Adventures in Reading

Sense & Sensibility
September 13, 2007, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In yesterday’s post I concluded that I was not enjoying Sense & Sensibility as much as I had enjoyed Pride & Prejudice. This is certainly not to say that I do not like Sense & Sensibility but Austen’s techniques certainly seem to vary from book to book. Some of the literary criticism I have been reading comments on how different P&P is from the other novels in Austen’s oeuvre. Some of the narrative distinctions I have immediately seen are that in P&P Austen is highly focused on dialog, and in contrast S&S spends a great deal of time exploring the characters inner thoughts. Austen’s dialog driven style creates a faster paced story and certainly the delightful wit and sarcasm that grabs the reader in the first half of P&P is hard to beat. Ultimately, S&S reads more slowly but perhaps more importantly the characters of Elinor and Marianne are much less dynamic in contrast with Elizabeth (perhaps not Jane as she is rather transparent).

With no real father figure in Sense & Sensibility (as Mr. Dashwood senior was killed at the start!) Colonel Brandon seems to assume the role. While no specific age is given he is certainly a matured character with fatherly notions and at least initially it seems with little romantic passions. Now whether Brandon falls in love with Marianne or it is a result of Mrs. Jennings’ teasing nature the reader quickly becomes acquainted with Brandon’s romantic intentions towards Marianne. The realization of this brings a delightful tirade out of Marianne where she shares her rather naïve viewpoints on love and matrimony. Some of her ideas that after a person’s first love they can never love another and that a woman of 27 is too old for marriage. Both Elinor and her mother contest these viewpoints as Mrs. Dashwood was the second love (assumedly) of her former husband’s life and simply because Mrs. Dashwood is beyond 27 years does not mean that her romantic sentiments dissipate.

A nice comparison to this is the marriage theme in P&P specifically in regards to marriage as a commercial exchange and the result of going too far when hiding your emotions. S&S most definitely regards the economic aspect of marriage though Mrs. Dashwood is certainly more oblivious to it than Mrs. Bennet was. The emotional aspect is very interesting. Recall Charlotte Lucas warning Elizabeth Bennet that if Jane went too far in concealing her emotions that she would lose the hand of Mr. Bingley and this piece of foreshadowing certainly does occur. Elinor with her sense and reserve ensures that she will constrain her emotions while the person of her affection Edward does the same. Both characters spend a great deal of time blundering through the novel and resisting the expression of their emotions.

Soon after being situated at Barton Cottage Marianne and Margaret take a stroll only to be caught in the rain. While running home Marianne trips and hurts herself. From the pouring rain a dark figure appears and swoops down to rescue poor Marianne. Marianne’s sentiments exist in this Gothic/Romantic landscape of melodrama and melancholy. She feels everything and by italicizing that I mean at times it feels like Marianne is acting in a self-assigned role. Every emotion has to be a grand production as we witness her suffer or delight in the moment. In this mindset her rescuer Mr. Willoughby becomes the dashing and romantic hero while Colonel Brandon remains a stuffy and elderly country gentleman.

At this point I also finally bothered to look up the terms sense (intelligence, judgment) and sensibility (delicacy of feeling, sensitivity, emotional consciousness). After looking this up in my hand held dictionary I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary to see if I could gather any more information on how these words had been used in Austen’s period. For the most part it seems that the definition and word usage has changed little though this is something that warrants further investigation.

This posts image is from The Bata Shoe Museum and their showing of Rococo footwear. The pair of shoes depicted are yellow silk with buckles c.1760 and for some further information on them: “Like pieces of jewelery, buckles were valued accessories worn on varying pairs of shoes to complement different outfits. The most expensive were made of sterling silver set with diamonds but most were embellished with glittering paste or rhinestones. The buckles on this pair of yellow silk shoes are typical of the preference for flowers and bows even on jewelery during the age of Rococo.” Personally I cannot imagine how a woman could stand in them but they are quite beautiful.


It’s obvious that Jane learned the craft of writing a full length novel as she wrote Sense and Sensibility, and that P&P benefited from her expertise. In addition, the original version of P&P (First Impressions) was almost twice as long as the published novel. It must have benefited enormously from editing and proofing.

Comment by Ms. Place

I only just now saw that your comments were being marked as “spam” so I apologize for my lack of response (I <3 your blog).

Comment by bookchronicle

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: