Sense Versus Sensibility in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

Abstract

Jane Austen (1775-1817) stresses that an individual has a right to self-respect and self-expression within the conventional social norms which is effectively explored in Sense and Sensibility (1811) a story about two Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. Marianne’s way is subjective, intuitive, implying confidence in the natural goodness of human nature when untrammelled by convention. Her view is corrected by the more cautious orthodoxy of Elinor, who mistrusts her own desires, and requires even her reason to seek the support of objective evidence. At the end, we are forced to ask ourselves which mode Austen chooses. Does sense solve every problem, does sense deal adequately with life? Elinor, the apotheosis of sense, shows us that it does not: she is not saved from the miseries of despair, though outwardly she is able to bear them with greater composure than her sister; she does not make a marriage of convenience, but a marriage of love to a far from wealthy clergyman. Marianne, on the other hand, over-compensates for her early want of sense by making, perhaps a sensible marriage. So, it can be concluded that neither mode is adequate. But the mode of sense enables an individual to take a practical view of life as the critic, Ian Watt (1917-1999) has praised the apotheosis of sense, Elinor who “took a more realistic view of what the individual can concede without losing his integrity.”

Keywords: Convention, Integrity, Jane Austen, Marriage, Sense and Sensibility

Article Review Status: Published

Pages: 25-34 (Download PDF)

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