Sense and Sensibility 28-30: Letters Returned

Here are my notes from Chapters 28-30 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

Opening up Chapter 28, the Miss Dashwoods acompany Lady Middleton to a party, where they finally find Mr. Willoughby. At first, Willoughby does not make a big deal of the encounter, though Marianne is of course excited by this. Willoughby is embarassed when asked by Marianne why he hadn’t returned her letters sent while in town, and he seems to made uncomfortable by the short-lived conversation.

The next day, Marianne received a letter from Willoughby. He explains that he is engaged elsewhere, and apologizes for having misled her. Marianne tells Elinor that they were in fact not engaged, and that her impressions of Willoughby were based on his actions toward her, which had apparently been short of a formal verbal declaration of engagement. Along with Willoughby’s response comes the letters Marianne had sent him as well as the lock of her hair (as requested in one of Marianne’s letters). Marianne wishes to return home from the city.

Elinor and Marianne learn that Mr. (John) Willoughby is engaged to Miss Grey, who is somewhat rich, and Colonel Brandon arrives at the house after overhearing Mrs. Ellington—Grey’s guardian—discussing the imminent marriage.

Character Commentary

Though appearing only in reference, Miss Grey is said to be in possession of “fifty thousand pounds” and “a smart, stylish girl… but not handsome.” It is supposed by the Dashwoods that one (a main?) reason for Willoughby’s interest in Grey is her money.

We see a lighter and more serious side of Mrs. Jennings in Chapters 29 and 30. She sympathizes with Marianne’s condition and sides with her in the amonishment and criticism of Willoughby’s actions. She claims that her previous fun-making of Marianne & co. was mean to be light-hearted and can be expected of/by young people. Mrs. Jennings, though disappointed about Willoughby, immediately brings up the issue of Colonel Brandon’s better position, and praises Brandon’s residence—a topic Elinor is probably not as enthusiastic about (as she knows Marianne’s feeling about Brandon).

Themes and Threads

Austen overtly brings to light the comparison between Elinor and Marianne in Chapter 28. On commenting about Elinor’s reaction to the Willoughby sighting, she remarks that Marianne and Elinor find themselves in similar—though opposite—positions within their respective relationships:

“Her own situation gained in the comparison; for while she could esteem Edward as much as ever, however them might be divided in future, her mind might be always supported. But every circumstance that could embitter such an evil seemed uniting to heighten the misery of Marianne in a final separation from Willoughby — in an immediate and irreconcilable rupture with him.”

For Elinor, Marianne’s state offers reflection on her own situation.

Memorables

“—how am I to bear their pity? The pity of such a woman as Lady Middleton! …”

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