Sense and Sensibility – by Jane Austen

Posted: February 9, 2008 in book review, classic, self composed

Sense and Sensibilty, Jane Austen’s first novel, the revised version of “Elinor and Marriane”, the book centers around the story of Dashwood sisters, their constraints and pursuits of love in a class-concious Regency England. Its publication in 1811 marked Austen as a huge literary talent, and its significance reverberates even today as one can re-discover Austen’s works so adept at uncovering the foibles of nineteenth century aristocracy.

The main characters are the two Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. Elinor, the eldest one, embraces practicality and restraint while Marianne gives her whole heart to every endeavor. When the Dashwoods – mother Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor, Marianne, and youngest sister Margaret – are sent, almost impoverished, to a small cottage in Devonshire after the death of Mr. Dashwood and the machinations of their brother’s wife, they accept their new circumstances with as much cheer as they can muster even though their brother John and his wife have taken over the family estate and fortune. Their characters, albeit wildly different in their approaches to life, are impeccably honest and intelligent – and their suitors take notice. Elinor falls in love with the shy, awkward Edward, while Marianne’s affections are lavished on the dashing hunter Willoughby. As in all Austen’s books, love and marriage don’t come easily, as affections aren’t always returned and social jockeying sometimes takes precedence to true love. Edward turns out to be engaged to another girl, Lucy Steele and Willoughby plans to marry Miss Grey, a rich debutante. When Elinor learns of the marriage of Lucy Steele to Mr. Ferrars, she feels miserable to think of her Edward united with a lesser woman. At the same time, Marianne goes through a period of depression and falls seriously ill.Marianne renews her enthusiasm for life and starts realizing the worth of Colonel Brandon. Colonel Brandon is the unassuming, unlikely hero who falls in love with Marianne and saves her from death. Elinor is relieved when Edward reveals the truth to her and then proposes. Marianne marries Colonel Brandon and Elinor settles down with Edward Ferrars.

This novel adopts a generally serious tone. Parody is largely limited to the gossipy Mrs. Jenkins, who jumps to wild conclusions about situations she knows nothing about. Except for the first page or two where the circumstances of the Dashwoods are set up through a series of deaths and relations, possibly causing some confusion, this novel is exceedingly easy to follow for contemporary readers.
In an interestingly twist, the end of this novel brings into question which sister represents which part of the title.

In sum, this is a delightful and an excellent novel and well worth reading.


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