Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: book reviews, books, classics, jane austen, literature, sense & sensibility
As a result of Mrs. Ferras disowning Edward he and Lucy will find themselves in the sticky situation of needing to earn an income. As the first born son Edward would have been financially cared for but now he and Lucy must be concerned with that ever lowly task of making money. Colonel Brandon proves more romantic that we may have dared, or perhaps it is a result of the still recent retelling of his own romantic tragedy, and extends a parsonage to Edward through Elinor. As generous as the offer is Elinor now finds herself in the situation of offering Edward and Lucy their future. Without it, they may have to wait months if not years for Edward to get into the religious ministries as well as find a location to practice.Now while all of this commotion is going on please do not forget the regular tête-à-têtes between Colonel Brandon and Elinor. In particular, do not forget that many of these occasions have been observed by Mrs. Jennings. As a result, another layer of gossip has been established (if not directly described by Austen) of the blossoming love between Brandon and Elinor. Finally Elinor catches on to all of Mrs. Jennings nudges and winks and a close reader may ask themselves what has and what has not Edward been told of this supposed affair.While at Cleveland Marianne takes violently ill and Charlotte and the newborn baby are sent away. Everyone (except the apothecary it seems) is worried for Marianne’s life. Coinciding with a rather miraculous breakthrough in Marianne’s health is the arrival of Willoughby! (Will they never be rid of him?) He has come to inquire after Marianne as he has heard of her poor health. Elinor notices that he is drunk. His drunken discourse and reflexions can be taken in many ways and Elinor’s never failing reserve of compassion trickles in again.
Willoughby has come looking for forgiveness and in need of confession. The degree of selfishness and vanity in this act is left to the reader. Willoughby it seems intentionally teased and led Marianne on while at Barton without realizing how much she loved him and how much he ultimately would return those affections. He now finds himself with a wife he has married for money. The reader learns the letter Marianne received the afternoon after the dance was dictated to Willoughby by his new wife. Elinor is not sure what to feel in regard to this communication but I commend Austen in having Elinor respect the wife’s actions. In a book rift with female rivalry and female competition for men Austen does quite the decent job of avoiding any stereotypical “cat fights.” Willoughby must accept his own actions. As a last comment of the evening Willoughby confesses his continued love for Marianne and even seems to suggest a possible continued relationship with her despite his marriage. He begs Elinor to relay this to Marianne and Elinor assures he she will relay what will bring comfort to Marianne.
Elinor ultimately expresses a great deal of compassion for Willoughby but why? I am still infuriated with the man. Perhaps one can brush off the incident with Marianne (even though it is her sister) as silly and naive. But what about Colonel Brandon’s Eliza? Even Marianne upon recovery expresses her hope that Willoughby was not always so evil and also confesses (and this is a big one) that if she would have died it would have been suicide – that her illness was largely self-inflicted. Marianne seems entirely changed after this incident. Was so much of her melodrama play acting and this was a swift kick in the pants that she needed? And what is Austen ultimately saying about the “reward” for sensibility? Marianne’s opinions change so radically by the end of the novel… I admittedly was left unsatisfied.
By the conclusion of the novel everything is solved: Marianne marries Brandon and with some fancy footwork it seems Ms. Lucy Steele ran off with the other brother and left Edward to marry Elinor.
And in conclusion: What was the point of Margaret (the youngest Dashwood sister)?
The image is from the Houghton Lodge and Gardens website.