Sense and Sensibility
13 Feb. 1997
The topic of this paper is to distinguish the differences between sense and
sensibility. Represented in Jane Austin's novel by two sisters, Elinor and Marianne,
the disposition of the two girls can be seen quite vividly. The two girls are
accompanied by a mother, and many other well developed characters. One
character questionable to the theme of the story is the youngest sister Margaret. Her
personality if described would be more like that of her sister Marianne.
The novel begins with a dying father telling his son that he must leave his
estate to him and his wife. This means that the three girls and their mother will be
left without a place to stay and the girls without dowry's. As lethal a blow as this
may seem, it is coupled by the fact the their brothers new wife is less than
sympathetic to the three girls needs. This is when we are first introduced to Elinor
and her younger sister Marianne. As usual, Marianne is being her impulsive self
and Elinor is trying to take care of her families well-being.
A brief synopsis of Elinor and Marianne's personalities leads to the
following: Elinor is quiet, soft spoken, full of good manners, and well brought up.
Marianne is impulsive, outspoken, full of a vibrant love of life and playful. To fully
understand the girls, it is important to see how other character viewed them.
Edward Ferrars, the object of Elinor's affection (though she would never
show it) is quoted as saying Miss Dashwoods friendship the most important of his
life. This is a considerable compliment (even if it isn't what Elinor wants to hear at
the time) coming from a man as highly esteemed as Mr. Ferrars . Elinor is viewed
by her mother and her two sisters as a saving grace, someone to depend on. To a
certain extent this is true, but Elinor also has problems and she doesn't quite know
how to let people know about them. Even when Lucy Steele confides in Elinor that
she has been secretly engaged to Edward for four years, she tells no one, and bears
the burden of a broken heart on her own.
The same would not, and did not happen with Marianne. She made sure that
everyone knew how she felt about a young man named Mr. Willoughby. Rescued
in a rather dramatic fashion by the gentleman after spraining her ankle, Marianne
falls head over heels in love. Rather than keep her feelings a secret like Elinor, she
parades around town and flaunts her affections for Willoughby shamelessly. This
of course is looked down upon by Elinor, the staple of sensibility. She has a very
hard time accepting how Marianne acts purely upon her senses.
A real contrast can be seen between the two women when Marianne comes to
see Elinor in her bedroom one night. It is the same evening in which Edward has
read to the family upon Marianne's incistant urging. Edward lacks the emotion that
Marianne thrives on while reading to the women and she has no qualms about
sharing this with him.
When talking to her sister, Marianne states that she finds Edward to be an
"amiable" man, but lacking a certain spark. When Elinor says that his disposition
suits her just fine, Marianne is appalled. Her immediate reaction is one of question.
Would Elinor rather love a dull, amiable man or the kind of man she would choose?
Marianne would settle for no less than a prince on a white stallion, ready to rescue
her from the confines of her little cottage. Her man must possess "spirit, wit, and
The fact that the girls have no dowry is now beginning to weigh on them. It
is becoming an increasingly important theme in the novel that the two want to be
married. Elinor to Edward and Marianne to her prince, Mr. Willoughby. It is here
where the lines between the eighteenth and twentieth century can truly be drawn.
These women waited their entire lives to be proposed to by a man who accepted
their dowries and in some cases, even loved them. A sort of desperation can be
seen in Elinor and Marianne as they wonder when they will be proposed to. Elinor
has all but given up having heard the news of Ms. Steele, but Marianne remains
hopeful that she will be reunited with Willoughby after being separated and he
transferred to London.
This is where in the novel, the true difference between sense and sensibility
can be seen. At a party in London, Marianne looks and finds Willoughby, only to
see that he is there in the company of another woman, one he is engaged to.
Not knowing quite what to do, she retreats to her abode in London and falls into a
state of depression. Of course what else could you expect from the queen of drama
herself, one who feel that no death could ever be nobler that death in the name of
love. Remaining in her state of illness for some time causes a sudden change in
For the first time since the beginning of the novel, Elinor actually breaks
down. In a moment of pure feeling, she finally cries and lets the burdens of a
broken heart and the near loss of her sister take over.
When Marianne begins to recover, a change can be seen in both sisters
attitudes. Word comes that Mr. Ferrars has been marries and it is Elinor who
displays emotion rather than her sister. Although this is a subtle happening, to
anyone who follows Elinor's emotions closely, it is easy to see she is showing much
more now than in the beginning of the novel.
It is at this time that Edward pays a visit to the Dashwoods and clears up the
rumor that it is he who is married to Ms. Steele. It is in fact his brother, who has
taken over Lucy's affections. It is obvious to the reader the delight that is bestowed
upon Elinor at this time. For she now for the second time truly shows how she feels
with an impromptu bought of crying at the news.
Her sister, is once again rescued from the depths of despair only this time by
a much older Cn. Brandon whom she once pushed aside for Willoughby.
Both sisters, despite their lack of sufficient dowries, do eventually find love
and marriage. It is in the process, however, that we see the true difference between
sense and sensibility. Marianne's "impulsive sweetness" is what saves her and
leads her to follow her senses, whereas Elinor's mild mannered disposition gains her
the title of the sensible sister. In the end, both girls flourish, and sense as well as
Sense and Sensibility
English/ Prof. Johnson
Due: 19 Feb. 1997
Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/coursework/sense-and-sensibility.php