Il club di Jane Austen – Sense and sensibility
Published for the first time anonymously in 1811, Sense and Sensibility tells the story of the Dashwood family and particularly of the two eldest daughters, Elinor and Marianne, women that pass through the same growth path to find their happy ending.
Sense and sensibility: the main characters
Elinor and Marianne portray the contrast between the two nouns in the title of the book, sense and sensibility.
The eldest sister, Elinor, personifies completely the first, following all the rules of good manners when she is in society, but she has also a certain sense of discretion and generosity that makes her put the behalf of the others before hers.
On the contrary, her younger sister Marianne gives not limit to her emotions, if she suffers, for example, her pain is the greatest, in the same way, she considers her ability to feel above the norm. Her way of thinking will often make her be disdainful and selfish towards who doesn’t deserve it, first of all, Elinor.
The two girls, however, are not static characters, actually, they will grow and mature thanks to a common path, that of love pain. Till the end of the novel, in effect, Elinor doesn’t have the proof that Edward, the man she loves, returns her. Quite the contrary, very often she thinks of a misunderstanding of his behaviour. A prior attachment of the man and the disapproval of his family certainly can’t improve her faith in the constancy of the gentleman.
Edward Ferrars is surely a good exponent of the middle class of the time. Living by rent, he has no occupations and spends his days in laziness. However the man has values, he maintains his word, even if this can bring him pain. I found him, like Marianne, an annoying character. In effect, both are static and don’t work to change their situation. Edward, only to maintain his word, risks to lost, beyond his fortune, his domestic happiness too!
More complex is Marianne‘s story.
Due to her youth and the deficiencies of her personality, she falls in love with the young Willoughby who, like her, has the same sensibility for life and arts and has the same disdain for the people who don’t have his same sensibility.
Due to his lack of personality and spirit of sacrifice (all the men that Jane Austen portraits in this volume have serious flaws that make Mr Darcy‘s class pride a nothing), John Willoughby gives up his relationship with Marianne, save regret it after, and chooses an unhappy wedding ordered by economic benefits.
The girl is destroyed, and she punishes herself reinvigorating more and more, every day, her pain till almost dying.
Marianne‘s staticity between Willoughby leaving and the end of her illness has always bothered me. I can’t justify her at all because, in the time in which the novel takes place, reputation was, without doubt, the first thing to defend. Luckily, after risking her own life, she sees the positive side of her sister’s behaviour and tries to adapt to it and to the norm of the society, but without abandoning at all her nature, that shines through the pages when she dedicates herself to music or poetry.
Brandon precisely, is the character, in my opinion, more mistreated of the whole novel. He stages very few times and always to suffer from a not corresponded love, moreover, he is treated badly all the time because of his behaviour, that is the result of a previous pain.
Themes and style
The main goal of the author is to highlight the hypocrisy of the middle class and to make fun of them with irony. It is for this reason that the secondary characters, even if they are lesser complex than the main ones, have some peculiarity that makes them hateful or more often embarrassing. The most suitable example can be Mrs Jennings, that, being less sensible of what she thinks, is successful in being almost always irritating. She takes advantage of the weakness of the others to make fun of them and be delighted of her jokes.
Moreover, Austen shows us that the incessant search for wealth produced a society full of badly matched weddings, like that between Sir John and Lady Middleton (the former surrounds himself with people giving little importance to good manners and the latter loves to be praised for her good breeding) and that between Charlotte and Mr Palmer (a merry goose and a great expectations man). This is the reason why her heroines always marry for love.
Jane Austen‘s style is fresh, fascinating and elegant. The novel is a fluid reading for a book that was revisited a lot of times between 1795 and 1810. Austen used herself and her sister Cassandra as the inspiration for the main characters and didn’t know clearly how the heroines will develop during the story.
The novel was born in the epistolary form and with the title of Elinor and Marianne (the changing of the title in Italy were: L’eterno contrasto, Senno e sensibilità, Sensibile amore and Sensibilità e buon senso).
Trough the social commitment of the main characters, the author succeeds in making us lose ourselves in the atmosphere of old England. In fact, characteristic of this book are the continuous descriptions of the settings. Special for the author seems to be that outside the domestic walls. In particular, I loved the feeling expressed at the sight of the autumnal leaves falling from the tree and that at the view outside the Barton cottage.
I really liked this novel even if I didn’t love it like Pride and Prejudice or Emma, but I think that it deserves to be read, in spite of the hurried ending, because, in my opinion, Jane Austen thought that the most important thing was the journey.