Sense and sensibility is one of those books that I always felt was better in cinematic portrayal than in actual reading. After my latest reading I’m not so sure. As we all know the tale focuses on two sisters, Elinor and Marianne as they navigate poverty as a result of losing their father and the customs of 1800’s England being shite, basically.
The book seems to imply that the eldest sister embodies Sense, she values good judgement and careful actions. Marianne on the other hand surrenders herself to her emotions, favoring romantics and stormy emotions.
“We have neither of us anything to tell; you because you do not communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.” Marianne Dashwood to her sister, Elinor.
However, throughout the book Jane Austen does a brilliant job of skewering those initial disposions and shows that sense is not sense without a little sensibility and that emotions benefit from a bit of sense and forethought to run truly deep.
The theme really is balance, and how one cannot survive without the other and this theme is much stronger in the book. I love how almost all of the characters have secrets, some form of heartbreak they are concealing. Marianne’s open and public heartbreak and humiliation is what taught her the balance between sense and sensibility, but in many of the characters how undergone the same transformation. Elinor ends up heartbroken, because she is so closed off to Edward Ferrars that he cannot possible conceive that she loves him. Edward is overly emotional in his youth, and later bound by this through reason – had this reason balanced his youthful romantics he might not later have been forces to break his own heart. Colonel Brandon likewise had his heart broken years ago and he recognizes that he needs the sensibility of someone like Marianne, who finally comes to her senses and marries him.
Here the final balance rests. In the beginning Marianne is sensibility and Elinor sense, and they balance each other out within the safe space of their family, but in order to go, safely into the world, or into marriage, they must each find the sense and sensibility within themselves.
So even though this is a tale of “who marries who”, it is important to point out that Jane Austen is not chicklit, but hilariously adept at displaying and exposing interesting characters. Also she is hilarious as fuck:
“The whole of Lucy’s behaviour in the affair, and the prosperity which crowned it, therefore, may be held forth as a most encouraging instance of what an earnest, an unceasing attention to self-interest, however its progress may be apparently obstructed, will do in securing every advantage of fortune, with no other sacrifice than that of time and conscience.”