Student Notes – Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility, written by Jane Austen and published in 1811, is a classic novel that explores the themes of love, society, and the contrasting qualities of sense and sensibility. Set in early 19th-century England, the story follows the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they navigate the challenges and complexities of courtship, societal expectations, and the pursuit of happiness. This set of student notes provides a comprehensive overview of the key elements, themes, and characters in Sense and Sensibility, along with analysis and discussion points for further exploration and understanding.
- The novel centers around the lives of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, and their mother Mrs. Dashwood, who are forced to leave their family home after their father’s death.
- Elinor represents the “sense” in the title, emphasizing reason, practicality, and self-control, while Marianne represents “sensibility,” emphasizing emotion, romanticism, and spontaneity.
- The sisters navigate romantic relationships, with Elinor falling for the reserved Edward Ferrars and Marianne being captivated by the charming but unreliable John Willoughby.
- Themes: Love and Courtship, Social Class and Expectations, Sense versus Sensibility, Female Agency, and the Importance of Emotional Balance.
- Elinor Dashwood: The eldest Dashwood sister, Elinor embodies practicality, level-headedness, and emotional restraint. She often bears the burden of her family’s troubles in silence.
- Marianne Dashwood: Marianne is the embodiment of sensibility, being highly expressive, romantic, and impulsive in her emotions and actions.
- Edward Ferrars: Edward is Elinor’s love interest, a reserved and honorable gentleman who faces obstacles in his pursuit of happiness.
- John Willoughby: Willoughby is a charismatic and dashing young man who captures Marianne’s heart but later reveals a hidden, darker side.
- Other Characters: Mrs. Dashwood, Colonel Brandon, Lucy Steele, and Mrs. Jennings, among others.
Themes and Analysis:
- Love and Courtship: Explore the various romantic relationships in the novel and the challenges faced by the characters in pursuing their desires within the confines of societal expectations and class boundaries.
- Social Class and Expectations: Discuss how Austen portrays the rigid social hierarchy and the limitations it places on individuals’ choices and opportunities for happiness.
- Sense versus Sensibility: Analyze the contrasting qualities of Elinor and Marianne and their respective journeys towards emotional balance and personal growth.
- Female Agency: Examine how Austen presents female characters who navigate the limitations imposed on them by society, highlighting their strength, resilience, and ability to assert themselves.
- Importance of Emotional Balance: Reflect on the novel’s exploration of the consequences of unchecked sensibility and the value of tempering emotions with reason.
Austen’s Narrative Style:
- Austen’s Wit and Irony: Discuss the author’s use of subtle humor, irony, and social commentary to satirize societal norms, manners, and conventions of the time.
- Austen’s Realism: Explore Austen’s realistic portrayal of the social landscape, human interactions, and the intricate dynamics of family and romantic relationships.
Impact and Legacy:
- Cultural Significance: Sense and Sensibility showcases Austen’s keen observation of society, her exploration of the complexities of human nature, and her sharp social critique. It established her as one of the most influential and beloved authors of English literature.
- Austen’s Legacy: Discuss Austen’s enduring popularity, her contributions to the development of the novel as a literary form, and her ongoing relevance in exploring themes of love, marriage, and societal expectations.
Sense and Sensibility is a timeless novel that explores the intricacies of human emotions, societal expectations, and the pursuit of love and happiness. Jane Austen’s masterful storytelling, memorable characters, and insightful social commentary continue to captivate readers. By engaging with the student notes provided, readers can delve deeper into the themes, characters, and narrative structure of Sense and Sensibility, gaining a greater appreciation for Austen’s astute observations of human nature and her enduring legacy as a writer.