In its marvelously perceptive portrayal of two young women in love, Sense and Sensibility is the answer to those who believe that Jane Austen’s novels, despite their perfection of form and tone, lack strong feeling.
Its two heroines, Marianne and Elinor—so utterly unlike each other–both undergo the most violent passions when they are separated from the men they love. What differentiates them, and gives this extroardinary book its complexity and brilliance, is the way each expresses her suffering: Marianne–young, impetuous, ardent–falls into paroxysms of grief when she is rejected by the dashing John Willoughby; while her sister, Elinor—wiser, more sensible, more self-controlled—masks her despair when it appears that Edward Ferrars is to marry the mean-spirited and cunning Lucy Steele. All, of course, ends happily—but not until Elinor’s “sense” and Marianne’s “sensibility” have equally worked to reveal the profound emotional life that runs beneath the surface of Austen’s immaculate and irresistible art.
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
Oh! Mama, how spiritless, how tame was Edward's manner in reading to us last night! I felt for my sister most severely. Yet she bore it with so much composure, she seemed scarcely to notice it. I could hardly keep my seat. To hear those beautiful lines which have frequently almost driven me wild, pronounced with such impenetrable calmness, such dreadful indifference!Soon however, Marianne meets a man who measures up to her ideal: Mr. Willoughby, a new neighbor. So swept away by passion is Marianne that her behavior begins to border on the scandalous. Then Willoughby abandons her; meanwhile, Elinor's growing affection for Edward suffers a check when he admits he is secretly engaged to a childhood sweetheart. How each of the sisters reacts to their romantic misfortunes, and the lessons they draw before coming finally to the requisite happy ending forms the heart of the novel. Though Marianne's disregard for social conventions and willingness to consider the world well-lost for love may appeal to modern readers, it is Elinor whom Austen herself most evidently admired; a truly happy marriage, she shows us, exists only where sense and sensibility meet and mix in proper measure. --Alix Wilber