Sensibility Essay, Research Paper
Book Review 1
Development of Major Characters
English Lit. Honors, Per 5
Sense and Sensibility
The first of Jane Austen’s published novels, Sense and Sensibility, portrays the life and loves of two very different sisters: Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. The contrast between the sister’s characters results in their attraction to vastly different men, sparking family and societal dramas that are played out around their contrasting romances. The younger sister, Marianne Dashwood, emerges as one of the novel’s major characters through her treatment and characterization of people, embodying of emotion, relationship with her mother and sisters, openness, and enthusiasm.
Marianne is in the jejune business of classifying people- especially men- as romantic or unromantic (Intro II). Marianne’s checklist mentality is observed by Elinor:
“Well, Marianne…for one morning I think you have done pretty well…. You know what he thinks of Cowper and Scott; you are certain of his estimating their beauties as he ought, and you have every assurance of his admiring Pope no more than proper.” (Chapter 10)
To site a specific incident, Marianne describes her opinion of Edward Ferrars- her sister’s interest- as being very amiable, yet he is not the kind of man she expects to seriously attach to her sister. She goes on to find, what in her opinion are flaws, that Edward Ferrars reads with little feeling or emotion, does not regard music highly, and that he enjoys Elinor’s drawing, yet cannot appreciate it, for he is not an artist (15).
In a man, Marianne seeks a lover and a connoisseur, whose tastes coincide with her tastes. He must be open with feelings, read the same books, and be charmed by the same music (15). Marianne seeks a man with all of Edward’s virtues, and his person and manner must ornament his goodness with every possible charm (16). Marianne’s mother relates Marianne’s maturity beyond her years by reminding Marianne “Remember, my love, that you are not seventeen. It is yet too early in life to despair of such an happiness (16).”
Marianne’s brand of free expression sometimes has little else to recommend it (Intro, I). What is true of Marianne’s classification system is true of her manners in general: In her refusal to place social decorum and propriety above her own impulses and desires, she is absolutely unbending (Intro, II). Marianne is also characterized as being very charming. For example, she believes her poetic effusions to be striking in themselves as well as accurate expressions of her inner life (Intro, VII). In Chapter 16, Marianne, all but swooning over the beauty of dead leaves, exhibits Sentimental-Romantic imprecision at its worst; using words like “transporting,” “feelings,” and “inspired.” What Marianne lacks in originality, she makes up for in enthusiasm. She was sensible and clever; but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable and interesting.
The Dashwood family seems to be very close-knit. The death of their relative, the disregard to proper inheritance, and even moving to a smaller home, with less servants cannot separate this family. Marianne shows extreme love and devotion for her sisters and her mother. Even when speaking of Elinor’s love, Edward, Marianne would not wound the feelings of her sister on any account, and yet to say what she did not believe was impossible (17). When the social pressure to say the right thing becomes too great, Marianne resorts to a silence painful to those around her, though not to herself (Intro VI). Marianne ends her conversation with Elinor about Edward for fear of offending (17). Marianne also takes Margaret from the room many times when the conversation becomes too mature, or when the subject of love, or romance arises.
Marianne Dashwood, emerges as one of the novel’s major characters through her treatment and characterization of people as romantic or unromantic and finding the true nature of an individual, embodying of emotion and finding beauty in everything from dead leaves to a passage of Shakespearean literature. The genuine love for her family is expressed in protection of her younger sister, and from conversations about love and relationships with Elinor. Jane Austen did a beautiful job in transforming descriptions and characterizations of a person on paper to a grand, life-size character who embodies the true Romantic period- Marianne Dashwood.