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Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen captures the challenging life of young girls growing up without proper parental tutelage and financial stability. Of course, the temptation of preying men would be there ready to explore their vulnerability to satisfy their lustful desires. It can be very interesting to imagine how such girls would sail through such enticements.
The story follows the Dashwood sisters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, who are left financially destitute and socially vulnerable by the sudden death of their father. Sense and Sensibility is a story of opposing temperaments. Marianne, who is excessive and highly emotional, is sensibility. Her nature is different from Elinor, who is calm, full of common sense, and can control her emotions. The book is a melee of love, marriage, humor, inheritance, and emotional depth.
Sense and Sensibility is a story from one of the most excellent writers of all time. The novel is full of feelings and humor to portray beautiful characters. This novel was the first she completed in the year 1811. At the time of publication, nobody knew her as a writer, but she focused on romance as a woman genre writer. Jane was a clergyman daughter in England who grew up among the middle class. It was her novel titled Pride and Prejudice that propelled her to fame. Jane Austen focused her attention and streamlined her story on marriages and relationships. Sense and Sensibility was influenced by her era, dominated by art and romance. It is a charming novel, written with satire and humor.
Jane took the time to develop her characters. Elinor, who represents sense, is so much emotionally attached to Edward, likes responsibility, and places her family interest above hers. She knows how to suppress her own emotions, but her sister Marianne allows her emotion to drive her actions. Other characters are Lady Middleton, Mrs. Dashwood, whose daughters are Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret.
The novel Sense and Sensibility exposes personal deceit that the author wants to portray as a negative character trait. Some of the characters in the novel are not always displaying their real personality. For example, Willoughby meets Marianne and claims to love her so much. He presents himself as romantic, open, and genuine. He later shows his exact color by engaging another wealthy woman, Miss Grey. Marianne writes to him severally but gets no reply
Again, John Dashwood and his wife seem to be nice from a distance. When Henry Dashwood dies, they move down to Norland Park, and John begins to show his selfish nature. He listens to his wife and shows no attention to his stepsisters nor keeps his promises. Also, Steel Lucy, a young, distant relation of Mrs. Jenning, appears to be innocent but doesn’t sound convincing.
One of the things that have created problems in our contemporary world is deceit. People do not reveal their identity or who they are. They deceive people by presenting a cover behavior that is not who they are and also take advantage of trust. Deceit, dishonesty, cheating are all ills that have broken relationships and marriages and put the normal functioning of society in disarray.
Gender and Inheritance
In the novel, Sense and Sensibility, the central idea of gender and inheritance cannot be swept under the carpet. It forms the basis of the novel. The daughters of Mr. Henry Dashwood have no right to succession and so do not have any property to inherit. English law at the time did not make provision for female children to partake in the sharing of their parent’s property at death. The sisters didn’t receive any property at that time, because they are women.
There is a definite gender limitation within their society. Women are expected to stay at home, marry, and form an excellent company for their husbands. They would not inherit properties nor pursue a career. Their future and fortunes depend solely on the men they marry, and so those who are unable to find a husband live at the mercy of the male-dominated society in which they live. This practice enriches John, while Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters have nothing.
The position of women that Jane Austen depicts is contrary to the roles of women in this 21st century. Mentalities have evolved and today, women take up challenging careers, leadership positions and perform their marital duties at home. But, some women in the novel also exercised their power. Fanny practically controls her husband, persuading him not to give money to his half-sisters at the beginning of the novel. Mrs. Ferrars holds her son firmly to determine who he marries.
Most African women like most other women the world over however still face a variety of legal, economic, and social constraints. Some societies don’t regard them as part of the family, especially in the area of inheritance. Many believe that women only have rights in their husband family. This norm in some of the societies exposes the girl-child into early marriages. Unfortunately, some abuses that young women experience today are as a result of it. For instance, the poor state of Elinor, Marianne, Margaret, and her younger sister after the death of their father, makes them venerable. The only option they have afterward is early marriage.
Selfishness and Sacrifice
The distinction between sacrifice and selfishness is obvious in the novel. Elinor is an epitome of self-sacrifice, a nature different from that of her sister Marianne and her mother. Elinor feels a sense of responsibility, and it shows when she advises her mother about politeness and courtesy. Their father has just died, after his funeral, their half-brother and his wife, John and fanny move into Norland Park. It displeases Mrs. Dashwood at Fanny’s eagerness for inheritance. So she almost quits the house. Elinor advises her not to move out from home immediately until they find a place in Barton Cottage. Elinor’s sense indicates her need for politeness. To ensure her family welfare, she makes sacrifices talking and negotiating with her brother.
Marianne and her mother easily give themselves to sorrow. They also resolve not to seek reconciliation with the brother in the future. The expression of emotion leads them to selfish behaviors. They invest so much in their feeling that they refuse to reason sensibly.
We also see Elinor’s sacrificial nature when Lucy Steele tells her in confidence that she is engaged with Edward Ferrars. Elinor’s sacrifice takes the form of politeness against the natural inclination of anger and distress. She is a person that does not want her worries to cause pain to others.
The meaning of sacrifice in this novel is selflessness. It means the ability of someone giving up what he has for the benefit of another. Many people are die-hards when it comes to giving out what they have. But that is not the ideal way of life. Sometimes when we make sacrifices, good things happen to us. Unfortunately, the level of selfishness in our societies is on the increase, it has blindfolded and even corrupted some of our rulers who now think only about themselves and not the people they are supposed to serve.
Marriage and Love
Sense and Sensibility so much revolves around marriage and love. It anchors on two young ladies who decide to settle down because of the predicament in which they find themselves. Edward Farrar loves Elinor so much that he hopes to marry her. But Mrs. Ferrars cares about getting a wealthy and upper-class lady for her son. She is the brain between the engagement of her son and Lucy. She does not care for the feeling of her son. For Mrs. Ferrars, the decision of who her son will marry is of paramount importance. To her, the children’s marriages are more of family ties than individual desires. In her understanding, marriage is all about inheriting family fortunes and properties. She disowns her son when she finds out that her son has dropped Lucy.
Another character that marries for material gain is Willoughby, who marries Miss Grey for her wealth. Elinor and Marianne eventually marry for love. Marianne marries Colonel Brandon, who she did not love at first sight but later develops affection. Elinor marries Edward, whom she loves so much.
Many people see marriage in two ways, either for love or economic gains. Most people who fall in love at times form a formidable family unit that cannot easily break. Love brings the family together and creates a lasting bond. On the contrary, others choose their partners based on wealth and affluence. This kind of marriage is generally contracted by the parents of both couples who are family friends. They indulge in this practice to maintain their friendship and ensure that the wealth flows within the family. Unfortunately, it may turn out to be detrimental to the young couple.
We can relate this to a young lady who falls in love with an average man. The action she takes in the relationship convinces the young man of a caring and loving woman. Everything falls apart when the lady meets a handsome, wealthy guy. If the young man asks for her hand in marriage, she doesn’t hesitate to accept his proposal. She abandons the person she claims to love for money and affluence. We’ve seen this scenario many times in our societies. That’s why we have phrases like “gold diggers.”
Wealth and Greed
Some of the characters in the novel are concerned about money. The novel starts with the issue of inheritance and questions about money. John’s wife persuades him not to give money to his half-sisters even when he has more than enough. This events carefully points to the unending quest for money and the greediness of human nature.
Also, towards the end of the novel, Elinor and her lover end up securing financial security through Ferrar’s forgiveness of Edward. For this couple, money seems their ultimate goal indirectly.
People are never satisfied with what they have, especially when it comes to money. They will always need some more. This goes a long way to show us that human wants are insatiable. Even the richest person on earth is working hard to add to what he has. Maybe people often forget the quote by King Solomon that “Vanity upon vanity all is vanity.”
Sense and Sensibility brings out many moral lessons that the author depicts clearly through her characters. She uses two young ladies to differentiate sense from passion. Jane Austen’s novel respects institutions such as properties, marriages, and family in her unique way. Her writing style is a combination of comedy, caricature, impersonation, irony, indirect speech, and realism.