Sense and Sensibility, first published in 1811, is the debut novel of renowned British author Jane Austen. It is a sophisticated romantic novel that explores the experiences and dilemmas of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, who embody the qualities of sense and sensibility respectively. Austen’s sharp wit and social commentary shine through in this early work, providing a telling critique of the social norms and expectations of her time, particularly concerning women’s roles and marriage.
version: CLASSIC, EBOOK, AUDIOBOOK
number of pages: 352
literary movement: ROMANTICISM
literary genre: ROMANCE
1st edition: 1811
years of writing: 1795 - 1797
The story commences with the sudden death of Mr. Henry Dashwood, leaving his second wife and their three daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, in a precarious financial situation due to the inheritance laws of the period. The Dashwood women are forced to leave their family home of Norland Park and move to a more modest cottage in Devonshire, provided by a distant relative, Sir John Middleton.
Elinor Dashwood, the eldest sister, personifies ‘sense’ with her rational thinking, restraint, and adherence to social norms. She bears her secret affections for Edward Ferrars, the brother of her sister-in-law Fanny, with a stoicism that belies her deep emotional life. Edward’s own family expectations and a previous secret engagement complicate their relationship, providing a significant source of tension throughout the novel.
Marianne Dashwood, the middle sister, represents ‘sensibility,’ characterized by her emotional openness, impulsiveness, and fervor for Romantic poetry and music. She is courted by the dashing and flamboyant John Willoughby, who saves her after a fall but later abandons her, leading to her emotional desolation. Meanwhile, Colonel Brandon, a quiet, stalwart, and significantly older suitor, harbors a deep affection for her.
The narrative follows these romantic entanglements and miscommunications, with Austen deftly portraying the societal constraints that dictate who should marry whom and why. Both sisters experience heartbreak and misunderstanding, their contrasting personalities providing ample ground for Austen’s exploration of balance between reason (sense) and emotion (sensibility) in the pursuit of a happy life.
The eldest sister and the protagonist of the novel. She is intelligent, level-headed, and practical. She is the one who is always there for her younger sister, Marianne, and she is always willing to sacrifice her own happiness for Marianne’s. She is secretly in love with Edward Ferrars, but she knows that he is already engaged to be married to Lucy Steele.
The younger sister and the more emotional of the two. She is passionate, romantic, and impulsive. She is often led by her heart, and she often makes decisions that are not in her best interests. She is in love with Willoughby, but she eventually realizes that he is not the man she thought he was.
A wealthy young man who is engaged to be married to Lucy Steele. However, he is secretly in love with Elinor Dashwood. He is a kind and gentle man, but he is also somewhat weak-willed. He is easily persuaded by his sister, Mrs. John Dashwood, to break off his engagement to Elinor.
A charming and handsome young man who is also in love with Marianne Dashwood. However, he is not a reliable or trustworthy man. He is secretly engaged to another woman, Eliza Williams, and he abandons Marianne when he learns that she has no dowry.
A wealthy and respectable older man who is in love with Marianne Dashwood. He is a kind and compassionate man, and he is always there for Marianne when she needs him. He eventually marries Marianne after Willoughby abandons her.
The mother of the Dashwood sisters. She is a kind and gentle woman, but she is also somewhat naive and easily manipulated. She is forced to move from Norland Park to Barton Cottage after her husband’s death, and she is determined to find good matches for her daughters.
The half-brother of the Dashwood sisters. He is a wealthy man who inherits Norland Park after his father’s death. However, he is a selfish and ungenerous man, and he refuses to provide financial support for his stepmother and half-sisters.
The wife of John Dashwood. She is a selfish and ambitious woman who is determined to improve her social status. She is jealous of the Dashwood sisters, and she does everything she can to prevent them from marrying well.
A young woman who is secretly engaged to Edward Ferrars. She is a manipulative and scheming woman who is determined to marry Edward, even if it means breaking his engagement to Elinor.
TOP 10 POINTS
- Sense and Sensibility is a novel of manners that follows the lives of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they navigate the challenges of finding love and happiness in 19th-century England.
- The novel is set in the fictional county of Devonshire, and begins with the death of the Dashwoods’ father.
- With their father’s death, the Dashwood sisters are forced to move from their family home, Norland Park, to a smaller cottage in Barton Cottage.
- In Barton Cottage, the Dashwood sisters meet a variety of characters, including the wealthy Edward Ferrars, his sister, Mrs. John Dashwood, and their cousin, Willoughby.
- Elinor Dashwood is the eldest sister and the more sensible of the two. She is intelligent, level-headed, and practical.
- Marianne Dashwood is the younger sister and the more emotional of the two. She is passionate, romantic, and impulsive.
- Edward Ferrars is a wealthy young man who is engaged to be married to Lucy Steele. However, he is secretly in love with Elinor Dashwood.
- Willoughby is a charming and handsome young man who is also in love with Marianne Dashwood. However, he is not a reliable or trustworthy man.
- The novel ends with Elinor and Marianne both finding happiness, albeit in different ways. Elinor marries Edward Ferrars, and Marianne marries Colonel Brandon.
- Sense and Sensibility is a classic of English literature that has been praised for its wit, humor, and insights into the human heart.
Sense and Sensibility has been adapted into several movies, including the 1995 film directed by Ang Lee and starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant.
- The 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility was directed by Ang Lee and starred Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant. The film was a critical and commercial success, and it won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
- The 2008 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility was directed by John Alexander and starred Dominic Cooper, Charity Wakefield, and Hattie Motahan. The film was also a critical and commercial success, and it was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards.
- The 2011 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility was directed by Brian Brough and starred Ashley Williams, Marla Sokoloff, and Nick Zanno. The film was a made-for-television movie, and it was well-received by critics.
AT THE END
Ultimately, Sense and Sensibility is a nuanced examination of the social and economic realities faced by women in Austen’s era. Through the trials and tribulations of the Dashwood sisters, Austen highlights the precarious nature of women’s security, dependent as it was upon a good marriage. The novel, with its vivid characters, compelling plot, and insightful social commentary, showcases Austen’s enduring appeal and her keen understanding of human nature and society.
Jane Austen was a prolific and influential English novelist, who is best known for her six major novels. These novels are widely celebrated for their wit, social observation, and exploration of the human experience. Born in the small village of Steventon, Hampshire, Austen’s early life shaped her writing, providing a rich source of inspiration for her novels.