From Sensibility to Sense

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Yes, I am working on a Pride and Prejudice novel at the moment (see two previous posts and my progress report at the end of this one), but I like to periodically turn ideas over in my mind for future books too. As many of you know, one of my goals is to write at least one novel related to each of Jane Austen’s, and I still have two to go: Emma and Sense and Sensibility. So I was actually thinking about the latter today, and particularly this quote at the end of the book:

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.

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I’ve always identified more with 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 movie crush – anyone else with me?) And like Marianne, I wallowed in the misery of my first heartbreak for months. Fortunately, I too lived to love again.

So what about you? Are you more 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. Also, what would you like to see me write for my S&S book?


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Work in Progress: The new book (Fitzwilliam Darcy, in His Own Words) is coming along nicely! – approximately 1/3 done with 35K words, 18 chapters, and 127 pages written so far. (See two previous posts for more about this book)

Audio Books: The audio version of Murder at Northanger Abbey should be out any day now! But M@NA is the perfect book to read in any format at this spooky time of year.

Post at Austen Variations: In case you missed it, I posted a piece about our recent getaway to Mt. Rainier National Park (including lots of pictures) over at AuVar. Pop over for a look!

About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
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4 Responses to From Sensibility to Sense

  1. Tali Avishay-Arbel says:

    Nowadays, I’m certainly more Elinor – but I also started being Marianne. Marianne is not only guided by her emotions – she is guided by her ideals – the ideals of a romantic passion, sensibility carried to extremes and a total rejection of anyone who feels or acts differently. She falls in love with love at least as much as she falls in love with Willoughby, and her wallowing in despair is as much a tribute to her ideals as it is a result of her feelings. That was certainly me!

    • Good observations, Tali! I think is partly a difference in personality and partly a difference in experience. The young certainly seem more prone to being carried away by emotions and romantic ideals, as you say. Thanks for your comments!

  2. Robin says:

    I’m more of a Margaret.

    • Interesting. We don’t really know much about Margaret from the original novel, so I suppose you mean by how her character has been developed in various JAFF works, where I understand she is usually shown to be an adventurous tomboy type. I can see that some would identify more with that description than the other two sisters. Thanks for commenting, Robin!

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