The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.
"Sense and Sensibility" is a novel by Jane Austen, and was her first published work when it appeared in 1811 under the pseudonym "A Lady". A work of romantic fiction, better known as a comedy of manners, Sense and Sensibility is set in southwest England, London and Kent between 1792 and 1797. It portrays the life and loves of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. The novel follows the young ladies to their new home, a meagre cottage on a distant relative's property, where they experience love, romance and heartbreak. The philosophical resolution of the novel is ambiguous: the reader must decide whether sense and sensibility have truly merged.
Plot[edit | edit source]
When Henry Dashwood dies, his house, Norland Park, passes directly to his only son John, the child of his first wife. His second wife, Mrs. Dashwood, and their daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret are left only a small income. On his deathbed, Mr. Dashwood extracts a promise from his son, that he will take care of his half-sisters; however, John's selfish wife Fanny, soon persuades him to renege. John and Fanny immediately take up their place as the new owners of Norland, while the Dashwood women are reduced to the position of unwelcome guests. Mrs. Dashwood begins looking for somewhere else to live.
In the meantime, Fanny's brother, Edward Ferrars, a pleasant, unassuming, intelligent but reserved young man, visits Norland and soon forms an attachment to Elinor. Fanny disapproves the match and offends Mrs. Dashwood with the implication that Elinor is motivated by money rather than love. Mrs. Dashwood indignantly speeds her search for a new home.
Mrs. Dashwood moves her family to Barton Cottage in Devonshire, near the home of her cousin, Sir John Middleton. Their new home lacks many of the conveniences that they have been used to; however, they are warmly received by Sir John, and welcomed into the local society by him, his wife, Lady Middleton, his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings and his friend, the grave, quiet and gentlemanly Colonel Brandon. It soon becomes apparent that Colonel Brandon is attracted to Marianne, and Mrs. Jennings teases them about it. Marianne is not pleased as she considers Colonel Brandon, at thirty-five, to be an old bachelor incapable of falling in love, or inspiring love in anyone else.
While out walking one day with Margaret, Marianne takes a fall and injures her ankle. The dashing, handsome John Willoughby sees the accident and assists her. Marianne quickly comes to admire his good looks and views on poetry, music, art and love. Mr. Willoughby's attentions are so overt that Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood begin to suspect that the couple are secretly engaged. Elinor cautions Marianne against her unguarded conduct, but Marianne refuses to check her behavior, believing such dissimilation to be a form of falsehood. Unexpectedly one day, Mr. Willoughby informs the Dashwoods that his aunt is sending him to London on business, indefinitely. Marianne is distraught and abandons herself to her sorrow.
Edward Ferrars then pays a short visit to Barton Cottage but seems unhappy and out of sorts. Elinor fears that he no longer has feelings for her, but feels compelled, by a sense of duty, to protect her family from knowing her heartache. Soon after Edward departs, Anne and Lucy Steele, the vulgar and uneducated cousins of Lady Middleton, come to stay at Barton Park. Lucy informs Elinor of her secret four-year engagement to Edward Ferrars, displaying proofs of her veracity. Elinor comes to understand the inconsistencies of Edward's behaviour to her and acquits him of blame. She is charitable enough to pity Edward for being held to a loveless engagement by his gentlemanly honour.
As winter approaches, Elinor and Marianne accompany Mrs. Jennings to London. Upon arriving, Marianne rashly writes a series of personal letters to Mr. Willoughby which go unanswered. When they finally meet, Mr. Willoughby greets Marianne reluctantly and coldly, to her extreme distress. Soon Marianne receives a curt letter enclosing their former correspondence and love tokens, including a lock of her hair, and informing her of his engagement to a young lady of large fortune. Marianne is devastated, and admits to Elinor that she and Willoughby were never engaged, but she loved him and he led her to believe he loved her. In sympathy for Marianne, and to illuminate Willoughby's true character, Colonel Brandon reveals to Elinor that Mr. Willoughby had seduced Brandon's fifteen-year-old ward, and abandoned her when she became pregnant.
In the meantime, the Steele sisters have come to London as guests of John and Fanny Dashwood. Lucy sees her invitation to the Dashwoods' as a personal compliment, rather than what it is, a slight to Elinor. In the false confidence of their popularity, Anne Steele betrays Lucy's secret. As a result the Misses Steele are turned out of the house, and Edward is entreated to break the engagement on pain of disinheritance. Edward, honourably, refuses to comply and is immediately disinherited in favour of his brother, gaining widespread respect for his gentlemanly conduct, and sympathy from Elinor and Marianne who understand how much he has sacrificed.
In her misery over Mr. Willoughby's marriage, Marianne neglects her health and becomes dangerously ill. Traumatised by rumours of her impending death, Mr. Willoughby arrives to repent and reveals to Elinor that his love for Marianne was genuine. Threatened with disinheritance because of his immoral behaviour, he felt he must marry for money rather than love, but he elicits Elinor's pity because his choice has made him unhappy.
When Marianne is recovered, Elinor tells her of Mr. Willoughby's visit. Marianne comes to assess what has passed with sense rather than emotion, and sees that she could never have been happy with Mr Willoughby's immoral and expensive nature. She comes to value Elinor's conduct in a similar situation and resolves to model herself after Elinor's courage and good sense.
Upon learning that Lucy has married Mr. Ferrars, Elinor is grieved, until Edward himself arrives to reveal that Lucy has jilted him in favour of his wealthy brother, Robert. Edward and Elinor are soon married and in a very few years Marianne marries Colonel Brandon, having gradually fallen deeply in love with him. Colonel Brandon then invites Edward and Elinor to live at his estate with him and Marianne.
Characters[edit | edit source]
Main Characters[edit | edit source]
- Marianne Dashwood, a protagonist and the second of the sisters.
- Elinor Dashwood, a protagonist and the older sister.
- Edward Ferrars
- Colonel Brandon
Supporting Characters[edit | edit source]
- John Willoughby
- Margaret Dashwood, the youngest of the Dashwood sisters.
- Mrs. Dashwood, the mother of the Dashwood sisters.
- John Dashwood, the older half-brother of the Dashwood sisters.
- Mrs. Fanny Dashwood, their sister-in-law
- Lucy Steele
- Mrs. Jennings
- Sir John Middleton
- Mr. and Mrs. Palmer
Notes[edit | edit source]
Give details on critical reception, textual history, dedication, composition, editions, etc.
Adaptations[edit | edit source]
Several adaptations exist of Austen's first novel. The most famous of these is the adaptation by Emma Thompson directed by Ang Lee, released in 1995, starring Thompson as Elinor, Kate Winslet as Marianne, Greg Wise as Willoughby, Hugh Grant as Edward, and Alan Rickman as Brandon. The BBC produced a three episode miniseries adaptation scripted by Andrew Davies, starring Hattie Morahan as Elinor, Charity Wakefield as Marianne, Dominic Cooper as Willoughby, Dan Stevens as Edward, and David Morrisey as Brandon.
Kate Hamill adapted the novel for the stage in 2014, and starred as Marianne in an off-Broadway production directed by Eric Tucker that ran for several years. The script was also produced at the Guthrie Theatre in Minnesota, and the Folger Theatre in Washington D.C. in 2016.
A few modernized adaptations exist, including Scents and Sensibility and From Prada to Nada, as well as a Bollywood adaptation.
A comic book adaptation was published by Marvel Comics in 2010, scripted by Nancy Butler and illustrated by Sonny Liew.
A parody, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, was published in 2009.
Endnotes[edit | edit source]
All references here