Sense and Sensibility 24-27: Letters Sent

Sense and Sensibility Chapters 24-27!

Plot Points

Elinor Dashwood probes further into the relationship between Lucy Steele and Edward Ferrars. By this time, she is convinced as to the authenticity of Lucy’s claims that they are and have been engaged. Elinor suggests that Edward is dependent on his mother, and that such a fact could delay their eventual marriage; Elinor realizes (believes?) that Edward might not be happy with Lucy.

Later, after being convinced by Mrs Jennings and the Willingtons to go to the city, the Miss Dashwoods have different hopes for the trip. Marianne hopes to see or hear from Mr. Willoughby; Elinor seems to hope to continue her investigation of the intentions of Edward, but she is also curious about Willoughby and concerned for Marianne. Marianne hopes to have Mr. Willoughby visit her where the sisters are staying, but several false alarms—including an intimely entrance by Colonel Brandon—depress her.

While still in the city, they attend a dance hosted by Sir John and Lady Middleton, but Willoughby is not there despite his having been invited. Elinor begins to write her mother with concern about Marianne. After seeing the letter Marianne wrote to Mr. Willoughby, Colonel Brandon asks Elinor if Marianne and Willoughby are engaged. Elinor confirms this, and Brandon leaves, obviously disappointed at this.

Character Commentary

Elinor seems to have an uncharacteristic moment when she resists the invitation to enter town. On the pretext of not feeling the need to meet Edward Ferrars’s family as her mother suggests… Austen describes the scene: “Marianne lifted her eyes in astonishment, and Elinor conjectured that she might as well have held her tongue.” Here, Elinor not only overextended her opinion, but she led toward the notion that Edward meant less to her than her mother and sister had thought. Later, however, Elinor muses—through Austen’s narration—that she shouldn’t let her situation ruin Marianne’s happiness. Elinor’s situation with Colonel Brandon causes her to feel conflicted: she feels sorry for Brandon as he obviously cares for Marianne, but a reversal of his state would mean a sorry thing for her sister.

In Context

For the non-working women who inhabit Barton Park, economic health and vitality is an influencing factor on their decisions and consideration. When Lucy Steele considers the prospects of her future with Edward, she laments at Mrs Ferrars’ disapproval of their relationship, because Edward is expected to receive her fortune. Lucy says that “… in her first fit of anger upon hearing [of their marriage], [Mrs Ferrars] would likely secure everything to Robert; and the idea of that, for Edward’s sake, frightens away all inclinations for hasty measures.”

Memorables

“She sometimes endevoured for a few minutes to read; but the book was soon thrown aside, and she returned to the more interesting employment of walking backwards and forwards across the room, pausing for a moment whenever she came to the window, in hopes of distinguishing the long-expected rap.”

“‘Oh!’ cried Miss Steele, looking significantly round at them, ‘I dare say Lucy’s beau is quite as modest and pretty-behaved as Miss Dashwood’s.'”

Looking Ahead

I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Colonel Brandon. Mr. Willoughby remains elusive: I suspect there will be further ways to compare him with Edward Ferrars and, by extension, Elinor and Marianne.

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