Part1 General Comment
Sense and Sensibilityis one of the classical works written by Jane Austen, which tells a story about Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.
Jane Austen is renowned as an excellent English female novelist. She was born in the countryside in a comparatively wealthy family, which made the topic of her works mainly focus on the life of middle class families in the countryside. At the age of 11, she started to write poems for herself and for her families’ amusement. In 1881, she made her debut in the arena of literature, with her first published novel Sense and Sensibilitygaining an immense reputation. When she published this book, she used the name By A Lady, subjected to the discrimination of gender.
In that period of time, women were to a large extent limited to miscellaneous jobs as family tutors. Set in this particular social background, Sense and Sensibilitypaid much heed to the status of women and how they felt, how they behaved. To some degree, Jane Austen specified the dominance of women, putting man characters in a passive angle. This was largely contributed to her sense of feminist, which means that she tried to demonstrate her own idea of woman rights in her simulated work, and this point can be true of many of other works written by her.
In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen depicted two totally different sisters--Elinor and Marianne who stand for sense and sensibility respectively. Elinor gets married with Edward after a long combat with her sense and composure. And Marianne, having recovered from the fraud and betray of Willoughby, gets married with Colonel Brandon whom she finds later that is genteel and sincere.
What deserves to be mentioned is the most delicate way Jane Austen described her characters. She used a large amount of descriptions of emotions just to embody the identical personalities of each and every of them. With her great skill in description, she pictured a microcosm of that society, where men were in power, ladies and gentlemen couldn’t get married without their parents’ permission and couples needed a stable income as to sustain their life, which was usually from inheritance and settled properties. She not only depicted a love story for each Miss Dashwood, but also revealed some critical social problems at that time.
The main theme Jane Austen wanted to play up may be the importance of both sense and sensibility in a relationship. As the biographer Claire Tomalin argues, Jane Austen did face a "wobble in its approach", which means that in her process of composing this novel, she became less certain whether sense and sensibility should triumph. This kind of uncertainty is clearly expressed in the novel. There is an obvious change that happened after Marianne gets heavily ill. And the happy ending Austen had set also indicates the dilemma she faced. Some readers judge that Marianne’s marriage to Colonel Brandon is somehow unsatisfactory. This will be further discussed in Part2.
Part2 A Diversion from Life Experience to Plots
By creating two characters, Elinor and Marianne, who are to a large extent contradictory but at the same time in harmony, Jane Austen tried to demonstrate an ideal conception of love with the contradiction between social and literary conventions. With Elinor and Marianne standing for social and literary conventions respectively, Jane Austen obviously complimented Elinor over Marianne by using ratio of rhetoric to stress Elinor’s character: sensible, calm but enthusiastic in heart.But as the biographer Claire Tomalin argues, Jane Austen did face a "wobble in its approach", which means that in her process of composing this novel, she became less certain whether sense and sensibility should triumph. But she did give Elinor a more satisfactory ending that she ends up marrying to the one she truly love from the beginning.
What’s worth mentioning is that this novel was finished in the year of 1811. In 1796, at her age of 20, Austen encountered Thomas Langlois Lefroy, who at that time was nobody but a young lawyer. They immediately fell in love but were sadly apart from each other. This was because the Austens wanted Jane to marry a gentleman with solid financial power, and the Lefroys, with Thomas and his five siblings, was also desperate to establish a relationship with a wealthy family. Subjected to the social conventions, Jane Austen suffocated her affection and took an oath that she would never get married during her whole life. She really stuck to her promise. At the time when her family moved to Bath in 1800, Jane Austen was suffering from depression. There, she rejected the proposal from a young man who was to inherit immense wealth just because she claimed not to love him.
After the fluctuation of love and marriage, Jane Austen composed this work, which was clearly an experiment and exploration of her own love views. She tried to contrast sense and sensibility by giving the examples of Elinor and Marianne. How the way plots develop is exactly the embodiment of her love ponder. In the novel, Marianne, who follows the literary conventions, is married to Colonel Brandon, who has been reckoned as a mere friend. Comparatively, Elinor has a better ending. And there are several times when sense and sensibility become an integrity. Elinor learns to open herself up. And Marianne acquires sense(Here, it may also implies her submission to social conventions).
This may be an indication for Austen’s inner struggle. For all this time, she’d been pondering her love and her marriage and she managed to reach a conclusion in the process of writing. And the conclusion is both sense and sensibilitymatter but sensibility fruits a comparatively better result. As far as Austen herself was concerned, she was forced to be sensible and conservative when forfeiting her true love, subjected to the social conventions. However, driven by the strong sensibility in her heart, she got chronic depression and rejected the proposal, by which she would have been affluent. It’s not hard to find that Jane Austen is a representative of sensibility who followed the literary convention, but she had pained because of this. Thus she tried to reveal this teaching by giving a less satisfactory ending to Marianne.
This type of diversion from personal experience to plots is a common phenomenon in literacy. Charles Dickens worked as an apprentice in a workshop, with his families being arrested. He accommodated in his friend’s home and lived a hard life. Thus he could give a description of the lower class life so vividly in Oliver Twist. And Emily Bronte was born in the wilder of Yorkshire, and she wrote Wuthering Heights. The topic that Jane Austen focused on was really limited. But because of her abundant personal experience, she could give in-depth opinions and realistic pictures about the middle-class lady life.