Sense and Sensibility 46-48: Exit, Willoughby; Enter, Edward

Posted February 8, 2009 by Joseph Woodard
Categories: Sense and Sensibility

Tags: , , , , ,

My notes from Chapters 46-48 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

Having left Cleveland after Marianne’s illness, the Dashwoods return to Barton Park, where Marianne continues to recuperate. Meanwhile, Colonel Brandon returned to his home in Delaford. Elinor first debates the propriety of, then follows through on, the retelling of Mr. Willoughby’s confession, to which Marianne reacts in an uncharacteristically calm spirit. It is generally decided—encouraged by Elinor and accepted by Marianne—that Willoughby would have been an unfortunate match for Marianne, and that the two are incompatible. Marianne conjectures that Willoughby’s problems stem from his initial error in the Eliza Williams situation.

Word is brought to Barton Park that “Mr. Ferrars is married.” The Dashwoods, especially Elinor, are disturbed by this. Elinor had thought that she would hear more from her other friends on the state of Edward and Lucy, and displays an uncharacteristic sensitivity to the affair. As a reversal of these thoughts, Edward unexpectedly arrives with news that his brother Robert had married Lucy, to which the Dashwoods are shocked.

Character Commentary

Marianne undergoes a period of self reflection in Chapter 46 that I believe is an important turning point in that character’s theme (see below). Marianne says that her illness has caused her to think seriously: “I saw that my own feelings had prepared my sufferings, and that my want of fortitude under them had almost led me to the grave. … Had I died, it would have been self-destruction.” She continues to claim that she had been unkind to many, including Mrs. Jennings, the Palmers, etc.

Marianne both claims and appears to be unencumbered by thoughts of Willoughby. Thoughts of Edward, however, seem to plague Elinor, who worries about him and reacts emotionally to thoughts of and address from Edward.

Themes and Threads

In these chapters, the attitudes of the Miss Dashwoods seem to undergo changes. Marianne’s usual oversensitivity is largely held at bay, while Elinor’s reactions and states of mind are uncharacteristically emotional. As they are exiting the carriage upon arrival at Barton Park, Elinor notices that Marianne is calm even though she’d been crying:

“In the whole of her subsequent manner, she traced the direction of a mind awakened to reasonable exertion; for no sooner had they entered their common sitting-room, than Marianne turned her eyes around it with a look of resolute firmness, as if determined at once to accustom herself to the sight of every object with which the remembrance of Willoughy could be connected.”

One problem that the Miss Dashwoods have is their now tendancy to conjecture about other people. For instance, Marianne is quick to conclude the Willoughby saga by explaining off his actions as part of or caused by his actions toward Eliza Williams, and generally writes him off as a scoundrel. Elinor is led by her imagination to new psychological and interpretive ends. In Chapter 48: “She saw them in an instant in their parsonage house…”, and “In Edward, she knew not what she saw, nor what she wished to see; … (emphases added)” Elinor imagines Edward and Lucy together, their having traveled together on a trip to her uncle’s house.

Such an imagination in Elinor causes her to overreact to external stimuli in an uncharacteristic way. She has, up to this point, been held up as strong-minded and thoughtful above being affected by emotion. But, here she is worrying about Edward and, when he arrives at Barton Park unexpectedly to relay the news that Robert had in fact been the “Mr. Ferrars” who had married Lucy, Elinor “almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.”

It seems as though the process of illness had affected Marianne, and that the process of attending to the long-term troubles of Marianne has affected Elinor.

Out of Context

I especially appreciate this line of Marianne’s as she is wanting to explore new ways to occupy her mind: “I have formed a plan, and am determined to enter on a serious course of study.” Not only does this notion make psychological sense, but I myself have used this method of distracting from either unpleasant or unwanted experiences. I’m sure that preoccupying one’s mind to escape relationship troubles is commonplace.

Looking Ahead

In the final 2 chapters, I hope to be able to determine “who” this novel is about. Throughout, Austen has shifted focus as various points, consistently between the sisters Marianne and Elinor.


Masterpiece Classic to Show Sense and Sensibility

Posted January 31, 2009 by Joseph Woodard
Categories: Sense and Sensibility

Tags: , , ,

Apparently in honor of my finishing Sense and Sensibility, PBS will be showing John Alexander’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel on February 1, 2009. The series first appeared on BBC in early 2008, but is now to be hosted by Masterpiece Classic. I haven’t yet seen the series, but I’ll be posting about my thoughts on it eventually.

Sense and Sensibility 43-45: Revelations

Posted January 31, 2009 by Joseph Woodard
Categories: Sense and Sensibility

Tags: , , , ,

Some notes on Sense and Sensibility Chapters 43-45. I intend to finish the book with accompanying posts within the next 2 days.

Plot Points

Marianne Dashwood becomes ill, and everyone—especially her sister Elinor—is concerned. Her illness is described to be a kind of fever. Due to wanting to avoid risk of passing the infection to their new infant child, the Palmers leave their home at Cleveland. The doctor, Mr. Harris, is summoned, but Marianne’s condition seems to worsen, and Colonel Brandon is summoned to retrieve their mother, Mrs. Dashwood. Hearing a carriage approach, Elinor thinks she’s arrived, but is shocked to find Mr. Willoughby.

Mr. Willoughby explains that he cares a great deal about the welfare of Marianne, and that their relationship at Barton was cut short due to his needing to return to Mrs. Smith to settle the issue that had been previously told to Elinor by Colonel Brandon. Mr. Willoughby’s motive is that he wanted to marry a wealthy girl, a requirement that Miss Grey fit when they met in town. Miss Grey (then his new fiance) had seen the letters between Willoughby and Marianne.

Immediately after Willoughby exits, their mother arrives, relieved to find Marianne well. She explains that she had ridden with Colonel Brandon all the way, during which he had professed his love for Marianne. Mrs. Dashwood is now convinced of the appropriateness of such a match, and glad that it is so. Elinor feels a bit of pity for Mr. Willoughby.

Character Commentary

A lot of the focus of these chapters seems to be on Elinor, and there are some moments indeed in which she seems to be uncharacteristic. Even before Willoughby arrives, Austen says that “Never in her life had Elinor found it so difficult to be calm, as a that moment [when she heard what she thought was her mother’s carriage].” Then, Mr. Willoughby tells his story, to which she is sure to have many emotions brought to the forefront.

Elinor “looked at horror at the sight of him, obeyed the first impulse of her heart in turning instantly to quit the room…” Elinor is usually the one who is calm and in control, but here the utter surprise at seeing who she probably thought she’d never see again, is too much. And during their discourse, Willoughby proclaims that “if I can, to make you hate me one degree less than you do now” is his goal. Later, this seems to have been accomplished in excess. Elinor derides him at certain points in his explanation, but after her mother does arrive and proclaim a match set between Colonel Brandon and Marianne, she seems to feel sorry for him, even to wish him success: “… Elinor withdrew to think it all over in private, to wish success to her friend, and yet, in wishing it, to feel a pang for Willoughby.”

What is Austen getting at here? Is she finally providing the thematic break-up of the sense versus sensibility paradigm which has been the focus of the analysis of the Dashwood sisters?

Narratology Notes

The sickness of Marianne seems to offer an interesting opportunity for Austen to explore the interactions of the other characters, not only in the context of her condition, but as a seeming narrative sans Marianne. When she is absent, we see the dedication of Elinor as a sister, both in her attentiveness/concern and in her reaction to the untimely arrival of Mr. Willoughby. How convenient and interesting that Marianne was not around to witness the intended revelation of Willoughby’s actions.

Style Points

The re-entry of Mr. Willoughby into the plot was truly unexpected for me, but it was the punchline which drove the scene home. Almost like opening a door to find something unexpected, the experience of the reader (if he or she has not skipped ahead with the eyes, as is sometimes the temptation) mirrors that of Elinor. The final line—even the final word—of Chapter 43 shows Willoughby at the doorstep, not Mrs. Dashwood the concerned mother, as was hyped up in the previous few paragraphs. Austen has done this before (waiting until the final line to reveal) though I cannot remember exactly where and under that circumstances.

Looking Ahead

I wil attempt to finish the book with 2 more posts: 1 ranging a bulk of chapters and another covering the last chapter.

Sense and Sensibility 41-42: Leaving London

Posted January 29, 2009 by Joseph Woodard
Categories: Sense and Sensibility

Tags: , , , , ,

I have just read Sense and Sensibility Chapters 41-42.

Plot Points

It is decided that Elinor and Marianne Dashwood will finally exit London. Before leaving, Elinor (but not Marianne) feels compelled to visit her step-brother, John Dashwood, and his wife, Fanny. John is surprised (as were most) by the giving of an estate to Edward Ferrars by Colonel Brandon. Elinor and John discuss the appointment, Elinor characteristically matter-of-fact about her involvement, and John characteristically suspicious and curious about the motives behind it. It is revealed that Robert Ferrars will marry Miss Morton, and Robert expressed his dissatisfaction with the Edward-Lucy match.

The party arrives at the Palmer’s estate in Cleveland. Marianne really enjoys the landscape and grounds there, and seems to be happier—though more somber—back in the country. Mr. Palmer and Colonel Brandon join them shortly after.

Character Commentary

Elinor really tends to keep her composure in awkward or socially straining situations. As she talks with Robert Ferrars, she is inadvertently implicated as having been (or would have been) a bad match—or a not enough good one—for Edward. In speaking of his distaste of Lucy Steele marrying Edward, Robert says that she is “Just the kind of girl I should suppose likely to captivate poor Edward.” I’m still trying to decode what exactly happened between Edward and Elinor, but it sure seems like Elinor captivated—at least momentarily—the attention of Edward as well.

Themes and Threads

There is a paragraph or two in early Chapter 42 when Austen is explaining the effect of exiting London on the two Miss Dashwoods. Of course, Marianne is emotionally attached to the house, and has trouble leaving: “… Nor could she leave the place in which Willoughby remained busy in new engagements, and new schemes, in which she could have no share, without shedding many tears.” As I as a reader can relate, this place in which emotional events had occured holds a special, perhaps even masochistic reflex for Marianne Dashwood. She sufferred, yet she revels in her suffering.

And right after that, Elinor’s reaction to leaving London is given: “Elinor’s satisfaction at the moment of removal was more positive. She had no such object for her lingering thoughts to fix on, she left no creature behind from whom it would give her a moment’s regret to be divided for ever…” In now-classic Elinorean fashion, the heroin is stable in this changed (in contrast to her sister) environment.

But aren’t the two situations similar if not parallel? Marianne and Elinor suffered hints at future loss pre-London, entered London with certain expectations and hopes, experienced London in a full blitz of those hopes being dashed, and are leaving London emptyhanded. So my question, and one which probably depends on whether the reader takes Austen seriously here (did Elinor really have “no such object for her lingering thoughts to fix on”?), or is Elinor not as good of a emotion repressor as we thought?

I think that this comparison shows that either (1) Elinor and Marianne really do have different ways of dealing with pain, or that (2) Elinor and Marianne had differing experiences such that one genuinely must deal with it differently than the other. Perhaps there are some options I’m leaving out.


“‘There is no doubt of your doing exceedingly well—quite as well, or better, perhaps, all things considered. Has Colonel Brandon been with you lately.'”

Sense and Sensibility 37-40: Colonel Brandon’s “Proposal” of Sorts

Posted January 27, 2009 by Joseph Woodard
Categories: Sense and Sensibility

Tags: , , , , , , ,

My notes from Sense and Sensibility Chapters 37-40.

Plot Points

Chapter 37 sees full disclosure of the Elinor-Edward-Lucy situation as it is revealed that, while visiting the John Dashwoods and Mrs. Ferrars, Lucy Steele and Edward Ferrars are engaged. This causes anger not only for John and Fanny Dashwood, who are sympathetic to Elinor, but to Mrs. Ferrars, who had wanted Edward to marry Miss Morton. Elinor informs Marianne who, though very upset about this, is convinced that remaining amiable toward Edward and Lucy is the appropriate thing to do.

Elinor receives various accounts of the strength of Lucy and Edward’s relationship, including from Anne Steele, a letter from Lucy Steele, from Colonel Brandon, and finally from a visit by Edward himself.

The Palmers invite the Dashwood sisters on a short trip, which of course Marianne disapproves as it would have them near Somersetshire. Elinor convinces her that attending would be the proper thing to do. While watching them talking, Mrs. Jennings thinks that she has overheard a proposal of marriange to Elinor by Colonel Brandon. A sort of comedy of errors ensues, but is soon corrected as having been an invitation by Brandon to have Edward and Lucy—his would-be wife—live and take over a house that he owns. Later, Elinor conveys this offer to Edward in person, who is glad to have it.

Themes and Threads

Austen’s desire to create comparison in Sense and Sensibility is shown in the juxtaposition between the Miss Dashwoods and the Miss Steeles. While at the park, the younger Steele passes along some information to Elinor which is later revealed to have been gotten by rumor (or whatever you’d call listening at the door). This, of course, disgusts Elinor, who rebukes her counterpart and wishes to have not heard something that had not been honestly gained. The Dashwoods, by comparison, are more genteele and honest, perhaps more sensitive and sympathetic to each other.

In Context

Much is made by John Dashwood—as he visits Elinor Dashwood to discuss the revelation about Lucy and Edward—about the money that Edward is forfeiting by marrying Lucy instead of Miss Morton. Morton has more than Lucy, of course, and is the preferred candidate for Mrs. Ferrars, and she would bring him more wealth. And though John Dashwood is sympathetic to Elinor because she is her sister, he is also at least equally (if not more) saddened by the situation that Edward is in, to see the revenge of Mrs. Ferrars taken in the giving of her inheritance to his brother Robert:

“‘Can anything be more galling to the spirit of a man,’ continued John, ‘than to see his younger brother in possession of an estate which might have been his own? Poor Edward! I feel for him sincerely.'”

John Dashwood can certainly be said to relate to Edward in this case. He’s the possessor of an inheritance given in the custom of the day: the money and wealth is handed to the eldest male heir. So in Mr. Dashwood’s eyes, the tumult that has come about House Ferrars is troubling indeed.


“‘You have heard, I suppose,’ said he with great solemnity, as soon as he was seated, ‘of the very shocking discovery that took place under our roof yesterday.'”

“‘The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a-year himself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less.'”

Looking Ahead

The misunderstanding between Mrs. Jennings and Elinor was a farce, but there may be something to a potential Elinor-Brandon hook-up, if I am reading their ease of conversation correctly. Afterall, Jennings’s comment which obviated the misunderstanding, “Sure you do not mean to persuade me that the Colonel only marries you for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr Ferrars!” begs an important question even after there is no confusion for Mrs. Jennings: could Brandon have some other motives in the offering to Edward, in expressing the desire to please him or make his life easier (though he refutes that fact himself)?

Sense and Sensibility 33-36: Cue Edward // Cue Robert

Posted January 24, 2009 by Joseph Woodard
Categories: Sense and Sensibility

Tags: , , , , , ,

Picking up with Sense and Sensibility Chapters 33-36…

Plot Points

While out in the town shopping, Elinor Dashwood encounters her step-brother, John Dashwood, who has been in town for two days. John meets Mrs Jennings, the Middletons, and Colonel Brandon, each of which he judges as worthy of his (and his wife Fanny’s) attention due to their civility and wealth. He tells (teases?) Elinor with the idea of a match between herself and Colonel Brandon.

Fanny Dashwood, eager to entertain these new acquaintances, hosts a party at which the group will see Edward Ferrars and Mrs. Ferrars. This especially pleases Lucy Steele and makes Elinor nervous. Mrs. Ferrars is snobbish and offensive to both Lucy and Elinor. After making an insulting comment about Elinor’s painting, Marianne Dashwood defends her sister in an outburst, which in turn angered Mrs. Ferrars. Despite these events, Lucy feels that Mrs. Ferrars was “civil” to Elinor and kind to herself. During an awkward moment in which Lucy, Elinor, and Edward are alone, Marianne enters and questions Edward about his recent absences.

Later, Elinor meets Robert Ferrars, Edward’s brother.

Character Commentary

If there were a difference in opinion about propriety of behaviour after a loss such as occured with Mr. Willoughby, I wouldn’t be able to tell were it up to the close relation between Marianne and Elinor Dashwood. The two were close allthroughout, now that I recall. In the Mrs. Ferrars dinner party incident, Austen comments that Marianne’s outburst is noticed by Colonel Brandon “the affectionate heart which could not bear to see a sister slighted in the smallest point.” Yet, the difference between the two is still highlighted in this moment: Elinor is made awkward by the outburst (who wouldn’t feel a bit of unease at someone coming to their defense in this way?). Marianne’s next words are patronizing and ironic: “… don’t mind them. Don’t let them make you unhappy.” Later, in Marianne’s questioning and defense of Edward in the presence of Lucy and Elinor, she is presented as aloof and out of sync with the reality of Edward’s alleged love triangle.

In Chapter 33, Austen gives somewhat of an indictment of Fanny Dashwood. Fanny does not accompany her husband, John, on his initial visit to meet the Middletons and company. This is revealed to be her typical course of action when she is unsure if she will like a potential acquaintance. And John is perfectly in league with this system: “But now I can carry her a most satisfactory account…” Later, Fanny argues to have the Miss Steeles visit, blocking the visit of her own relatives. If there were an antagonist in this story, Fanny is it, if only for the fact that she dissaproves of and is dissaproved by the Miss Dashwoods.

Robert Ferrars makes his named appearance here. He is shown previously in a shop, nitpicking over the products in a shop. Later, Elinor speaks with Robert, and is generally unimpressed with him.

Narratology Notes

Every time there is an entrance, I instinctly think of the author’s motives in having the character appear at that moment. Such is the case in Chapter 35’s meeting between Lucy, Elinor, and Edward. Here are Lucy and Elinor discussing the previous event (Mrs. Ferrars, etc), when Edward—after 2 pages of such discussion, but in the span of a one-sentence paragraph—arrives unannounced. The scene is memorable because it presents the private awkwardness in Lucy and Elinor’s situation into the public: “they were not only all three together, but were together without the relief of any other person.”

Here, the tone of Austen’s narration seems to point to a new (or at least interesting) attitude of Elinor’s. “She would not allow the presence of Lucy…” and “She would not be frightened from paying him those attentions…” present her as confident. But the description of these events last for 6 paragraphs before Marianne’s entrance and disruptive “Dear Edward!” bit of dialogue—like an exploseive relief—punctures Austen’s narration of how the characters feel and how their privately held inhibitions affect them!

Looking Ahead

I expect that Robert Ferrars’s role will increase, but that Elinor will not be interested in him, as she is displeased with the rest of his family.

Sense and Sensibility 31-32: Remembering The Mulberry Tree and Yew Arbour

Posted January 19, 2009 by Joseph Woodard
Categories: Sense and Sensibility

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sense and Sensibility has Chapters 31-32!

Plot Points

Colonel Brandon visits the Miss Dashwoods where they are still staying in town. As usual, Marianne Dashwood is not excited about him, claiming sarcastically that “We are never safe from him.” In talking with Elinor Dashwood, Brandon conveys a story in which his friend Eliza was seduced by Mr. Willoughby, this being the reason (unknown at the time, however) that Brandon had previously exited Barton Park.

Upon hearing this, Marianne begins to be more sensitive and responsive to Colonel Brandon, though she is still sad about Willoughby’s overall actions. The other occupants of Mrs. Jennings presence (which now include the Palmers, Willingtons, and Miss Steeles, try to react to Marianne’s situation with sympathy, especially Sir John, who names Willoughby “Such a scoundrel of a fellow!”

Character Commentary

In Chapter 32, Elinor reports on Marianne’s changed demeanor: “though she [Elinor] saw with satisfaction the effect of it, in her no longer avoiding Colonel Brandon when he called, in her speaking to him, even voluntarily speaking, with a kind of compassionate respect, and though she saw her spirits less violently irritated than before; she did not see her less wretched.”

I believe this represents an evolution in Marianne as a character. It is not as if she has changed to a new attitude: she is still depressed, remember. However, there is a new understanding about her which I think goes beyond her simply thanking Brandon for presenting the information about Willoughby’s less-than-admirable behavior in the present and in the past. Perhaps she has matured a bit here?

Narratology Notes

I’ll turn once more to Austen’s narration of the story. Chapter 32 has Austen explaining Mrs. Dashwood’s reaction to the events (which have been communicated by mail as she is still at Barton Park), and Austen says plainly that to give her reaction “would be only to give a repetition of what her daughters had already felt and said…” So for the sake of perhaps not overly emphasizing the sadness of the entirety of the Dashwood family, Austen reserves the explanation of Mrs. Dashwood’s pain to her own words:

“Bad indeed must the nature of Marianne’s affliction be, when her mother could talk of fortitude! mortifying and humiliation must be the origin of those regrets, which she could wish her not to indulge!”

Later, Austen gives similar notes of exclamation, but this time they seem to be within the quotation marks of Sir John: “Such a scoundrel of a fellow! Such a deceitful dog! It was only the last time they met that he had offered him one of Folly’s puppies! and this was the end of it!”

These two passages, occuring in different narratologic contexts (one a commentary by the author; another occuring within the story itself, as a character’s words) offer an interesting look at Austen’s strategy. They are similar in every way: they involve a reprove of Willoughby’s actions; they each show the reactions of a characater; they use terms which speak of the extremes of human sense (“morifying,” “affliction,” “scroundrel,” “deceitful dog”; and they each use exclamation points!

Austen is certainly hitting home that the relevant characters are highly affected by the recent events, perhaps to form a change-inducing base for them (Marianne?). What the above passages tell me is that she will use various narration techniques to communicate this. I think there are other more subtle judgements which might be made, but I can’t think of them at the moment.

Language: Diction and Thesaur

Austen, in describing Colonel Brandon and Elinor, says that “The good understanding between the Colonel and Miss Dashwood seemed rather to declare that the honours of the mulberry-tree, the canal, and the yew arbour, would all be made over to her;” here, the implication is that a possible marriage between the Colonel and Marianne had grown dim. Austen italicizes “her” (and I hope that’s in the original) to emphasize that the next-closest wedding would more likely be between Elinor and Edward Ferrars.

This mentioning of the mulberry-tree, the canal, and the yew arbour is a look back toward a previous conversation between Mrs. Jennings’s and Elinor, in which Mrs. Jennings (extolling the good nature of Colonel Brandon) described his estate:

“Delaford is a nice place, I can tell you; exactly what I call a nice old-fashioned place, full of comforts and conveniences; quite shut in with great garden walls that are covered with the best fruit-trees in the country; and such a mulberry tree in one corner! … Then, there is a dovecote, some delightful stewponds, and a very pretty canal; … and, moreover, is is close to the church, and only a quarter of a mile from the turnpike-road, so ’tis never dull, for if you only go and sit up in an old yew arbour behind the house, you may see all the carriages that pass along. Oh! ’tis a nice place!”

This advertisement of the Colonel Brandon estate returns in the mind of Elinor at the later date of her seeing the possibility of marriage for him and her sister wanes. At first, I read the mentioning of these floral/garden images as a possible reference to youth: as these are put off, the youthfulness of all parties (especially Colonel Brandon) is decreased. After a brief, informal inquiry into the yew plant, I see that it is associated with churches (or in Colonel Brandon and Marianne’s context, marriage?), especially in England.

The Mulberry is “fast-growing when young” according to Wikipedia.


“Elinor began to find this impertinence too much for her temper; but she was saved the trouble of checking it, by Lucy’s sharp reprimand, whic now, as on many occasions, though it did not give much sweetness to the manners of one sister, was of advantage in governing those of the other.”