Willoughby. Elinor and Marianne are indebted to accompany Lady Middleton to a party, even though Marianne complains she is far too morose to enjoy dancing. Marianne catches sight of Willoughby in the crowd of partiers and rushes towards him. She is astonished and deeply distressed when he ignores her and avoids eye contact, he appears to be deep in conversation with a young lady. When Marianne finally manages to approach him directly, he remarks without feeling that he had received her letters but never found her at home when he attempted to visit her in reply. (Sparknote Editors, n.d). Marianne is heartbroken by this poor excuse and leaves the party straight away with her sisters, she is so overcome by grief that she climbs into bed as soon as she gets home.

After breakfast, the next day, Marianne shares with Elinor a letter that has just been delivered from Willoughby. In his letter, Willoughby apologises for anything in his behaviour and manner at the party that might have offended her. He expresses his admiration for the entire Dashwood family and regrets if he ever gave Marianne any reason to believe that he felt differently for her. Finally, he informs her of his upcoming engagement to another woman and encloses in his letter the three notes that she sent to him in London and returns her lock of hair. This letter is addressed Dear Madam and signed off as I am, dear Madam, your most obedient humble servant. (Austen, 129)

The three letters that are returned to Marianne from Willoughby are letters of desperate pleas for Willoughby to visit her at Mrs. Jennings’s home. Marianne confesses that they were never formally engaged to one another and starts to realise her emotional behaviour. The first of these three letters announce that Marianne is in town and how she wishes to see him, she signs the letter saying M.D. This is a much more romantic and intimate signing than Willoughbys formal letter of address. Her second note, which had been written on the morning after the dance at the Middletons’ , questions his whereabouts at the party and why he has not replied to her letters or come to meet her since he knows where she is staying, again she signs off M.D. the third and final letter from Marianne to Willoughby asks of his behaviour towards her and an explanation for this change. Marianne wonders if Willoughby has heard false truths about her and asks every question as to why his behaviour was so disappointing for her. Marianne asks Willoughby to return her letters and her lock of hair if he no longer returns her affections. (Austen, 132) Elinor is shattered over her sisters pain and can hardly believe that Marianne could be so forward in her affections for Willoughby when they were not engaged. Elinors kind heart still comforts her sister with gentle words.

Mrs. Jennings tries to comfort Marianne but says all the wrong things. She remarks to Elinor that her sister looks “very bad” (Austen, 218: 9) and that she should realise that Willoughby “is not the only young man in the world worth having.” (Austen, 218: 22) She goes on to explain to Elinor how Willoughby had to abruptly proposed to Miss Sophia Grey, a wealthy heiress because he had squandered all his fortunes.

There is a contrast between Elinor and Marianne reactions to their lovers’ seemingly insensitive treatment. Marianne insists through her grief that “I care not who knows that I am wretched.” (Austen, 167: 9) Marianne openly expresses her feelings and her attempts for intimacy with Willoughby at the party are public, this contrasts strikingly with Elinor’s more cautious and private restraint.

The next letter to analyse is from Lucy Ferrars to Edward. Thomas, the Dashwoods’ servant, arrives from town with the news that “Mr. Ferrars” has married Lucy Steele. This news upsets both Marianne and Elinor, the two sisters react very differently, Marianne falls into a fit of hysteria, and Elinor appears deeply saddened and disappointed.

Shortly after this news, Elinor thinks she sees Colonel Brandon approaching Barton Cottage on horseback, when she looks closer, she realizes that the visitor is actually Edward Ferrars. When he gets to the house, Elinor and Marianne question him about his recent marriage, he realizes the misunderstanding and assures them that it was Robert, his brother, who married Lucy Steele. Edward explains that now his brother is to inherit Mrs Ferrars’s money, Lucy has shifted her affections to him. Elinor is so relieved and Edward soon proposes, Elinor accepts his proposal and is so happy how events finally turned out. Edward is invited for dinner that evening and he explains the regrettable circumstances that first led to his engagement to Lucy. Edward also shares with the Dashwood sisters a note from Lucy in which she informed him of her marraige to Robert and cut off all romantic ties with him. This letter is a very formal account of Lucy explaining how she is married to Robert before she has even told Edward of losing her affections for him. Lucy tells Edward that she has burnt all of his letters and will return his picture at the first opportunity. She asks Edward to destroy her letters but he can keep her ring and hair. Elinor is shocked and surprised by these revelations, Lucy formally addresses the letter as Dear Sir and without care leaves Edward with nothing. Edward is not sure how long the affair between Lucy and his brother continued for before Lucy felt she should inform Edward.

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Marianne finally accepts the affections of Colonel Brandon and the sisters live together at Delaford. The sisters continue to maintain a close relationship with their younger sister Margaret and their motherat Barton Cottage, and the families live happily ever after.

Marianne’s final acceptance of Colonal Brandon seems completely out of character, since the marriage requires her to abandon her romantic ideals entirely. It seems doubtful that Marianne would love Brandon with as much love that she had shared for Willoughby, she does not know him as well. By Austen ending her novel with their marriage, she shows the extent of Marianne’s character transformation, she writes, “She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract by her conduct her most favourite maxims.” (Austen, 339:1) If Marianne’s ability to love Brandon is unconvincing, it is because of Austen’s great faith in the ability of the individual to remake herself in light of shifting circumstances (Sparknote Editors, n.d).

The contrast between the sisters’ characters is eventually resolved as they each find love and lasting happiness. Through the events in the novel, Elinor and Marianne find a balance between sense (or pure logic) and sensibility (or pure emotion) in life and love.

Reference List:

SparkNotes Editors. SparkNote on Sense and Sensibility. SparkNotes LLC. n.d.. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/sensibility/ (accessed August 25, 2010).

Favret, Mary. Sense and Sensibility: The Letter, Post Factum , pp. 373.

Austen, Jane and Johnson, Reginald Brimley. The novels and letters of Jane Austen, Volume 1. F.S. Holby, 1906

Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. B. Tauchnitz, 1864

JV Starfield, 2009. Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility, Lecture 2. University of Johan

This essay on Sense and Sensibility deals with letter-writing, one of the narrative techniques used to tell the story, to portray the characters and to convey some of the themes and motifs of the novel.

In Sense and Sensibility, letters form a vital part of Austen s narrative technique; while some letters are cited verbatim (direct quotation), others are merely mentioned but not seen by the reader (indirect reference). However, while all the main characters communicate through letter-writing, Austen quotes only six letters directly.

Using this statement about the function of letters in the novel as a guide, this essay will provide a critical analysis of the six letters in the novel and will comment on: The way in which each letter-writer addresses the character to whom he or she writes, and the way each letter is signed. Why, in each case, the character has written the letter. (Remember that the reasons, in each case, may be diverse.) How each character portrays himself or herself in the letter and his or her motivation for portraying himself or herself in this way and the extent to which each letter-writer expresses himself or herself with formality or informality, emotion or coolness, sincerity or the intention to manipulate.

The first letter that is mentioned in the novel comes from chapter 4. When Mr. Henry Dashwood dies, leaving all his money to his first wife’s son John Dashwood, his second wife and her three daughters are left with no permanent home and very little income. Under such horrible circumstances a letter is delivered to invite Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret to stay with their distant relations, the Middletons, at Barton Park. The offer is for a small house, on very easy terms that was written personally and for friendly accommodation. Mrs Dashwood had her resolutions formed and instantly replied to accept Sir Johns proposal. The house was simple, and the rent so uncommonly moderate, that she couldn t object on any point. Elinor is sad to leave their home at Norland because she has become closely attached to Edward Ferrars, the brother-in-law of her half-brother John.

We come across a series of letters in chapter 29, after Marianne openly expresses her affections for John Willoughby. Elinor and Marianne are indebted to accompany Lady Middleton to a party, even though Marianne complains she is far too morose to enjoy dancing. Marianne catches sight of Willoughby in the crowd of partiers and rushes towards him. She is astonished and deeply distressed when he ignores her and avoids eye contact, he appears to be deep in conversation with a young lady. When Marianne finally manages to approach him directly, he remarks without feeling that he had received her letters but never found her at home when he attempted to visit her in reply. (Sparknote Editors, n.d). Marianne is heartbroken by this poor excuse and leaves the party straight away with her sisters, she is so overcome by grief that she climbs into bed as soon as she gets home.

After breakfast, the next day, Marianne shares with Elinor a letter that has just been delivered from Willoughby. In his letter, Willoughby apologises for anything in his behaviour and manner at the party that might have offended her. He expresses his admiration for the entire Dashwood family and regrets if he ever gave Marianne any reason to believe that he felt differently for her. Finally, he informs her of his upcoming engagement to another woman and encloses in his letter the three notes that she sent to him in London and returns her lock of hair. This letter is addressed Dear Madam and signed off as I am, dear Madam, your most obedient humble servant. (Austen, 129)

The three letters that are returned to Marianne from Willoughby are letters of desperate pleas for Willoughby to visit her at Mrs. Jennings’s home. Marianne confesses that they were never formally engaged to one another and starts to realise her emotional behaviour. The first of these three letters announce that Marianne is in town and how she wishes to see him, she signs the letter saying M.D. This is a much more romantic and intimate signing than Willoughbys formal letter of address. Her second note, which had been written on the morning after the dance at the Middletons’ , questions his whereabouts at the party and why he has not replied to her letters or come to meet her since he knows where she is staying, again she signs off M.D. the third and final letter from Marianne to Willoughby asks of his behaviour towards her and an explanation for this change. Marianne wonders if Willoughby has heard false truths about her and asks every question as to why his behaviour was so disappointing for her. Marianne asks Willoughby to return her letters and her lock of hair if he no longer returns her affections. (Austen, 132) Elinor is shattered over her sisters pain and can hardly believe that Marianne could be so forward in her affections for Willoughby when they were not engaged. Elinors kind heart still comforts her sister with gentle words.

Mrs. Jennings tries to comfort Marianne but says all the wrong things. She remarks to Elinor that her sister looks “very bad” (Austen, 218: 9) and that she should realise that Willoughby “is not the only young man in the world worth having.” (Austen, 218: 22) She goes on to explain to Elinor how Willoughby had to abruptly proposed to Miss Sophia Grey, a wealthy heiress because he had squandered all his fortunes.

There is a contrast between Elinor and Marianne reactions to their lovers’ seemingly insensitive treatment. Marianne insists through her grief that “I care not who knows that I am wretched.” (Austen, 167: 9) Marianne openly expresses her feelings and her attempts for intimacy with Willoughby at the party are public, this contrasts strikingly with Elinor’s more cautious and private restraint.

The next letter to analyse is from Lucy Ferrars to Edward. Thomas, the Dashwoods’ servant, arrives from town with the news that “Mr. Ferrars” has married Lucy Steele. This news upsets both Marianne and Elinor, the two sisters react very differently, Marianne falls into a fit of hysteria, and Elinor appears deeply saddened and disappointed.

Shortly after this news, Elinor thinks she sees Colonel Brandon approaching Barton Cottage on horseback, when she looks closer, she realizes that the visitor is actually Edward Ferrars. When he gets to the house, Elinor and Marianne question him about his recent marriage, he realizes the misunderstanding and assures them that it was Robert, his brother, who married Lucy Steele. Edward explains that now his brother is to inherit Mrs Ferrars’s money, Lucy has shifted her affections to him. Elinor is so relieved and Edward soon proposes, Elinor accepts his proposal and is so happy how events finally turned out. Edward is invited for dinner that evening and he explains the regrettable circumstances that first led to his engagement to Lucy. Edward also shares with the Dashwood sisters a note from Lucy in which she informed him of her marraige to Robert and cut off all romantic ties with him. This letter is a very formal account of Lucy explaining how she is married to Robert before she has even told Edward of losing her affections for him. Lucy tells Edward that she has burnt all of his letters and will return his picture at the first opportunity. She asks Edward to destroy her letters but he can keep her ring and hair. Elinor is shocked and surprised by these revelations, Lucy formally addresses the letter as Dear Sir and without care leaves Edward with nothing. Edward is not sure how long the affair between Lucy and his brother continued for before Lucy felt she should inform Edward.

Marianne finally accepts the affections of Colonel Brandon and the sisters live together at Delaford. The sisters continue to maintain a close relationship with their younger sister Margaret and their motherat Barton Cottage, and the families live happily ever after.

Marianne’s final acceptance of Colonal Brandon seems completely out of character, since the marriage requires her to abandon her romantic ideals entirely. It seems doubtful that Marianne would love Brandon with as much love that she had shared for Willoughby, she does not know him as well. By Austen ending her novel with their marriage, she shows the extent of Marianne’s character transformation, she writes, “She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract by her conduct her most favourite maxims.” (Austen, 339:1) If Marianne’s ability to love Brandon is unconvincing, it is because of Austen’s great faith in the ability of the individual to remake herself in light of shifting circumstances (Sparknote Editors, n.d).

The contrast between the sisters’ characters is eventually resolved as they each find love and lasting happiness. Through the events in the novel, Elinor and Marianne find a balance between sense (or pure logic) and sensibility (or pure emotion) in life and love.

Reference List:

SparkNotes Editors. SparkNote on Sense and Sensibility. SparkNotes LLC. n.d.. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/sensibility/ (accessed August 25, 2010).

Favret, Mary. Sense and Sensibility: The Letter, Post Factum , pp. 373.

Austen, Jane and Johnson, Reginald Brimley. The novels and letters of Jane Austen, Volume 1. F.S. Holby, 1906

Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. B. Tauchnitz, 1864

JV Starfield, 2009. Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility, Lecture 2. University of Johan

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