Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility discussion


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Elinor stands for sense and Marianne represents sensibility. How far do you agree with this assesment of the novel?

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message 1: by Masonxxx (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new)

Masonxxx To some extent I do agree that Elinor Dashwood depicts sense and her younger sister Marianne symbolises sensibility. This opinion however, is very generalised and stereotyped because of course as human beings there is more depth to their characters and feelings.


message 2: by Ann (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann I, too, would agree with this assesment in general.
I do wonder if the end of the book somewhat shows how Marianne adopts some of Elinor's sense, and Elinor isn't always capable of repressing her sensibility.


message 3: by Becca (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Becca They absolutely do! In the end it seems that both sense and sensibility are best tempered by the other.


Bader It might be that the writer meant that but for me, I see that both girls are symboysing the "Sense and sensibility". They both sensible but it is just the fact that some people are so open in expressing their feeling and others not.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

i agree


message 6: by Alina (new)

Alina I think Marianne's "sensibility" consists not so much in the fact that she feels deeply (if anything, Elinor's feelings are more real) as in the fact that she cultivates her own feelings. Her failing is that she values the emotion for itself - which is, in the last analysis, a kind of fundamental insincerity.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

The difference between 'Sense' and 'Sensibilty'
is this. Sensibilty means to be over-whelmed with ones feelings. (You can see this in Marianne and sometimes in Mrs.Dashwood; they feed their grief. When Willoughby leaves, she reads the books they read together, sings the songs they sung together etc.) I think Elinor is has sense in the context of being responsible.




Werner If we paraphrase "sense and sensibility" as "reason and emotion" --which I think we can-- it isn't hard to see that dichotomy in the cultural context in which Austen wrote. The early 1800s were the heyday of Romanticism, which rebelled against the staid constraints of 18th-century rationalism to glorify emotion and self-expression. But though she wrote in the Romantic period, Austen herself wasn't a capital-R Romantic (she wrote, of course, about love and courtship, but she treats it much more rationally than a typical Romantic writer would). Her sympathies were much more with the older outlook of 18th-century Neoclassicism, which wanted the head to guide the heart rather than the other way around --an outlook which I think, yes, Elinor does embody, and Marianne learns from experience to appreciate.


Pola Elinor throughout the book is the exact opposite of Marianne; where the latter is irresponsible and liberal the former is responsible and repressed.. there is not right or wrong in their behaviours in our modern society and I personally feel that nowadays Marianne's character is the representative one; but back then it was improper for a young lady to act like she did.. are we to applaud repression in feelings back then? because only men had the right to express themselves...


message 10: by Chaz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chaz Young I love all Jane Austen's books but can't help but wonder if Marianne would really be happy with a much older husband. I felt like they would have more like a child-parent relationship, with Colonel Brandon indulging her and Marianne free to act out her whims.


Robin Elinor was more the strait laced emotions not easily shown, whereas Marianne was all over emotional from Willoughby to Col. Brandon. By the end Elinor became more emotional, and Marianne became more modest. So the tables were turned on what they were like at the beginning of the book and also the movie.


message 12: by Pola (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pola Robin wrote: "Elinor was more the strait laced emotions not easily shown, whereas Marianne was all over emotional from Willoughby to Col. Brandon. By the end Elinor became more emotional, and Marianne became mor..."

I agree with you.. I mean Marianne was madly in love with Willoughby and then she liked Col. Brandon. That alteration made me feel that she did not really love him until I looked at the end of the book and Jane Austen reassured me that Marianne loved and respected Col.Brandon.


Robin I like the flip/flop juxtaposition of characters, I thought they would forevermore stay "in character" but as with anything else, people do change and some for the better.


message 14: by Scott (new) - added it

Scott Smithson "Sense" at the time meant "sensory"...
"Sensibility" meant "being sensible".

You're right in that each word refers to one or the other, but in Austen's time "sense" would have referred to someone who regaled in the pleasures of life, like Marianne. Elinor was the sensible one.


Robin okay.


Keith Akers There is an irony in "Sense and Sensibility," though, however you define "sense" and "sensibility." While Marianne is the more romantic and emotional, she winds up with a practical romance. Elinor is the more practical and restrained of the two, but she has the more emotional romance.


Michelle Marianne was infatuated by and full of feelings for W. ...She was dependent on her senses. When she fell for Col. Brandon, she realized that true love extends beyond the senses. The sensibility of true love is often surprising and enlightening. Elinor knew this from the start.


Clare hahah! You cheeky little forum starter. This is a year twelve practice exam question!


Michelle Wardhaugh What a good way to get answer inspirations. I think of these characters more in terms of the ying/yang philosophy. In the initial descriptions of the characters, they both had deep feelings (sensibilities), and they were both intelligent and capable of using common sense. Elinor just chose to use her senses (she was more observant of people's actions and reactions around her) and practicality to rule herself, while Marianne chose to indulge and encourage her emotions most of the time. As the story went on, developments taught them both more about balance, bringing romantic love into Elinor's life and a more rational love into Marianne's. Neither sister completely flipped her personality. There were still careful considerations before Elinor married (they needed something to live upon), and romance before Marianne married (she slowly learned to love him).


Nouran Gamal totally agree, it was pretty obvious from the very beginning where the title came from. Elinor is the "sense" part: reason, restraint, social responsibility, and a clear-headed concern for the welfare of others. She’s the responsible one, the glue that holds the family together after the death of the father. where marianne is obviously represents the "sensibility" part: emotional, spontaneous, impulsive, and devoted. So out there, free spirited, carefree personality that is not afraid to show emotions anywhere, anytime.

it was mentioned more than once in the book too,, like when marianne was mocking colonel brandon with willoughby and elinor was defending him she said "sense will always have attractions for me". and more than once marianne mentioned how "sensibility" was important for her.


Nouran Gamal BunWat wrote: "I disagree that Sense and Sensibility translates to Reason and Emotion. Sensibility was a particular fad at the time the book was written. Like... like being emo, or goth, or whatever. People who..."

yes and the point is neither "sense" alone nor "sensibility" alone can reach happiness, Elinor though representing sense does not lack passion or emotional outburst, and Marianne though representing sensibility is not foolish and still strong. They both learn from each other’s character and by balancing those two extremes they both found happiness

there's also another explanation for it,, that austen meant by these contrasts to relate to literally movements, Elinor represents the characteristics associated with eighteenth-century neo-classicism, including rationality, insight, judgment, moderation, and balance. She never loses sight of propriety, economic practicalities, and perspective. Austen gestures toward her predecessors and acknowledges the influence of their legacy on her generation. In contrast, Marianne represents the qualities associated with the emerging "cult of sensibility"


message 22: by Elisa Santos (last edited Nov 10, 2011 03:25AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elisa Santos Elinor stands for a more cool, controled woman who does not give in to every whim or over-sensibility like Marianne - that does not mean that she is a cold fish: just that her ways are of a more constraint, restrict sharing of feelings. Like someone said earlier, Elinor manages to shut out people from her, making them think that she is emotionless.

Marianne, on the other hand, is over-the-top sensible: she feeds her love, like later she feeds her grief, with lots of outward demonstrations of it, of constantly speaking of it, shouting at roof-tops her grand love ensued by her great loss.

In the end, both dispositions intertwined: Elinor finnaly managed to brake off of the shell in which she was enclosed in and said her true feelings about Edward; Marianne took more heed of her head and saw that love, in it´s purest form, is not and never-ending circus or showing off an exageraton of her emotions and that a quiet love could be just or even more rewarding that that first infatuation.


message 23: by Angie (last edited Nov 10, 2011 01:54PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Angie I think that everyone can have something from both Elinor and Marianne.

Elinor was very realistic and had a lot of common sense. She was in more control over her feelings so she was seen as an emotionless and "coldest" person.

Marianne was the opposite, very romantic, idealist and almost always wearing her heart over the sleeve. She was very sincere and I suppose some people look at her like still being a child because of that.

I think that the book was more in favour of Elinor's character than in Marianne's because it shows that in life one shouldn't be governed by your emotions and that if you are passive and keep your head cool you'll be rewarded.


Elisa Santos Yes, that´s what i thought exactly - Elinor´s behaviour was "rewarded", her common sense, coolness, head on her shoulders were rewarded with true love from her favourite as, on the other hand Marianne was overly infatuated with Willoughby and when he married other woman she saw that, the heart on the sleeve was not always agood thing to have - and she was sort of punished and then rewardes with a quieter lover.


Michelle Wardhaugh I agree that the book favored Elinor's character. Not only was she "rewarded" for her control and sense of balance by getting the man she loved, but all through the book, she was the one who kept everyone on track. She made life easier for everyone despite themselves. Marianne kept making life more difficult for everyone in small and large ways. Marianne and her mother often annoyed me because of how little they saw of what was really going on around them.


Bookishnymph *needs hea* I agree entirely. Elinor is completely sense and Marianne completely sensibility.


Marren If my memory serves me well, I think my Literature teacher in A'Level ask us almost the exact question, back then. To a large extent Elinor did show more sense and Marianne more on the sensibility side. Elinor always looks on the practical side of thing. Always reasoning. Marianne most of the time was more tuned to the romance of the situation. She responded to poetry and flowers and lock of hair. These things appealed to her and she made her decision on romantic notions, hence the sensibility part.


Alexxus Alina wrote: "I think Marianne's "sensibility" consists not so much in the fact that she feels deeply (if anything, Elinor's feelings are more real) as in the fact that she cultivates her own feelings. Her faili..."

couldn't have said it better.


Denise BunWat wrote: "I disagree that Sense and Sensibility translates to Reason and Emotion. Sensibility was a particular fad at the time the book was written. Like... like being emo, or goth, or whatever. People who..."

I'd agree with your response. I'd also point out that like Pride & Prejudice Austen's characters all have varying degrees of both.


message 30: by Mary (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mary Papadima Denise wrote: "BunWat wrote: "I disagree that Sense and Sensibility translates to Reason and Emotion. Sensibility was a particular fad at the time the book was written. Like... like being emo, or goth, or whatev..." I totally agree with you and the comparison you are making depicts the real issue of the books. It may seem that Elinor stands more strongly for sense but if you look in depth she is much more emotional than Marianne. It's just that Marianne let's herself being led by her feelings, believing only in feelings throughout the plot but in the end it's her sense that she uses.


Janet I think that Jane Austen used the characters of the 2 sisters to illustrate the rigidity of Society for women at that time. While Marianne was passionate about life and not willing to dampen her enthusiasm and emotions by following all the necessary rules layed out for young women by Society. I don't think Jane Austen was portraying Marianne in a negative light. Just an example of how Society could crush creatures with open passionate natures. Elinor suffered a great deal in silence. This may be sensible from the perspective that she behaved well and didn't step on any toes. But how repressed she must have felt so often. I think Jane Austen must have felt very confined as a young woman by the pressures of Society. She was very intelligent for her sex therefore it must have been difficult for her to accept the restrictions. Also, she was acutely aware that she should marry. Again, difficult for her. She never married. So, many of her novels illustrate young women in persute of a good marriage.


message 32: by kellyjane (last edited Apr 13, 2013 12:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

kellyjane I think that Jane Austen was not focusing on 'sensibility' per se, but on the two sisters' attitude about sensibility. Elinor and Marianne both had deep feelings: but for Marianne, emotional intensity was held as a defining personal virtue and any effort to govern it, a character flaw which she thoroughly scorned-- while Elinor believed it a personal duty to exert herself toward emotional self-governance, doing her best to manage and get the better of her woes while sparing her loved ones as much distressing or painful sympathy as possible. Marianne actually courted a wallowing unhappiness following her great disappointment, and would have thought less of herself had she not suffered with ongoing abandon. Elinor's attitude was diametrically opposite-- she considered it in her power to temper, mitigate, perhaps gradually even heal her own emotional suffering, guided by intention and reason.

"Life moves on", Elinor might have said to herself, "and so must I with it". Marianne would have rejected any such resolution as shameful if not cowardly. And in disdaining self-exertion so categorically, Marianne neglected every consideration of those around her, the kindness and good-will of her true supporters, even those most dear to her in life. She almost killed herself through self-neglect in a parade of cultivated misery displayed for friends and family, over a man with no better claim to her devotion than that he had deceived and manipulated her most unfeelingly.

I think that Jane Austen was trying to emphasize the difference between having emotions and becoming them-- the latter leaving one at the mercy of external vicissitudes outside of one's control and yet controlling, nonetheless, one's very state of mind and being, with each new twist and turn the next puppet master of life's experienced value. Or something like that anyway. Marianne had to learn perspective. And for me it is very touching that the simple natural goodness of real sisterly love, was the emotional pivot that enabled Marianne finally to start moving on and to embrace new possibilities for a life that, after all, had only just begun for her.


Janet kellyjane1212 wrote: "I think that Jane Austen was not focusing on 'sensibility' per se, but on the two sisters' attitude about sensibility. Elinor and Marianne both had deep feelings: but for Marianne, emotional inten..."

I don't think Marianne courted grief and dispair, but actually was in a deep grief at the loss of Willoughby and the unforutnate circumstances surrounding the misunderstanding on her part. Remember she was only 17. Of course 17 in those times may have been more mature than our present day 17, still it is an age where you live mostly in the present and can't forsee a happier tomorrow. I believe her grief was a form of "Lovesickness" and that can make you actually physically ill. Marianne's nature showed her to be intolerable of duplicity in society. An example, when Elinor is being mistreated at a gathering by Fanny and Mrs. Ferras, she comes to her defence questioning their nastiness towards her sister. She can not restrain her feelings, will not suffer nonsense or "fools glady". Elinor is very much in control of her emotions and attitudes towards others. Her philosphy is more "never let them see you sweat".


message 34: by kellyjane (last edited Apr 14, 2013 01:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

kellyjane @ Janet

Certainly you're right that such kind of heartsick grief at age seventeen-- and as a very first experience with both wondrous love and then shockingly disappointing loss in life-- cannot rely on much of a maturity of perspective to help in coping with it. I don't think Marianne's emotional reaction unusual or unnatural in the least. At the same time, she did maintain a decided scorn if not contempt for any guidance, whether by word or example, that would by conscious intention endeavor toward solace of any kind. With Marianne it was an actual creed to immerse wholly in feeling and sensitivity-- she could not for example bear to hear Elinor speak in more deliberate terms even about Elinor's feelings toward Edward Ferrars. Marianne bordered privately on feeling ashamed of her older sister for such displays. She could hardly bear hearing Edward Ferrars describe trees as sturdy rather than nobly picturesque, or hear poetry and literature read aloud without a great pathos of the noblest sentiments accompnaying the performance. It seems to me that Marianne had a naturally heart-rending grief because of Willoughby's shocking reversal-- but combined it with an idealized exaltation of feelings whether pleasant or unpleasant, and an idealized scorn for tempering reason whether it might be helpful or not. She did not want to be 'helped' out of any part of her unhappiness. She would have thought it an indictment of her personal sense of worth.

And she responded to Willoughby's betrayal by isolating herself entirely from companionship including even Elinor's, sitting at the piano and tearfully playing formerly cherished songs that they had shared, walking alone in order to dwell upon her sorrows repeatedly, neglecting her appearance and even the most basic forms of politeness or gratitude, and despising those who whatever their personal limitations had treated her with care and kindness.

Marianne seems by far the most overtly rebellious of Jane Austen's heroines-- compared to heroines similar in age like Fanny Price or Catherine Morland (or to any of the slightly older ones like Elizabeth and Jane Bennett etc etc, who had none of them any greater experience in romantic love or loss), Marianne deemed it almost an actual duty to suffer profoundly without interruption or end, what had been laid upon her heart to suffer.

And this, I believe, was what Jane Austen was distinguishing as in need of change-- not the capacity to suffer, but the attitude toward suffering and healing, it's actual 'nobility' or lack thereof. Personally I like Marianne's character very much; and certainly she's a sympathetic character. But she did end up regretting how she had considered and treated Elinor, how she had considered and treated Mrs. Jennings and Col. Brandon-- she regretted the injustice and ingratitude that her 'creed' had led her to act out, and regretted causing such pain of impotently distressed sympathy that Elinor had suffered so long on her behalf.

This is all so wordy on my part: I feel that I'm trying to make a kind of fine distinction, whatever the value of it might actually be ....


Werner Kellyjane, I think your distinction is very clear and appropriately drawn; and I heartily agree with your analysis of Marianne's character, and personal growth!


message 36: by kellyjane (last edited Apr 14, 2013 03:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

kellyjane @ Werner

Well thank you for saying so Werner; I appreciate your vote of confidence. :-)


Janet @ Kellyjane, I think Jane Austen was trying to show that perhaps their should be a balance between showing too little emotion and showing too much emotion. Thus the characters of the two sisters. I'm not sure if i can agree that Jane Austen intended us to believe that Marianne's character was in want of repair...more of a situation of one side of the coin. I loved both sisters characters but have a special fondness for the outspoken Marianne. A rebel....no i don't think so.


kellyjane Janet, I definitely agree that Jane Austen believed in just the kind of balance that you're referring to-- in my way I was trying to make something of the same point. And I did not mean to suggest that Jane Austen believed Marianne's character in need of repair-- more the all-or-nothing nature of some of her ideas and attitudes, which themselves did not seem to allow for a more balanced experience. I certainly join you in loving both sisters, considering neither of their personalities superior to the other.

What I meant in describing Marianne as the most rebellious of Jane Austen's heroines again was meant as a relative and somewhat subtle distinction: she overtly scorned and rejected, more so than any of the heroines that I can think of, the common forms and conventions of polite civil society. I am not criticizing her for it in the least; it made her interesting, even inspiring in certain ways, at least to me. But that she was unique in this sense among Jane Austen's heroines, seems to me a pretty fair point.


Janet Kellyjane, i must think then that Jane Austen herself may have had a rebellious spirit. Many of her female characters were rebellious if that is the word. Elizabeth Bennett could most definately have been considered rebellious with her thoughts and actions towards Bingleys sisters and Mr. Darcy. Also, who can forget the relationship she had with Lady Catherine De Bourgh. Also, Lydia the youngest Bennett sister elopes!!!!! Imagine. Emma also spirited and determined. I adore Jane Austen's books for the uniqueness of her female characters. They all are intelligent and spirited. If rebelliousness is the opposite of insipid...i side with rebelliousness every time. :)


kellyjane Janet, I sense that we probably are pretty similar in our appreciation of Jane Austen's heroines, even if not identical in how we perceive or describe it. I love the liveliness of her characters, and certainly their intelligence. I wouldn't consider Lydia as one of her actual heroines though. Concerning the others, their 'rebelliousness' as I have thought to term it, seems to me arrayed along a continuum more so than either having or lacking the quality-- and I think of Marianne as the heroine who made the least effort to accommodate or harmonize with common conventions that she scorned. Elizabeth Bennett laughed at, often sarcastically, the foolishness that she perceived in them-- yet for the most part made an effort to blend with them. And Emma Woodhouse in many ways insisted upon their observance, even if this might leave her in the 'solitary grandeur' of refusing an invitation to the Coles' dinner party (which after grappling with the dilemma, she decided to go, despite her 'superior rank' in that community).

But I don't mean to argue about semantics, or really anything. I love the liveliness and independent-mindedness of Jane Austen's heroines. And everyone personalizes the stories in their own ways. I've enjoyed reading your appreciation, and hope that I am not coming across as dense to or dismissive of it.


Janet Kellyjane, Here i go again..lol..
I guess you see, what i feel Jane Austen was trying to impress on us was the duplicity of society.
When Marianne first meets Willoughby in London, her excitement can't be contained and her astonishment
at his cold reception leaves her crushed. She can't hide her feelings. Almost childlike. Her sister
has to contain her and finally remove her from the ball. What you describe as scorning society, i feel
was merely avoiding meeting Willoughby again. Especially after the full force of his insincerity and
her humiliation hits her. Society expects her to mask her feelings but Marianne can not.

Elinor first falls for her brother-in-law at Norland. He fails to tell her he is already engaged to Lucy Steele.
This is rather insincere on his part. When Lucy Steele finally enlightens Elinor she does not fall
apart but rather goes along with the charade playing Lucy's friend in order to ply information out of her
(Lucy knows Edward has fallen for Elinor, but she will not release him because he is eldest son and will inherit Ferras estate So,
Elinor kinda plays the chump. Says nothing to Lucy. Says nothing to Edward. Quietly suffers. Doesn't even enlighten her mother.
I can see why this would be considered "nobel". Stiff upper lip and all that.

When Lucy runs off with Robert Ferras, old Lady Ferras eventually forgives them both because Lucy fawns and
submits herself to her. Elinor never can perform such "sucking up" for lack of better word. Therefore,
Edward (who has been dispaced as heir by brother Robert) and herself will live off a tiny income the rest of their lives.

We know of course that the 17 year old Marianne marries the 36 year old Colonel Brandon. She will want for
nothing the rest of her life. She certainly learned her lesson LOL.


message 42: by kellyjane (last edited Apr 15, 2013 07:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

kellyjane @ Janet

Well it seems that we have had-- dare we say it?-- a spirited conversation! :-)

I have enjoyed seeing 'S&S' through your eyes even as mine yield their own unique picture. So thank you for taking the time to exchange as long and well with me as we have managed. There are many lesser things that I could have done with my time, though I do regret not suggesting a virtual cup of tea in the process ...


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