The Sisters – Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Austen, J., & Gibson, F. (1981). Sense and sensibility. Charlotte Hall, MD: Recorded Books.

Ballaster, R., & Austen, J. (2003). In Sense and sensibility. Penguin classics. London: Penguin Books. 9780141439662

I realized it was about time to read something by Jane Austen. Having seen the movie with Emma Thompson and having friends who were great fans, I chose Sense and Sensibility. I both listened to and read this novel.

Sense and Sensibility was written by Jane Austen and published in 1811. Austen lived in Regency Period England, was one of eight children of an Anglican rector. Publication was costly for Austen and she published anonymously. Only her family knew she was aware of the fact that she penned these works. On a positive note, Austen was able to maintain privacy throughout her life. As an observer of her environment, Austen produced many literary works, including Sense and Sensibility, where her quick wit and eye for details creates a great document of society and times of Austen’s day.

Sense and Sensibility quickly focuses on the Dashwood family. Patriarch Henry Dashwood dies and leaves all his money to his son and first marriage child, John Dashwood. Henry does not much provide for his second wife and his three daughters due to the dictates of the time. Although Henry prevails upon John to take care of his wife and daughters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, are homeless and have meager income. John’s wife talks John out of giving his stepmother and half sisters more and the Dashwood females are invited to live with distant cousins – the Middletons of Barton Park. Sensible Elinor is saddened by this departure since she and her sister-in-law’s brother, Edward Ferrars, have become quick friends. Nonetheless, Elinor and emotional, romantic Marianne meet many new people including retired officer Colonel Brandon and the dashing John Willoughby. Willoughby rescues Marianne during a rain storm in which she twisted her ankle. Marianne and Willoughby seem the ideal match until Willoughby has some business to attend to in London. Now, the Dashwoods meet the Steele sisters with whom they have a common relative in Lady Middleton. Lucy Steele turns out to be secretly engaged to Edward Ferriers of all people. Are the Dashwoods doomed or is there true light at the end of the tunnel for them?

While I found the style and relationships of the characters and times to be more stiff and formal than I prefer, I found Sense and Sensibility to be a rewarding read. The form is classic and the problems are not just products of Austen’s day. We see problems like this today. I particularly enjoyed Elinor’s wit and candor. Austen seemed to have written what she knew and it is commendable.

I see the title as alternate names for Elinor (Sense) and Marianne (Sensibility). There is more to this, though. Elinor can be likened to the Age of Reason while Marianne is the figurehead for the ensuing Romantic Era. However, Austen shows the reader that the Age of Reason and the Romantic Era love each other and go hand in hand. They live by one another and have each other’s back. These Ages are sisters. Ultimately, one cannot appreciate Romanticism without Rationalism and vice versa.

Three out of Five Pearls

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