Sense and Sensibility Overview, Characters, and Key Facts
“Sense and Sensibility,” penned by Jane Austen and released in 1811, unfolds the narrative of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. As they traverse through love, societal norms, and financial hurdles, the novel delves into the sharp disparity between Elinor’s pragmatism and Marianne’s romantic inclinations. Austen provides a poignant depiction of the societal and economic limitations confronting women in early 19th-century England.
Following the passing of Mr. Henry Dashwood, who leaves his entire wealth to John Dashwood, his son from the first marriage, his second wife and three daughters are left with neither a permanent residence nor substantial income. Forced to leave Norland, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret Dashwood are graciously offered shelter by their distant relatives, the Middletons, at Barton Park. Though Elinor is saddened by the departure from Norland, where she has grown attached to Edward Ferrars, the brother-in-law of her half-brother John, the new chapter at Barton Park introduces them to various individuals, including the retired bachelor Colonel Brandon and the gallant John Willoughby.
Willoughby’s open and bold courtship of Marianne flourishes until he abruptly announces his departure for London, leaving Marianne heartbroken. Meanwhile, the arrival of Anne and Lucy Steele, relatives of Lady Middleton’s mother, adds further complexity to the story. Lucy reveals to Elinor that she has been secretly engaged to Mr. Ferrars for a year, causing Elinor shock and heartache as she learns it is her beloved Edward.
In Volume II, Elinor and Marianne, accompanied by Mrs. Jennings, travel to London. Colonel Brandon informs Elinor of gossip regarding an engagement between Willoughby and Marianne, which Marianne is unaware of. When they meet at a party, Willoughby callously rejects Marianne, sending her a letter denying romantic feelings. Colonel Brandon reveals Willoughby’s history, and Mrs. Jennings confirms his engagement to Miss Grey.
Volume III unfolds as Lucy’s sister discloses her secret engagement to Edward Ferrars. Edward’s disapproving mother disinherits him in favor of Robert. Meanwhile, the Dashwood sisters visit family friends in Cleveland, where Marianne falls gravely ill. Willoughby, seeking forgiveness, explains his past to Elinor. Marianne, realizing her imprudence, begins to recover with the arrival of Mrs. Dashwood and Colonel Brandon.
Upon their return to Barton, the Dashwoods discover Lucy Steele’s engagement with Mr. Ferrars. Edward arrives to clarify that it was Robert, not him, whom Lucy chose to marry. With Edward free, he proposes to Elinor, while Marianne and Colonel Brandon also become engaged. The couples reside at Delaford, maintaining a close connection with their mother and sister at Barton Cottage.
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Description: The eldest Dashwood sister is known for her composed demeanour and practical approach to life.
Role: The central heroine grapples with love, duty, and societal expectations.
Description: The second Dashwood sister is characterized by her spontaneity, excessive sensibility, and romantic idealism.
Role: Marianne’s journey explores the consequences of unchecked passion and the search for true love.
Description: A retired officer and friend of Sir John Middleton who falls in love with Marianne displays kindness and honor throughout the novel.
Role: Represents a contrast to the impulsive characters, offering stability and genuine affection.
Description: The mother of Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret is dedicated to securing the best for her daughters despite limited means.
Role: Navigate the challenges of widowhood and strive to ensure her daughter’s well-being.
Description: The sensible and friendly older brother of Fanny Dashwood and Robert Ferrars
Role: Entangles in a secret engagement, showcasing the societal pressures and financial constraints.
Description: A gallant and impetuous character who captures Marianne’s heart.
Role: Symbolizes the dangers of unchecked passion and societal expectations.
Love and Romance: Exploration of romantic relationships and societal expectations
Social Class: Examination of class distinctions and their impact on characters’ lives
Family: a depiction of familial relationships and their influence on individual choices.
Duty: Characters grapple with societal expectations and personal responsibilities.
Sense vs. Sensibility: The contrast between rationality and emotional impulsiveness
[You can Also Read: Full Summary of “Wuthering Heights” and Character Analysis]
Recommended Reading: Dive into the narrative with an appreciation for Austen’s sharp wit, social commentary, and character development.
Character Analysis: Examine the evolution of characters, especially Elinor and Marianne, and their impact on the overarching themes.
Historical Context: Explore the societal norms and economic challenges faced by women in the Regency era.
Discussion Points: Discuss love, societal expectations, and the novel’s enduring relevance.
This study guide provides a comprehensive overview of “Sense and Sensibility,” offering insights into its characters, key themes, and historical context, encouraging a thoughtful exploration of Jane Austen’s timeless work.
In Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” Elinor and Marianne Dashwood’s intricate journey through love and societal norms is a timeless exploration. Elinor’s practicality and Marianne’s romanticism weave a captivating narrative enriched by characters like Colonel Brandon and Edward Ferrars. Austen’s wit and social insight contribute to the novel’s lasting significance, and this study guide provides a gateway for readers to delve into its characters, historical context, and thought-provoking discussions on love and societal expectations.