“Sense and Sensibility”, analysis of the novel by Jane Austen

Critical Novel Analysis

The novel Sense and Sensibility is an amazing piece of literary art developed by Jane Austen. The author intended to tell us a great story of a certain family known as the Dashwoods lived through times of poverty through common sense and sensibility. Their situation gets worse when their dad leaves home and dies. She used two characters from the Dashwood family, Elinor and Marianne, to realistically drive these two main points home. Elinor represents prudence whereas Marianne represents emotionality during bad economic times. In our world today, we can also relate to Jane Austen’s message due to what is happening in our society. During bad economic times, we need to be use our common senses to make it out of that rut. But at the same time, we need to be mindful so as not to hurt others feelings in our own pursuit of economic freedom. It is for this reason that Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is a must-read for everyone.

Core Ideas in The Novel

  • Love
    Love is all warm and fuzzy but sometimes things can get ugly because of it. In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, love has also been associated with suffering. For instance, at some point in the story, both Elinor and Marianne get heartbroken in the name of love. The difference lies in how each of them handles their heartaches. Elinor uses her mind and decides to control her emotions. She is wise enough to reserve her feelings after knowing that Edward Ferrars, who she has been seeing, is faithfully but secretly engaged to his fiancé, Lucy. Marianne, on the other hand gets ditched by some attractive man, John Willoughby, for a certain heiress after dismissing Colonel Brandon who genuinely loved her. Marianne gets heartbroken and consumed by bitterness, landing her into a life threatening fever.
  • Class war
    Classism is also evident in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. It is still a nagging issue in our society today. Today, classism represents the stratification of populations based on social status and wealth. We have the poor, the lower and upper middle class, the rich, and the elite. Elinor and Marianne lived a middle-class life in the 19th century. When their father dies, their situation worsens when their half-brother kicks them out of their father’s home. This prompts them to go live in a poorly maintained cottage belonging to the cousin to Dashwood’s wife. This represents how rich people have more money and power whereas the poor remain at their mercy.
  • Home and Family
    Elinor and Marianne are sisters in the Dashwood family. In the novel Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen presents the idea of a home as where a family unit is based. Hence, homes and families are interrelated. The Dashwood family have a home in an estate where they all lived a middle-class life. But when Mr. Dashwood dies, the family seems to be in shambles are the half-brother to Elinor and Marianne forcefully takes over their father’s home. Both sisters go to live life in a cottage somewhere else and their life standards tend to go lower.
  • Women and emotions
    In society, female beings have always been viewed as emotionally driven as opposed to being rational. Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility presents women in another dimension. Yes, Marianne thinks using her emotions but Elinor doesn’t. Through the latter, the idea of emotional thinking by women is now rendered subject to debate. On the other hand, males are presented as not always logical and firm. Sometimes, they can be submissive, as reflected through Edward Ferrars’ submissiveness to Lucy.

The Novel’s History

Jane Austen first wrote her novel, Sense and Sensibility, in 1795. Since then, a lot of editing took place, beginning with the title. The book was first named Elinor and Marianne, who are the two main characters. Then, other significant revisions took place in 1809 after which the novel got first-time publication. As usual, critique is a must for any given publication. Jane Austen novel’s critique was all about what she preferred the most between sense and sensibility in life. She finally succeeded to publish the novel and make it film, stage, and TV-ready. This increased readability of her novel making it a huge success.

The Novel’s Plot

The story is about how a middle-class family, The Dashwoods, deteriorate in social status after the death of the family head, Henry Dashwood, and the taking over of the estate by John, the half-brother to Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. The three sisters receive no significant support from John and his wife, Fanny. Luckily, Middleton, a cousin to Fanny, offers them a home at his poorly maintained cottage in his estate. Unluckily, this move costs Elinor her relationship with Fanny’s brother, Edward. At Middleton’s estate, Marianne falls for Brandon, a senior and less charming bachelor who is also John’s friend. She loses interest too soon and ditches Brandon for Willoughby, a junior and more charming bachelor who then suddenly ditches Marianne for another young heiress. Marianne gets devastated and gets into a deadly fever. While Elinor is still courting with Edward, she realizes about his deep and long commitment to Lucy. She gets shocked but reasonably understands Edwards naivety. John’s wife’s mother, Mrs. Jennings, invites Elinor and Marianne to London for the winter.

Elinor gladly accepts whereas Marianne wants to remain behind due to her heartbreak. Even worse, is when Willoughby’s new marriage to the heiress, Sophia, is made public. Then, Brandon tells Elinor about his ugly past with women and how Marianne already fell in the trap. Now both sisters travel home heartbroken but Marianne gets ill after getting there. Willoughby confesses to Elinor all the sins he committed against Marianne. Marianne gets well and head back to Barton. While there, she learns to like Brandon, they finally get married and move to Seaford Delaford. Elinor gets married to Edward and they too move to Delaford. This sparks marriage thoughts in Margret.

Characters in the Novel

Jane Austen ‘s Sense and sensibility has very interesting characters.

  • Elinor
    Sensible/rational/prudent – she doesn’t allow her thinking to be clouded by her emotions.
    Understanding – she understood that Edward was naive by falling in love with her while still engaged to Lucy.
  • Marianne
    Emotional – when she got heartbroken, her thinking was clouded by her emotions.
    Resilient – she was able to recover from her illness and be strong to love again despite her past love life.
  • Willoughby
    Manipulative – he easily seduces women and uses them for his sexual desires.
    Naive – He didn’t know at first how to love a woman for real.
    Honest – he owned up to his misdeeds.
  • Brandon
    Caring – He disclosed to Elinor about Willoughby’s character.Loving – he loved Marianne right and eventually married her.

Sense and sensibility relates perfectly to our real world. Therefore, Jane Austen ‘s ideas are valid and provide a better understanding of society as a whole.

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