Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon in Hampshire, England. She was the seventh child of a country parson. Her father, the Reverend George Austen, encouraged Jane in her love of reading. From an early age she was familiar with the works of Henry Fielding, Richardson and the poet George Crabbe. Her early attempts at writing include popular romances. Jane Austen did attract several suitors and even accepted a proposal of marriage from one admirer, only to change her mind the following morning.
Her self-contained life often seems reflected in her novels, eligible country squires, foolish snobs and husband-hunting women.
The most famous novels of Jane Austen are "Pride and Prejudice", "Emma", "Mansfield Park", "Northanger Abbey" and her first one "Sense and Sensibility".
Jane Austen died in 1817.
The Main Characters
Sir John Middleton
The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex. Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park, in the centre of their property, where for many generations they had lived in and had the general good opinion of their surrounding. The late owner of this estate was a single man who had through his life a constant housekeeper in his sister.
When she died, he felt alone and invited his nephew, Mr. Henry Dashwood, and his family into his house.
By a former marriage, Mr. Henry Dashwood, had one son; with his present wife three daughters. When the old gentleman died, Mr. John Dashwood, his son, promised him to do
everything in his power to make the life of his stepmother and her daughters comfortable. He either promised to give each of them three-thousand pounds a year.
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No sooner the funeral of Mr. Henry Dashwood was over, Mrs. John Dashwood took the house of her father-in-law as her own. She had never been a favourite with anyone of her husband`s family. Mrs Dashwood and her daughters felt like visitors in their own house. But there was nothing they could do against the situation. She was a very selfish woman and did not want to give any money to Mrs. Dashwood and she convinced her husband to give not more than thousand pounds a year to his mother-in-law and sisters.
"I`m convinced within myself, that your father had no idea of your giving them any money at all.The assistance he thought of, I dare say, was only such as might be reasonably expected of you: for instance, such as looking out for a comfortable small house for them, helping them to move their things, (...)"
The two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, were different in their character. Elinor was the eldest daughter, was more cautious and considered. She carefully concealed her emotions and although only nineteen she was the advice of her mother. She had an excellent heart. Marianne`s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor`s. She was sensible and clever, and her sweetness and open nature charmed her environment. Marianne was generous, and amiable in everything. Both encouraged each other in what they were doing. The third sister, Margaret, was a good-humoured girl and was equal to her sisters.
Mrs. Dashwood remained at Norland several months. During this time, Edward Ferrars, the brother of Mrs. John Dashwood came for a visit. He wasn`t handsome at all, but he had good manners and when his shyness was overcome, you felt an open and affectionate heart. Elinor soon fell in love with Mr. Ferrars, but her education forbid her to show her real feelings.
"I do not attempt to deny ", said she, " that I think very highly of him-that I greatly esteem, that I like him." Marianne here burst forth with indignation- "Esteem him! Like him! Cold-hearted Elinor! Ashamed of being otherwise. Use those words again, and I will leave the room this moment." (...) " I meant no offence to you, by speaking, in so quiet a way, of my own feelings. Believe them to be stronger than I declared."
That`s exactly the way Elinor felt. She was deeply in love with Edward Ferrars and maybe she was afraid of her own emotions and the reaction of Edward to her thoughts. I really empathised with Elinor`s feelings, she found herself in a difficult situation: Mrs. John Dashwood was not very pleased of the concealed love between her brother and Elinor. Elinor knew very well about the financial situation of her mother and sisters and the main thing: she never felt such emotions as they were. She didn`t allow herself to have those feelings.
One day a letter was delivered to her mother from the post. It was the offer of a small house, belonging to a relation of Mrs. Dashwood. It was only a cottage, Barton Cottage but the gentleman, Sir John Middleton assured her that he would make it comfortable and friendly. He invited her to his own residence, Barton Park, in Devonshire, from where she could judge herself if she liked it. In a few weeks from the day which brought Sir John`s letter, everything
was settled to begin the journey of the four ladies. There were many tears in the course of bidding farewell to Norland, and certainly Elinor was suffering because of the loss of Edward Ferrars, whom she had to leave behind.
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"Dear, dear Norland!", said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there, "when shall I cease to regret you?-when learn to feel a home elsewhere?-O happy house!" (...) " You will continue the same; unconscious of the pleasure or the regret you occasion, but who will remain to enjoy you!"
At Barton Park they made the acquaintance of Sir John, Lady Middleton and her mother Mrs. Jennings, a good humoured, fat, elderly woman who talked much and rather vulgar. They all were very open to their new neighbours and invited them to stay every day at Barton Park for dinner. Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters met either Colonel Brandon, a very silent and grave man at the age of forty, sensible and gentleman-like. He was quickly in love with Marianne Dashwood and she suspected it to be so. The advanced age of the Colonel tended to be a problem for the Dashwood`s.
Marianne "But at least,mama, you cannot deny the absurdity of the accusation. (...) Colonel Brandon is certainly younger than Mrs. Jennings, but he is old enough to be my father. (...) It`s too ridiculous! (..) Did not you hear him complain of the rheumatism?"
The valley around Barton Cottage was beautiful. It invited to make long walks through the hills. Marianne and Margaret set off together and they were very delightful.
"Is there a felicity in the world", said Marianne, " superior to this? Margaret, we will walk here at least two hours."
Suddenly clouds united over their heads and rain set full in their faces. The girls ran down the hill towards their garden gate when Marianne fell to the ground. A gentleman passed up the hill and saw what accident had happened. The unknown man asked to help her and took her up in his arms. Without delay they arrived at the Cottage. It was the first time Marianne met John Willoughby, a yearly visitor to the old Lady at Allenham Court.
Marianne was soon deeply in love with Mr. Willoughby and Colonel Brandon was quickly forgotten. It didn`t take much time and Mrs. Dashwood and her other daughters enjoyed Willoughby`s presence at every time at Barton Cottage.
Elinor`s happiness was not so great as Marianne`s. Neither Lady Middleton nor Mrs. Jennings could supply to her the conversation she missed, although they had a great friendship with each other. She couldn`t overcome the loss of Edward Ferrars. Of course she was happy with her sister, although she wasn`t pleased about Mr. Willoughby such as her sister was. Elinor missed Edward, his charming compliments, his lovely eyes when he looked at her. She was sad that he did not send any letter at all, but her considered way of thinking didn`t allow Elinor to let her emotions out, not even to her sister Marianne.
She felt that Elinor wasn`t really happy and that she was suffering the loss of her love, but Marianne was too enthusiastic about her own life so she couldn`t keep with Elinor`s.
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A few days later John Willoughby informed Marianne that he had to go to London for business and must take farewell of Devonshire. The family was surprised, indeed, by such a circumstance.
"It is all very strange. So suddenly to be gone! It seems but the work of a moment. (...) He did not speak, he did not behave like himself. (..) A backwardness so unlike a lover."
Marianne was awake the whole night after Willoughby`s leaving. She got up with an headache, and was unable to talk.
Weeks passed and no letter from him came and none seemed expected by Marianne. Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor were surprised and didn`t know if Marianne was or not engaged to Mr. Willoughby because Marianne didn`t want to speak any longer about him.
One morning the two sisters went on horseback and suddenly a man came towards them. It was Edward Ferrars! He was welcomed by them with great cordiality, but more from Marianne than from Elinor, who seemed to be a bit confused. She treated him as she thought he ought to be treated from the family connection.
"Elinor saw with great uneasiness the low spirits of her friend. His visit afforded her but a very partial satisfaction, while his own enjoyment in it appeared so imperfect. It was evident that he was unhappy."
Edward remained one week at Barton Cottage and Elinor was disappointed and sometimes displeased with his uncertain behaviour to herself. When he went back to London he left an uncomfortable impression on Elinor`s feelings especially.
Time went on and the Dashwood`s made the aquaintance with relations to Mrs. Jennings, the Miss Steeles`. Lucy Steele and Elinor Dashwood became friends although she was ignorant and illiterate, what could not be concealed from Elinor.
"I could bear to have you think me imperinently curious; I am sure I would rather do anything in the world than be thought so by a person whose good opinion is so well worth having as yours. And I am sure I should not have the smallest fear of trusting you."
Elinor couldn´t imagine what Lucy could mean.
"Are you acquainted with Mr. Robert Ferrars?"
she said with a great laughter
"No", replied Lucy, " not with Mr. Robert Ferrars-I never saw him in my life, (...) but with his elder brother."
What did Elinor feel at that moment? She stood there in silent amazement. Her astonishment at what she had heard was at first too great for words, she was unable to speak. She got to know that Lucy has been engaged to Edward Ferrars for four years! Elinor could hardly stand.
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When she was back at Barton Cottage she had the liberty to think. Edward`s uncertain behaviour towards herself, his shyness. Now it seemed clear to her. But deep inside her, Elinor hoped the story of Lucy was false.
On the next day, an invitation from Mrs. Jennings arrived at the cottage. She kindly invited Elinor and her sister Marianne to visit London with herself, her daughter and Lucy. Elinor wasn´t very pleased to travel for such a long time with Lucy but she wanted to do Marianne a favour by going to London; her younger sister was expecting to see her love John Willoughby.
In London he neither came nor wrote. Three days passed and on the fourth day since their arrival the ladies went for a big party. Suddenly Marianne recognized Mr. Willoughby, but on the contrary to her own expression he was silent and calm.
" Tell me, Willoughby-for heaven`s sake, tell me, what is the matter?" He made no reply; his complexion changed and all his embarrassment returned; (...) he recovered himself again, and after saying, " Yes, I had the pleasure of receiving the information of your arrival in town, which you were so good as to send to me", turned hastily away with a slight bow and joined his friend.
Marianne wasn`t able to understand what happened. Was it Willoughby? Her beloved John Willoughby who spoke those words? She ran away with tears and not even her sister Elinor could help her to take the pain she felt.
Mrs. Jennings came immediately to their room on her return. She had bad news: Mr. Willoughby was engaged to Miss Grey, a smart girl with fifty thousand pounds! And nice and handsome Mr. Willoughby was going to marry her! It seemed to be the end for Marianne. The following day Colonel Brandon came to Elinor. He was in town and had heard what happened
to poor Marianne. The gentleman told Miss Dashwood about a girl he loved many years ago. Both were parted because their family was against their engagement. They lost each other and after years Colonel Brandon was informed she was expecting a baby and the father went away without saying a word. This man was Mr. Willoughby!
" Good heavens!", cried Elinor, " could it be! could Willoughby- (...) This is beyond everything!"
When this conversation was repeated by Elinor to her sister, the effect was not entirely such as Elinor had hoped to see. Marianne listened to it but made neither objecion nor remark, she seemed that she felt it to be impossible. Elinor wanted to make her realize that Mr. Willoughby married Miss Grey only to get money and to be rich, so everybody could forget his past. But Marianne`s disappointment was hardly to overlook.
Therefore Marianne decided to return to their mother and go back to Devonshire.
During their journey home, accompanied by Colonel Brandon, they stopped at a friend`s house. Marianne got a bad cold and very ill. They could no longer hope that Marianne would be recovered the following day.
" It will be the last time, perhaps-let us be cheerful together."
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For God`s sake, Marianne`s recovery went on,
" with youth, natural strength, and her mother`s presence in aid, it proceeded so smoothly as to enable her to remove, within four days after the arrival of the latter."
During her illness, Colonel Brandon was on her side at every time. At last they fell again in love.
" I have no doubt he loves me and I have nothing to regret nothing but my own folly." page 345
Another surprise happened. A few days after their return to Barton Cottage a visitor appeared: It was Edward Ferrars! Elinor got confused and fearful.
" He couloured, and stammered out an unintelligible reply."
Mr. Ferrars informed the ladies that his brother, Robert Ferrars married Lucy Steele.
Elinor couldn`t stand it no longer. She almost ran out of the room and burst into tears. How are her feelings to be described? Elinor was overcome by her own felicity.
" You may certainly ask to be forgiven"
And she did. They got married and were happy.
Elinor and Marianne, although sisters, lived almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.
Point of view
All of Jane Austen`s novels cope with women`s life-situation, their position in society and their feelings. But contrary to other authors of her time, Jane Austen doesn`t write false things about women. She portrays them the way they are, and not the way they should be and the way their environment wants to see them. She describes very well their inner feelings, their needs and fears. Jane Austen`s main women have a strong nature, know what they want.
Although they laugh they possibly have many problems.
I felt really involved in what was going on of Elinor and Marianne, which is typical of Jane Austen. I sympathised with both sisters, how they cope with love and its tragedy. Marianne has to take the pain with Willoughby`s tricks and her sister has to press down her love to Edward Ferrars because of social standard.
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" Marianne`s feelings had then broken in, and put an end to all regularity of detail; and for some time all that could be done was to soothe her distress, lessen her alarms, and combat her resentment."
" How have you been supported?", cried Marianne. Elinor: " By feeling that I was doing my duty. My promise to Lucy obliged me to be secret. I owed it to her."
Jane Austen is one of the first authors, to write about money and love at the same time. She portrays perfectly, that society is only hunting for money, and love is in the second place.
So the main issues are the contrast between love and money.
(Mr. Willoughby marries Miss Grey only because of her money.)
"It is. But have you likewise heard that Miss Grey has fifty thousand pounds? In that, if in anything, we may find an explanation."
I think this quote supports my argument on money.
Furthermore I recognized the social criticism in Jane Austen`s novels. She has a great distance to her environment, and describes the social grievances in our society.
The following quote sums up the general sarcasm in "Sense and Sensibilty", which you may not see by the first time.
"They settled in town, received very liberal assistance from Mrs. Ferrars, were on the best terms imaginable with the Dashwoods, and setting aside the jealousies and ill-will continually subsisting between Fanny (Mrs. John Dashwood) and Lucy, in which their husbands of course took a part, as well as the frequent domestic disagreements between Robert and Lucy themselves, nothing could exceed the harmony in which they all lived together."
But although Jane Austen portrays human society very ironically (which caused sometimes great laughter by myself) she tries to point out how important true and real love is in our time.
The Happy-Ends in her novels are not only the end of a romance, they should be more than that. Love seems to be the only hope in such a world.
I felt the novel offers great satisfaction to its readers and certainly to myself, which maybe accounts for its enduring popularity. Now I`ve been reading two books by Jane Austen, "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility", and I`m sure I´m going to read further more. They are written in a lively way, with humour and irony and have a serious background.
She knows very well how to describe inner feelings, emotions and the characters are well drawn. I really empathised with all of them and I felt as I am at their place.
The following quote sums up perfectly what I have tried to point out: serious background, emotions and the typical precision of Jane Austen.
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"Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily to give her hand to another!- and that other, a man who had suffered no less than herself under the event of a former attachment,-whom, two years before, she had considered too old to be married!"
The title is easily explained. How different is the Sense and Sensibility of women to the Sense and Sensibility of men on one hand, and how equal on the other hand. The "cold-hearted" and "considerd" Elinor, allowing no one to see her private heartache, is very sensitive and warm inside herself. People like Marianne, with an out-going nature can be silent and certainly act considerd. Although John Willoughby marries the rich Miss Grey he misses real love.
We all need love, true love, for living. Nobody can say he or she doesn`t need it. We have a better life when somebody is on our side. Jane Austen is right with her criticism on our society, hundred years ago and today. The environment takes big part in development of human beings.
Despite our different personalities we experience great sorrows through our life and in our heart-affairs, like Marianne and Elinor do, but when we try hard, we certainly can enter in a new life of peace and contentment.