In this novel Jane Austen uses the title of the book itself as a metaphor to illustrate the differences between the two main characters, with Elinor to represent the sense and Marianne to represent the sensibility. Sense and sensibility also indicates a split division, polar opposites, and how these opposites compliment each other, as can be seen throughout the novel.
The dominant theme in this novel is sense prevailing over sensibility. It is a theme which can be seen in most of the characters; however the concentration is on Elinor and Marianne, who are two sisters and are often perceived as polar opposites. Marianne tends to be viewed as the `sensibility' and Elinor as the `sense'. Jane Austen opens the novel with the girls' father, (Mr John Dashwood) who is dying, and stressing to his son that although Mrs Dashwood and the girls are stepfamily he wants to be assured that they will be looked after. In this era it was not expected that a women should be left any inheritance, this was generally left to the man in the family. Women obtained there social class and money through marriage. It is once the fathers dies that we begin to get an understanding of the sense and sensibility.
Marianne is a young girl of seventeen, and as is expected of this age she is naïve, spontaneous, and full of romantic idealism. However Marianne tends to take everything to the extreme and dramatises the slightest thing. She personifies sensibility and becomes emotionally disturbed by the events that take place in her life. It can be seen in the novel that she takes this from her mother, Mrs Dashwood, who is represented in the novel in much the same way as Marianne. She is sensitive, emotional, melodramatic, and imaginative and as Marianne she is very easily influenced by the events in her life.
Elinor is seen to be the most sensible of the three; she is shown to be rational, mature and level headed, always putting others before herself. Her good sense always prevails and guides her to act in an appropriate manner making impartial and reasonable decisions throughout the novel. This is apparent at the beginning of the novel when the girls lose their father and their half brother and his wife fanny move into Norland, leaving the Dashwood ladies with a meagre income. Marianne and her mother are so overcome with grief that the practical issues are left to Elinor, Jane Austen highlights this in chapter one.
`So earnestly did she despise her daughter in law for it, that, on that on the arrival of the latter she would have quitted the house forever, had not the entreaty of her eldest girl induced her first to reflect on the propriety of going..' (pg 4)
`Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advise was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgement, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother..' (pg 4)
Jane Austen shows us Marianne's over the top, melodramatic, romantic nature when she describes...