The Themes Of Marriage, Love And Differences Between Sense And Sensibility In Jane Austen's "Sense And Sensibility"

1543 words - 7 pages

To demonstrate the importance of sense in the 19th century society, Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" presents the reader with contrasts between characters who initially epitomise sense and sensibility. The actual plot revolves around events that occur in these characters lives, these characters being Elinor Dashwood (sense) and her younger sister Marianne Dashwood (sensibility). The two sisters undergo their own series of situations which happen to be comparable and so the reader is able to witness how each one responds or behaves as well as the consequences of their respective actions. The differences between sense and feeling are emphasised particularly by how they behaved with their ...view middle of the document...

Thus it is their sensibility which seems to have clouded their judgement. In contrast to her mother's defensive, expressive reaction to Willoughby's departure, Elinor thinks rationally about the situation and says, "I have had my doubts...if we find they correspond, every fear of mine will be removed." Austen allows Elinor's doubts to be confirmed as her judgement of Willoughby's character was mostly based on her good sense rather than on feeling demonstrated through her saying to her mother "...suspicion of his integrity cannot be more painful to yourself than to me"..Marianne's hysterical reaction to Willoughby's sudden departure and subsequent marriage is in stark contrast to Elinor's calmness in the absence of Edward Ferrars and knowledge of his engagement. When Austen writes, "She was without any power because she was without any command over herself" she exemplifies how Marianne allows her sensibilities to get the better of her and how as a result she cannot function properly. She is observed to neither "eat nor speak" the day Willoughby departs and is wildly hysterical when she is informed of Willoughby's engagement of Miss Grey (pg 181). Elinor too has greatly suffered from broken romance and when Marianne accuses her of being unfeeling she tells her "it was a manner forced on me by the very person herself, whose prior engagement ruined all my prospects and told me, as I thought with triumph" thus proving she was disappointed a way just as cruelly and painfully as Marianne or perhaps even more severely. In spite of the Lucy's taunting Elinor maintains her composure and acts sensibility "by endeavouring to appear indifferent where (she has) been most deeply interested". However, what sets her apart from Marianne is how she does not want to be a "burden" and is considerate of the feelings of those around her. "But I did not love only him - and while the comfort of others was dear to me, I was glad to spare them from knowing how much I felt". The selfless love she has for her family shows she has the capacity to feel just as deeply as Marianne but she chooses to express her emotions in her moral obligation to others. This is much different to Marian's selfish expression of emotions.Although it is made blatantly obvious that Austen considered sense superior to sensibility the text contends that it is also necessary for an individual to have an appropriate balance between the two - "sense to formulate his relation to society, feeling to vitalize it." This notion is highlighted by how the extremes of sense and sensibility epitomised by each sister approach each other towards the end i.e Elinor's capacity to feel is stressed constantly in the last volume, Vol. III and Marianne admits that her actions were nothing but "a series of imprudence against herself and want of kindness for others". Elinor experiences very human emotions when she receives an unexpected visit from Edward (pg 333-335). Believing him to be married to Lucy Steele, Elinor...

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