I want to start out with an apology to all those of you who came in last week looking for a post on volume 2. I’m afraid the reason I did not make a post last week was because I had completed the book by then and I found, while trying to prepare a post for volume 2, that it was clouded with the conclusions I had come to by the end of the novel. I found it really hard to write the post without bringing my knowledge from the final volume in to play. So, I figured I would combine the two into the final post.
A brief summary
Volume 2: Elinor is labouring under the knowledge of Edward’s secret engagement to Lucy Steele. Mrs Jennings invites the elder Dashwood sisters to London during the winter. The girls go mainly because Marianne is eager to see if she can get in touch with Willoughby. Once at London, she sends him a couple of letters, letting him know that she is in town. But she gets no response. She sees him at a ball where he is rather cold towards her, and learns the next day, that he is engaged to Ms Grey, an heiress. Marianne is heartbroken, and Elinor tries to shield her from prying questions. In the meantime, Lucy Steele flatters her way into John Dashwood’s household. Elinor watches all this with mixed feelings, glad that at least she won’t have to face Mrs Ferrers, Edward’s formidable mother, and Lucy’s future mother-in-law. With news of Willoughby’s going round about town, Colonel Brandon tells Elinor what he knows of him in the hopes that Marianne might realise that she is better off without Willoughby. It turns out that Willoughby, only a year before, seduces the colonel’s ward and leaves her to have a baby on her own.
Lucy’s engagement to Edward is out in the open, and the John Dashwoods and Mrs Ferras are none too happy. Edward is disinherited when it seen that he refuses to dishonour Lucy by calling off the engagement. Marianne is shocked to learn that Elinor has known of this for four months, and has kept it quiet because of a promise to Lucy not to let anyone know. Heartbroken and tired the sisters long for home and their mother.They leave with the Palmers, intending to stay with them for a week before going on towards home. During that one week Marianne falls seriously ill. Colonel Brandon sets off to get Mrs Dashwood to her sister. In the meantime, Willoughby learns that Marianne might be dying. He rides over to the Palmers and meets Elinor. He tells her why he left for London so abruptly. It turns out, that they day before he left, his rich aunt confronted him with the affair of Brandon’s ward. She said that all would be forgiven if he married the girl. But Willoughby refused and so his aunt disinherited him. As a result, he felt the need to find himself and heiress. He declares that he is unhappy and that he always loved Marianne. He asks that Elinor tell her that. Marianne recovers and the girls and their mother are finally home. Days pass and they learn that the Ferrers are in the country. Edward rides up to meet them, and polite questions lead to the knowledge that Edward is not married. Lucy has been clever and has ensnared Edward’s younger brother, Robert. Edward proposes to Elinor and they are married. Colonel Brandon courts Marianne for a time and they are married at the end. Both sisters live near each other and are very happy. The End.
As usual, once having begun an Austen, I found it hard to put the book down more than it was absolutely necessary. I love the way she says so much in just dealing with a handful of families. Each of her characters are so unique and yet so universal. I read somewhere that, being her first full-fledged novel, the characters in Sense and Sensibility were more of types than individuals; that the characters were not completely rounded. Perhaps, thinking about, this is so with the exception of Elinor and Marianne themselves. I’m sure, if possible, there could have been so much more to the Middletons, the Palmers, the Dashwoods, and even to Edward, Willoughby and Colonel Brandon. However, I do not see this as a problem. Each of these characters serve the purpose of the story, I think, and serve it well.
Sense and Sensibility (Elinor and Marianne)
As is rather obvious, Elinor stands for the ‘sense’ in the title, and Marianne for ‘sensibility’. The two sisters are so vastly different from each other in terms of their personality and their way of thinking. Elinor is so completely down to earth, practical, and aware of the social graces that she faithfully adheres to, while Marianne is a creature of extremes, extreme happiness and abject dejection, living in the moment with no thought of the future consequences, speaking her mind with not much concern for others save her sister(s) and mother.
How they love
I suppose this difference is most clear in the way these two young women love. Elinor’s love for Edward is quiet. She dare not presume that things will work out. Yet she, obviously, enjoys the little time she gets to spend with him. To her it does not matter that Edward cannot understand her paintings or read with passion or appreciate music. To her, it is enough and perhaps, more important, that Edward is a man of good sense, gentleness and honour. In fact, we see how much Elinor takes pride in Edward when her refuses to call off his engagement to Lucy. No doubt she wishes he would, but the fact that he sticks by honour makes Elinor respect and love him all the more, for she sets great store by loyalty.
In total and complete contrast we see the passionate affair between Marianne and Willoughby. Marianne does not care a whit about propriety, and takes for granted that she will end up with Willoughby. For her, it is a joy to discover a man who is as passionate as she is and adores music and books. She totally disregards things like honour and good breeding (I say this because, right from volume one, we see a Willoughby who does not grant Marianne the respect of a well-bred young woman in society). Yet, in the country all can be forgiven while everyone believes these two, with their obvious lover-like ways, will make a match of it. At the end, I wonder if Marianne could ever have respected Willoughby, even had she married him and then learnt of his treatment of Colonel Brandon’s ward. For all her passionate and free ways, Marianne, we know, is a young woman who does respect honour. It is another aspect that her ideal man should have.
Even in grief, one suffers in silence, believing that her pain is her own and the whole world need not know that she grieves, while the other grieves so openly not caring if the world sees her pain.
Money and happiness? – roles switched at the end
Somewhere in volume one, Elinor and Marianne discuss the importance of money. Elinor believes that money is an important ingredient to happiness in a marriage, while Marianne believes otherwise. She does not see how money can contribute to happiness when all one needs is love. Sense and sensibility. At the end, though, we see that Elinor marries Edward who hasn’t any money to his name save the couple hundred pounds a year he earns from the parrish. Marianne, though, ends up being married to the rich Colonel Brandon, though, one must admit, she does not marry him for the sake of the same. So, we see, that Elinor marries for love; Marianne out of strong esteem and lively friendship. And, in time, Marianne grows to love her colonel as much as she once did Willoughby.
Setting Edward and Willoughby side by side
It’s quite interesting, the contrast that we see in the Dashwood sisters’ lovers. Willoughby is rather flambouyant in his manner and way of expressing himself. He sets himself out to charm and flatter and rather skillfully becomes the life of the party. However, personally, I found him to be insincere at times, and as selfish and uncaring as a child. I was quite disgusted by his reaction when Colonel Brandon gets a letter that obviously agitates him and he needs to leave to London at once. Willoughby is rather inconsiderate in his remarks. But most of all, Willoughby is not a man of honour. He seduces a young woman who bears his child, leaves her and runs away, and later refuses to make “an honest woman out of her”. One wonders how far he would have gone with Marianne and he been a while longer in her company.
Edward, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of Willoughby. He might be quiet and unassuming, but the way he stands by an unwanted engagement speaks of a strength lacking greatly in Willoughby. It marks Edward, in my book, as a man. I also find it interesting that Edward gave no explanation to Elinor that might in anyway dishonour his fiance. While, Willoughby, married, comes to Marianne to unburden his heart at a time when she is so ill. I think, this way, he dishonours both his wife and Marianne. Why can he not leave well alone? Doesn’t he believe he has done enough damage? I really disliked the fact that he came to ‘explain’. It only serves to drive the knife in deeper, I think.
The last few pages of Sense and Sensibility read like a moral to the story.
Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily to give her hand to another! – and that other, a man who had suffered no less than herself under the even of a former attachment, whom two years before, she had considered too old to be married, – and who still sought the constitutional safe-guard of a flannel waistcoat! But so it was. Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion, as once she had fondly flattered herself with expecting, – instead of reamaining even for ever with her mother, and finding her only pleasures in retirement and study, as afterwards in her more calm and sober judgement she had determined on, – she found herself at nineteen, submitting to new attachements, entering on new duties, placed in a new home, a wife, the mistress of a family, and the patroness of a village.
Seems to me a debunking of all Marianne stands for and believes in in the first half of the novel.
Can it be that Austen is punishing one pair for their complete lack of sense? Can it be that Austen is judging them for their lack of sensibility other than what revolved around themselves? For even Willoughby is forced to realise that only, had he been faithful to Marianne, he would have had both love and money. And, perhaps of the two, Willoughby is the one who is really punished for Marianne gains happiness in security and the love of her husband whilst Willoughby still longs after her.
Willoughby could not hear of her [Marianne's] marriage without a pang; and his punishment was soon afterwards complete in the voluntary forgiveness of Mrs Smith, who, by stating his marriage with a woman of character, as the source of her clemency, gave him reason for believing that had he behaved with honour towards Marianne, he might at once have been happy and rich. That his repentance of misconduct, which thus brought its own punishment, was sincere, need not be doubted; – nor that he long thought of Colonel Brandon with envy, and of Marianne with regret.
So, what do you folk think of Austen’s first novel?
Do you agree with her finale for her heroines? Do you believe this story should have ended differently? Why? Why not?
What do you think of the concept of ‘concealment’ in the novel? It would seem that the whole story is based around what many characters and only some know.
Other Bloggers’ Posts