Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and … voluntarily to give her hand to another! … But so it was. Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion, as once she had fondly flattered herself with expecting … she found herself at nineteen, submitting to new attachments, entering on new duties, placed in a new home, a wife, the mistress of a family, and the patroness of a village … Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband as it had once been to Willoughby. (Sense and Sensibility, chapter 50)
I love this insightful account of the revolution in Marianne’s character throughout the course of the story. In the beginning, she is ruled by her feelings alone. Without a single scruple she throws caution (and propriety) to the wind … and herself into Willoughby’s arms, taking her romantic sensibilities so far that she cannot imagine going on without him. By the end, she has, through painful experience, gained a more balanced perspective and a measure of common sense. She’s learned that her sister’s more conservative approach to life may have some merit after all. She also ultimately discovers it is possible to love again, and that the second, though different, may be just as satisfying (and far more enduring) than the first.
I’ve always identified more like Elinor – sensible, steady, doing what’s right. But, if I look back to my early teens, I realize I may have started out much more like Marianne than I care to admit – overly romantic (something I probably haven’t completely outgrow, to tell the truth) and prone to melodrama. After all, Romeo and Juliet was my first movie obsession (and Leonard Whiting my first crush – anyone else with me?) Like Marianne, I wallowed in the misery of my first heartbreak for months. Fortunately, I too lived to love again.
So, who is your role model -Elinor or Marianne? And would you choose the dashing Willoughby or Col. Brandon, “the very best of men”? Tough decision, probably because we tend to want it all. We’d like to think we are both smart and emotionally deep; and our ideal man would embody all the best of both Willoughby and Brandon.