The Marriage of Manners in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility
- Carolyn Kuykendall, Director of Honors, Professor of English, Mt. San Antonio College
- Dr. Betsy McCormick, Professor of English, Mt. San Antonio College
The conflict of the eighteenth century's decorum with the emerging rebelliousness of the romantic period in literature reveals itself in several interesting and surprising ways in a seemingly innocuous novel that, at first glance, appears to be a romantic comedy known as Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen’s first published novel. While Elinor and Marianne Dashwood have completely opposite dispositions, Jane Austen seems to be arguing in Sense and Sensibility that a balance between the ideals of both sense and sensibility is essential to living a happy, content life. After a close reading and thorough analysis of the text, the character behavior of the Dashwood sisters is broken down to further understand the importance of balance by examining both sides of their dispositions. During analysis it is discovered that Elinor, the sister who represents “sense” is just as emotional as her sister, Marianne. And Marianne, who represents “sensibility," has just as much good sense as her sister. Further analysis shows that through heartbreak and struggle, by the conclusion of the novel, the two sisters learn to appreciate each other’s character flaws and strengths.