The British Sitcom Guide

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Are Elinor and Marianne Really That Different?

Do you have too much Sense in your life? Sensibility? Or just right? 'Sense and Sensibility' is a book written by Jane Austen in 1811. It portrays two sisters and the heartbreak, sorrow, and optimism that they face once their father dies, and they are left with nothing. These two sisters are known as the sense and sensibility in this novel. Marianne portrays sensibility as she is sensitive and has a strong emotional reaction to life events. Elinor shows sense as she is rational and logical. Although Elinor and Marianne seem highly predisposed towards either side of the sense vs sensibility spectrum in the beginning, as they mature and develop as characters, the actual balance of their personalities become more definite.
Elinor who portrays the character trait sense is very overthinking and strict with her love. This quote is explaining her personality before we meet her as a character.
“Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counselor of her mother […] [Elinor] had an excellent heart; – her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong, but she knew how to govern them”
Elinor, although she may seem to fall on the side of sense at this time in the book, the definition of sense as “a sane and realistic attitude to situations and problems”, is just as loving, affectionate and able to react to complex emotional situations as Marianne just doesn’t show it as visibly until near the end of the book. Just before Elinor’s wedding at the end of the book, she felt “oppressed and overcome by her own felicity; and happily disposed as is the human mind to be easily familiarized with any change for the better, it required several hours to give sedateness to her spirits, or any degree of tranquility to her heart” This displays that Elinor finally let her emotions out and showed the sensibility side of herself, even if the way she shows it is not the same as Marianne.
The second character this essay will analyze is Marianne or Sensibility.
“Marianne’s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor’s. She was sensible and clever; but eager in everything: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.”
This quote, like the one before, explains Marianne’s personality. It makes it clear that Marianne is on the sensibility side. It also shows that she has sense in herself that only appears towards the end of the book. This quote also says that she is not prudent meaning that she is not thinking about how her actions will affect her in the future. We can see this from the part where Willoughby wants to give her the horse, Marianne has no prudence and immediately agrees. It isn’t until Elinor, who has much prudence, came in and Marianne reluctantly agreed with her. Near the end of the book Marianne is reflecting on how she used to fall in love vs how she does now, “Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion, as once she had fondly flattered herself with expecting […] [now] Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.” Marianne says that at the beginning of the book she would fall for boys so deeply and quickly. After all that occured with Willoughby, Marianne has grown and became more rational with love. She still falls very deeply but is much more reserved and is more gradual.
Although in the end both Marianne and Elinor balance out their sense and sensibility, there are times when they have too much of either of them. The first one being when Elinor was talking about Marianne’s supposed relationship with Willoughby, “Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished that it were less openly shewn, and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve;” as seen from this quote, Elinor is very sensible. She is quick to judge when it comes to people with no sensible ideas. Her way of not openly showing her affection goes bad when she can’t express her true feelings to Edward. When Willoughby tells Marianne that he doesn’t feel the same way as her, “She was awake the whole night, and she wept the greatest part of it. She got up with a headache, was unable to talk, and unwilling to take any nourishment; giving pain every moment to her mother and sisters, and forbidding all attempts at consolation from either. Her sensibility was potent enough!” Marianne takes every emotional thing that occurs to her to an absolute extreme. Now only is it emotionally draining her, but it is physically too.
In both these instances, the opposite character traits aren’t shown until the end of the book as they have experienced and grown drastically. Then, they finally have a balance of both sense and sensibility. It is very important to have both sense and sensibility but Austen especially stresses the dangers of sensibility, how too much of it can cause absolute chaos and heartbreak. She still stresses the need for both. Austen does an effective job of expressing the culture of women being sensitive and very sensibility at the time of this writing. In my own life, I am a lot more like Elinor as I do not have strong, or any, emotional reactions to situations.
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