Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen Review

I'm determined to try to juggle school, Nanowrimo authoring, and this blog all at the same time. Thankfully, November is an "easy" month when it comes to school. We literally spend more days out of school (fall break, thanksgiving, etc.) than we do in it. On the other hand, that also means more work assigned to us during off days. Either way, I've found time to continue reading during this hectic schedule.

I'm a strong believer in rereading. I've always had the belief that some things are liable to change though others might remain constant. My love for Jane Eyre is a perpetual and concrete constant. My feelings towards The Scarlet Letter underwent a change after my second reading. There are moments when you feel the rather inexplicable want to read a novel you've already read. Perhaps you're going through a time in your life where you feel like it would help. Maybe something popped out of the blue and just ignited you with the urge to read it again. Who knows?

As you can probably infer from the post title above, I reread Sense and Sensibility for about the third time this past week. It's been a pretty trying time for me. Relationship troubles have been weighing me down and making me feel kind of hopeless, wondering if there's really a happy ending when things seem to be as low as they can get. Cue Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. If anyone knows anything about coping with heartbreak, it would be these two girls.

Sense and Sensibility is another one of Jane Austen's witty and ironic novels, including the predictable plot twist and a mechanically inserted conflict. As you can probably tell, I've always preferred the gothic Brontes over Austen, but I hold this book to be one of Jane Austen's best and would probably even place it ahead of Pride and Prejudice. This novel captures the reality of life better than the rest of her novels. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are the stepdaughters of a rich man who is dead almost as soon as one opens the front cover (yes, that's quite a hyperbole). Forced to succumb to the good old tradition of primogeniture, Mr. Dashwood leaves all of his property to his only son, John, the product of his previous marriage. Influenced by a petty and meddling (to say the least) wife, John breaks his promise to his father and leaves his stepmother, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters pretty much penniless. They're also being kicked out of their house and into the gritty world of which they know nothing. Forced to toughen up and face reality, Elinor and Anne witness firsthand the agony of heartbreak, the uneasy task of perseverance, and the lesson of growing up the hard way.

The book is great. The plot is good. However, it is (as is usual with Jane Austen) the characters themselves that steal the show. Their complexities are what make this novel so amusing to the reader. Elinor Dashwood, the eldest, is the stereotypical older sister. Levelheaded, responsible, and reserved, she is used to repressing her emotions in order to appear strong to those around her. With so many people depending on her for stability, she is afraid to show the least bit of vulnerability. Marianne is the exact opposite. The middle girl is often dramatic, romantic, and even impertinent. She is in love with the idea of love and the expressions that come with it; an imaginative and artistic teenager with a passion for music and adventure. In the end, the opposing characteristics of the two will end up being their worst enemies. Elinor experiences the heartbreak of having to see the man she loves be with someone else, and she doesn't possess the courage to speak out and confess her feelings. Marianne throws herself  headlong into a romance without the least bit of caution and her lack of carefulness almost proves to be the end of her.

There comes a time in her life when a girl realizes that she can relate to one (or both) of these characters. Elinor and Marianne aren't just admirable heroines like Lizzy Bennet. They're real people that make the same mistakes in love and have the same flaws. They're you and me. They are a true testament to the idea that love isn't always a fantastic and sappy romance. We don't always end up with the dashing young gentleman because most of the time he isn't all that he's cracked up to be. Sometimes the person you weren't looking for ends up being just the guy to come out of nowhere when you really need him. Love isn't perfect. It's just as influenced and battered by humanity as anything else.

So you probably know my usual conclusion by now. If you haven't read this book, read it. If you've already gotten a taste of it, help yourself to some seconds. It's a good book with a real message. It's truly uplifting if you just glue the pieces together and take it for what it is.

Have any of you read it? What do you guys think?


  1. Great time to post about S&S! This month (or last...the publication date is sort of in dispute) is the 200th anniversary! In fact, this blog is having Sense and Sensibility week -

    S&S is my 3rd favorite Jane Austen novel (almost 2nd). I really like it, and I am a lot like Marianne. =)

    Anyways, I'm paying a visit to your blog because I just read the very nice, complimenting comment you left on mine: it made me happy, and I'm glad you like my blog.

    Something terribly ironic: yesterday when I was trying to find pictures for my Jane Eyre movie post, I came across this very blog a couple times, and got a little sidetracked both times, thinking to myself that you were the first person I can remember seeing on a blog who grades movies like I do...haha! And scanning your opinions on the Jane Eyre movies...and laughing...but what made me laugh most is when I saw that the person who just commented and started following my blog was the person who wrote this blog....hehehehe

    Okay, I probably shouldn't find that THAT funny, but it is rather diverting to me. =)

    I am very curious, how DID you find my blog? ;-)

  2. I actually had no idea that it was the anniversary! I will definitely be checking out the blog you recommended.

    It IS very ironic! I too was surprised by how similarly we graded movies. The timing of our finding each other is extremely funny.

    I actually found your blog through Bronteblog. Your post on the Jane Eyre adaptations was linked there. I always like to find other bloggers interested in Jane Eyre, but when I found your blog I was utterly surprised by just how much we had in common. Teenagers interested in literature are hard to come by.

  3. S&S is one of my lesser favorites of Austen's. I've only ever read it once, and that was in high school (I'm 20 now, oh how I lament my old age) but I can remember not feeling particularly impressed with it. I did love how staunch Elinor was (most probably because I'm a lot like her) and Colonel Brandon's unfailing loyalty. But oh, Edward Ferrars got on my nerves! He seemed so...passive! Passive to the point of being criminal. Honestly, Hugh Grant seems to portray him very well in that film adaptation. It just feels as if anyone could walk all over him.
    *sigh* Ok, I am calm. Honest. However, having said (ranted) all that, I am up for a second S&S reading. I've recently acquired almost all of Austen's novels (except for Nortanger Abbey) and I feel as if I owe S&S another reading.
    Oh, and it's great to be reading and commenting on your blog again :) I finished up with assignments and then spent some time with friends out of town so I haven't been commenting as much as I should. Glad to be back doing so, in any case.

  4. Yay! Lady Disdain is back! I was actually wondering where you'd been for the past few weeks. Glad to hear everything is going well with you. I too haven't been as active in the blogging world as I should. Between Nanowrimo and school, I haven't had that much time.

  5. Lady Disdain,
    I'm glad you'll be reading it again! Because I think you might find you're surprised about Edward. Personally I think Hugh Grant's portrayal pretty much molded almost everyone's opinion of him, and not in a good way. He can actually be quite interesting.
    Have you seen the 2008 version? That one shows much more of his struggle and how hard it is for him to be engaged to Lucy and not tell Elinor!
    Not that Edward is my favorite hero or anything, far from it....however I always feel the urge to jump in and defend Jane Austen characters. ;-) Sorry about that. :P

  6. Melody is very right. Edward is a hard person to understand. He's caught in a very tough predicament. Of course, I always preferred Colonel Brandon. ;)

  7. Thanks Melody, I'll try reading it again. But for me, it wasn't just Grant's portrayal. Even in the novel (from what I can remember from my first reading) I didn't feel as if Edward's struggle was portrayed as vividly as Elinor's. Her quiet heart-break was very difficult to read about and I felt Edward should have done more to win her back.
    Haha, I always preferred Brandon, too. He's so infallible. Well, his feelings are, anyway. Very sigh-worthy.

  8. Col. Brandon is more my type, undoubtedly. But then, I'm rather like Marianne myself. =)
    I think it's rather hard to understand both the heroes in S&S and see their side; much more is described about Elinor and Marianne. A lot less of Edward & Brandon.