Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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At first, I didn’t love Sense and Sensibility. The characters felt like flat stereotypes. The elder sister, Elinor Dashwood, was full of sense and Marianne (and her mother) was flighty and emotional (the “sensibility” of the title). These two acted in the extremes of their stereotypes, and I didn’t feel drawn in to the story.  I felt a little disappointed in Jane Austen, since Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels.

But it grew on me. The main reason is Elinor Dashwood. Although she is stereotypically serious and sensible, she also was realistic enough that I felt for her frustrations. Although the title captures the two personalities of the sisters, this is a novel about Elinor. Even as she comforts Marianne through her emotional upheavals, Elinor is strong in dealing with her own disappointments and doesn’t break down and whine. I really admired that.

Marianne, I’m sorry to say, really irritated me. I found her to be very similar to Lydia Bennett (flighty and stupid), except Marriane’s end turned out okay because she didn’t actually run off with her lover (whew). Yet, I see people around the blogosphere with “I’m Marianne Dashwood” badges on their sites, so that makes me think I’m supposed to like this girl, and that she is supposed to be a heroine. Hmmm. I think I may be in the minority on disliking her.

*spoilers* I also detested Willoughby. With such a lovely name, I really thought he was going to be a good guy. In my mind, his “apology” was too little, too late, and really pointless. I don’t think it made up for anything he did. He married for money, and that made him shallow and heartless, considering how much he says he cared for Marianne. In any event, I found Marianne’s courtship with Colonel Brandon to be entirely undeveloped, but that was okay. For me, this novel was about Elinor, and I loved how her story resolved. *end spoilers*

I also watched the 2008 BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility this week. Some aspects had been changed (in particular, Marianne took a much larger role), but overall, it was a delightful few hours. The 1995 version is next in my Netflix queue.

As I mentioned yesterday, I read this book too fast. It was satisfying but then it ended! And I was sad! I watched the movie, and I still wanted to read more Jane Austen. I guess this is why I have to space these out every few months. I want some more Jane Austen to look forward too!

Who did you like better: Marianne or Elinor?

Reviewed on February 11, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I am actually very similar to Marianne personality-wise. I connected with her more than any other character I’ve ever read in Austen. To me, she’s very similar to Elizabeth Bennet, only less practical. I didn’t really like Elinor very much. Or the book for that matter. It’s my least favorite of the 5 Austen books I’ve read.

  • Sense and Sensibility is the only Austen book I’ve yet to read but I know the story well as I love the 1995 film with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. I can’t wait to read this one. 🙂

  • I haven’t read this book for ages, but I definitely liked Elinor better than Marianne, although I didn’t actively dislike Marianne. She just struck me as overly romantic and totally lacking practicality. But, gosh, I really related to Elinor. As far as how this stands up to other Austen novels–I don’t think it’s as great as P&P or Persuasion, but I liked it as well as I did any of the others.

    I’ll be curious about how you feel about the 1995 movie. I think it’s a marvelous film, even if Emma Thompson was rather old for the role of Elinor. She plays the part beautifully, but you get the impression that the differences in Elinor and Marianne’s temperaments have as much to do with age as with personality. Funny story about that, though. The movie came out not long after Hugh Grant had made headlines for some, um, naughty behavior, and when I first read the book, the movie was in production. I knew Hugh Grant was in it, but assumed that he was Willoughby, and so I kept picturing him in that part as I was reading. It was jarring when I first saw the movie to see the Willoughby in my head playing Edward.
    .-= Teresa´s last post on blog ..Family Britain, 1951-1957 =-.

  • S&S is not my favorite Austen novel but as you say, it does grow on you after awhile. I liked Elinor much better but didn’t dislike Marianne. I enjoyed the Emma Thompson adaptation. After you watch it through once, if you like it, watch through again with the commentary on. Thompson has some fun stories about writing the script and the filming.
    .-= Stefanie´s last post on blog ..The Tyranny of E-Mail =-.

  • S&S is probably the least-loved Austen, but it’s my favourite, for very personal reasons. Just goes to show how subjective books really are. While you found the sisters flat and stereotypical, they were completely real to me; the reason being they are so much like my sisters and I. Elinor is exactly like my elder sister. I’m exactly like Marianne (you can probably tell based on my posts, lol), and I’m also the middle sis. And our youngest sister is exactly like Margaret. Aside from Little Women, this is our “sister” book. I also have had the exact same experience as Marianne concerning Willoughby. And I married my Colonel Brandon. 🙂 Weird, but true.
    .-= claire´s last post on blog ..Moby-Dick Update =-.

  • This is my fave Austen (or at least was when I read it years ago) – I love it for its wittiness and its pitch-perfect satiric voice. I think both sisters (all the characters, really) are supposed to seem somewhat unbalanced, hence the humor. To me Marianne just seems more unbalanced than other characters because the Romantics are so easy to make fun of! 🙂

    And I’m also easier on Willoughby than you are. One of the things that makes Austen more meaty than simple boy-meets-girl-style romance is the way in which she criticizes the social structures that scorned labor and left the dispossessed gentry (women, second sons, etc.) with no option for survival other than marrying into money, whether they loved/liked their spouse or not. I don’t think it makes Willoughby heartless that he marries for money – he has few options, just like Charlotte Lucas has few options when she chooses to marry Mr. Collins in Pride & Prejudice.
    .-= Emily´s last post on blog ..Essay Mondays: Edgeworth =-.

  • I think I’m far more like Elinor myself – plus I like her name better – or maybe I just identify with her because my younger sister has many very Marianne-like qualities. 😛 But Sense and Sensibility is still probably my least favorite of Austen’s books, though admittedly it’s the one I’ve read least often. I should really give it another try this year.
    .-= Jenny´s last post on blog ..Two books I didn’t like (sad, sad) =-.

  • I rank S&S about the middle of my favorite Austens — better than Emma & Northanger Abbey, not as good as P&P and Persuasion. But I read somewhere that S&S is really a love story between the two sisters, which gave me another way of thinking about it.

    I thought the recent BBC adaptation was good, though I think they took a few liberties with the plot, i.e., Willoughby & Marianne — how far did they go? I think generally I prefer the 1995 version, though I agree ET is waay too old. Great casting for the rest, however. I love Harriet Walter as the evil Fanny. There’s a really intersting posting on the JASNA website by Walters, when she was preparing her character she created a whole backstory for Fanny to create the motivation. It’s really interesting.
    .-= Karenlibrarian´s last post on blog ..Passing by Nella Larsen =-.

  • Oops, I can’t believe I haven’t responded to any of these yet!

    Amanda That’s interesting that you found Marianne to be like Elizabeth Bennett! I Thought she was like Lydia, and Elinor was more similar to Elizabeth. I look forward to the other Austens, since many people like them more!

    Ceri, I look forward to seeing that movie!

    Teresa, funny story about Hugh Grant. I have a hard time imagining him as Edward…

    Stefanie, thanks for the heads up on the commentary! I tend to ignore those, but maybe I’ll need to watch it this time!

    claire, I love it when books are so personal like that!

    Kathy, yeay!

    Melissa, how funny that so many people are divided on the Marianne issue. I struggled to see why she ended up with Colonel Brandon too — I think Austen didn’t really detail that enough. But then, the book is about Elinor, for me, so it was okay.

    Emily, I think you make a good point! We’re supposed to be making fun of both of them because they are so unbalanced! And you’re probably right about Willoughby: the era is one with few options. I just thought he was a good guy so it really disappointed me!!

    Jenny, I can’t wait until I can have Austen novels I read “less often” than others! This was my first read of this book and I still have a few more unread to go!

    Karenlibrarian, Interesting what you say about this better than Emma. I hear many say that is a favorite! I like the idea of a love story between the sisters. Their relationship certainly is central to the story!

  • I don’t think S&S is my favourite Austen, but it’s up there! I read it in highschool English, and really enjoyed it, and I have to say that the movie version directed by Ang Lee is really wonderful. It really brings the story to life but stays true to the novel, so I highly recommend it. I always thought Marianne was a bit dippy, but she certainly balanced out Elinor!
    .-= Steph´s last post on blog ..“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger =-.

  • I read this book in high school, so I don’t remember all the particulars. Hope to re-read it this year. I do remember thinking Marianne was a bit flighty, but I didn’t dislike her. Wonder how/if my opinion will change when I re-read it.
    .-= Anna´s last post on blog ..Mailbox Monday — February 22 =-.

  • I’m just reading up to chapter seventeen at the moment and I quite liked it. Though Marianne is quite impulsive, and Elinor seemed to have too much sense than an actual realife person would do……

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