Monday, 10 September 2012
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility is at heart a story about two sisters, Elinor and Marianne. Elinor is the sense, Marianne the sensibility (impulsive and emotional). During the course of the story they are both jilted by men they love and the bulk of the novel deals with their differing reactions. Marianne falls desperately in love with Willoughby from the moment she meets him and they court very publicly with everyone expecting an engagement, only for Willoughby to run off with a richer woman. Marianne's grief and despair are not hidden. Elinor's story is a quieter one as she has fallen in love with a family friend, Edward Ferrars. Unfortunately, he is already engaged to Lucy Steele and feels honour bound to marry her. Elinor's heartbreak is no less than Marianne's but her expression of it more subdued. As they both find their way again, the differing reactions of the two sisters are contrasted.
I guess most women are an Elinor or Marianne and I'm definitely an Elinor. I do feel things deeply but I'm an intensely private person to the extent that my husband would be the only one to know if I was suffering or upset. I am an expert at covering up my feelings, getting on with things and not losing my head even if I might feel like it. Self-control is practically my middle name! So I really felt for Elinor in the story - even though she feels very deeply she hides it well, meaning that she is often overlooked as everyone rushes to take care of Marianne. There's one passage that struck a particular chord with me; Elinor is berating Marianne for not confiding in her and Marianne replies;
"Nay, Elinor, this reproach from you - you who have confidence in no one!"
It struck a chord because this is me - I tend not to tell other people my problems as I don't want to be a burden to them. This can lead to me being perceived as distant or aloof, when really I just hate to inconvenience others by going on about myself. Of course, what I (and Elinor) forget is that sometimes, people want to show you they care by helping you, and they can't do that if you don't open up to them in the first place. As I so closely identified with Elinor, I was cheering for her when she finally showed her emotions to her sister and was satisfied with the ending she received.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy Marianne's story. I've always been a bit jealous of the Mariannes of the world, people who are free and unselfconscious and open - I'll never be like that. Marianne was full of spirit and very alive. I liked that she didn't give a damn what people thought about her and that she did as she pleased. Although Marianne did have some growing up to do in the story, I wasn't fully satisfied with her ending. *SPOILER* It was almost as if she was brow-beaten into marrying Colonel Brandon because her family wanted her to, not because she loved him. They both deserved better.
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed Sense and Sensibility, I still prefer Pride and Prejudice and Emma. However, I can still see myself reading this many times in the future and getting more out of it each time. There are three more Austens for me to experience and I can't wait.
This is the third book I've read for the Classics Club.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 1811
My Edition: Penguin Classics, 2008
Score: 4.5 out of 5