Posted tagged ‘Edward Ferrars’

Sense and Sensibility 49-50: New Confidences

February 10, 2009

I have just finished the final chapters of Sense and Sensibility. This post covers my entry for those chapters, not my final comments on the novel, the methods and scope for which I have yet to determine.

Plot Points

Edward Ferrars has arrived at Barton Park, and he asks Elinor to marry him. Elinor accepts the proposal, and the two have frank discussions about their experiences and the various players in their history, particularly Robert and Lucy. Edward seeks and is given his mother’s approval, and they move to Delaford, the offer of the home there still in place from Colonel Brandon.

Shortly after, Marianne marries Colonel Brandon, having been taken in by his character and knowledge of his fondness of her, and the two Dashwood sisters end up living in close proximity at Delaford. All parties are happy.

Character Commentary

Edward Ferrars obviously takes a big part in the resolution of the story. After his proposal to Elinor and their final confidence in each other, Austen says that “His heart was now open to Elinor — all its weaknesses, all its errors confessed, and his first boyish attachment to Lucy treated with all the philosophic dignity of twenty-four.” He admits that his actions—including his engagement with Lucy—were “foolish” and that one reason he found Lucy attractive was because he had known few women, and was thus unable to see her “defects.”

Later, there is some reproachment of Edward by Elinor, and “He could only plead an ignorance of his own heart, and a mistaken confidence in the force of his engagement.” Later, Austen writes, in speaking of Edward and Colonel Brandon’s newly reinforced friendship, that “Their resemblance in good principles and good sense, in disposition and manner of thinking, would probably have been sufficient to unite them in friendship, without any other attraction…” So do Elinor and Brandon see different Edwards? Not that Elinor is offended beyond marrying him, but there seem to be inconsistent views of Edward given by the combination of these two characters and the narrator.

Themes and Threads

Austen speaks of Marianne in the final chapter, when explaining her marriage to Colonel Brandon: “She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favorite maxims.” And, instead of”falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion,” she becomes a wife and patroness. “… her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.”

This marks an ending to the Marianne character as a driver of the thematic conflict in Sense and Sensibility. In a way, Elinor is shown to have won out. But is this really the case? Does the marriage of Marianne and Colonel Brandon result in a de facto victory for sense over sensibility? After all, the two sides were in a way switched, more thoroughly in the case of Marianne. (Remember that at some points late in the story, Elinor was behaving quite sensitively). I think this will require more analysis later on.

In Context

With the end of the Dashwood saga at hand, it is important that each of these young women be taken care of. To Austen’s initial readership, surely the best possible outcome for these heroines is a life of marriage. For Marianne, the reward is especially given: she is “patroness of a village” due to the wealth of her husband. From a purely economic standpoint, the Miss Dashwoods ended up in favorable hands, it seems.

Looking Ahead

I will be posting some final comments over the next few weeks as I parse through all of my posts on Sense and Sensibility to try to make sense of it all. I’ll also let you know about the next steps in Reading Jane Austen.


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

February 8, 2009

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.

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

January 27, 2009

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 21-23: The Miss Steeles; Explicating Elinor

January 15, 2009

I have recently read through Chapters 21-23 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

The Palmers exit, and Marianne and Elinor Dashwood are left with the Middletons. They are introduced to the Steeles, two girls names Lucy and Anne, with whom they socialize via the Middletons. It is in this setting that they learn that Lucy is acquainted with Edward Ferrars. Currious about the connection, Elinor inquires. Yet it is by the confidence of Lucy that Elinor learns—to her great horror—that Lucy has been engaged to Edward for some time. Elinor is very distressed, but is successful in suppressing her emotions regarding this revelation. At the close of Chapter 23, Elinor is hoping to learn more about their relationship.

Character Commentary

Two new characters make their appearnce in these chapters: Lucy and Anne Steele—the Miss Steeles. And they sure do shake things up for the lives of the Miss Dashwoods, particularly Elinor. Lucy is described by Sir John as “monstrous pretty, and so good-humoured and agreeable!” She seeks to please those around her, especially Lady Middleton, by way of superficially coddling her children, especially Annamaria. “What a sweet woman Lady Middleton is,” exclaims Lucy. Later, Lucy uses these sentiments to escape the card table, claiming that it would displease the little girl if she didn’t finish the basket meant for her.

The Dashwoods generally view the Steeles as superficial. Elinor perceives that Lucy’s “powers had received no aid from education, she was ignorant and iliterate, and her deficiency of all mental improvement, her want of information in the most common particulars, could not be concealed…”

Continued is Elinor’s characterization as someone who suppresses emotion for the better, or at least what she perceived to be the best action. Note Austen’s saying of her that “upon Elinor … the whole task of telling lies when politeness required it always fell.” She suppresses her emotion, perhaps ultimately to her advantage if she wants to learn more about the situation surrounding the apparent love triangle.

Style Points

I was generally pleased with the way Austen moved from the dialogue-heavy chapter 22 (in which Elinor learns of the probable unfaithfulness of Edward) to the explication of Chapter 23 (in which thoughts of Elinor are given in detail). The opening sentence of Chapter 23 give the tone of the mix between intense thought and subdued action of which Elinor has become familiar: “However small Elinor’s general dependence on Lucy’s veracity might be, it was impossible for her on serious reflection to suspect it in the present case, where no temptation could be answerable to the folly of inventing a falsehood of such a description.”

Elinor goes through all the possibilities: did Edward lie to her? did he really care about Lucy?: “Had he feigned a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement to Lucy an engagement of the heart?” These lines and others do well, I think, to draw the reader in to the thoughts of a character. I have questioned this ‘open’ method before, both in the words of Austen here and in those of George Eliot at The Modern Dash, but here it is successful—partly after its coming off of the heels of the previous conversation between Elinor and Lucy, which I feel is muddy (though necessary) due to the descriptions of opposing interests. After that intense conversation (and revelation about Edward), we need a time of reflection.

By the end of the Chapter, Elinor has made an effort to seek more information: “And as she could now have nothing more painful to hear on the subject than had already been told, she did not mistrust her own ability of going through a repetition of particulars with composure.” Here, we see what I think Austen has intended all along. Sure, Elinor is sensible, but let’s see how she does in a real crisis. Putting one’s characters to the test—sending them clueless into the crucible—is a component of great fiction, in my opinion.


“The young ladies went, and Lady Middleton was happily preserved from the frightful solitude which had threatened her.”

“… she had … suffered the extinction of all her dearest hopes…”

Looking Ahead

What more will Elinor find about about Lucy and Edward? Their relationship still seems a bit vague, but Elinor seems determined—though careful—to dig more. Also, is there is a confrontation coming? Edward’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Sense and Sensibility 17-20: The Miss Dashwoods Equalized

January 12, 2009

Here are my notes for Chapters 17-22 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

Before leaving the Dashwoods at Barton House, Edward Ferrars and the Miss Dashwoods discuss wealth, personality, and Edward’s general lack of purpose. Elinor is sad when he leaves, but disguises her disapointment. The Palmers visit the Dashwoods (via the Middletons), and then the Dashwoods visit the Palmers.

Character Commentary

Edward Ferrars gives off a depressing aura, even in his sarcastic poking fun of the differences between himself and Marianne Dashwood. In talking of his professional prospects, he comments “But unfortunately my own nicety and the nicety of my friends, have made me what I am, a idle, helpless being.” He carried a lock of Elinor’s hair, but is unable to shake the alleged influence of his mother on their future, and leaves the Dashwoods with the same unshakeable hesitance that Colonel Brandon and Mr. Willoughby did: “He had no pleasure at Norland; he detested being in town; but either to Norland or London he must go.”

Elinor Dashwood is still convinced (and reassured?) that the reason for Edward’s issues is his mother. She wonders when Mrs. Ferrars would allow “her son [to] be at liberty to be happy.” Elinor seeks to get through Edward’s leaving by remaining busy, not making a show of her emotions: the exact opposite of Marianne’s reaction to Willoughby’s departure.

Mr. Palmer and Mrs. (Charlotte) Palmer appear to be an odd match. She is lively and enthusiastic; he is reserved, serious, and borderline rude. Note Mrs. Dashwood’s reaction: “‘Mr Palmer does not hear me,’ [Charlotte] said, laughing. ‘He never does, sometimes. It is so rediculous!’ / This was quite a new idea to Mrs Dashwood; she had never been used to find wit in the inattention of anyone, and could not help looking with surprise at them both.” My reading of Charlotte is that she is not only perky, but that she uses that perk to cover up the otherwise unpleasant inattentiveness of her husband.

I am interested in Austen’s use of “the opposite” to describe characters. Perhaps if the reader is familiar with a character, then saying that another is “quite unlike her in every respect”, as is done in the case of Mrs. Palmer to Mrs. Dashwood, is an effective tool.

Themes and Threads

We have seen several characters disappoint the Miss Dashwoods thus far: Mr. Willoughby and Edward Ferrars chief among them. And in these cirucumstances, Austen’s comparison of the two sisters continues. Elinor’s reaction to Edward Ferrars contrasts greatly with that of her younger sister’s: “But as it was her determination to subdue it, and to prevent herself from appearing to suffer more than what all her family suffered on his going away, she did not adopt the method so judiciously employed by Marianne… Their means were as different as their objects, and equally suited to the advancement of each.”

Here, the comparison is explicitly stated by the narrator, and is continued as the reaction of Marianne is explained: “Such behaviour as this, so exactly the reverse or her own, appeared no more meritorious to Marianne than her own had seemed faulty to her.” The two sisters are quite resolved in their opinions of how best to deal with such an event as a lover leaving town. One factor which might be taken in to account is the level to which love is possessed in each case; however, I’m not ready to say that Elinor has less of a feeling for Edward than Marianne has of Willoughby. Marianne’s view of her sister is not completely cold, though, as she sees her sister’s suppression of sorrow and affections to be a “mortifying conviction.”


“‘Elinor, for shame!’ said Marianne; ‘money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competenc, it can afford no real satisfaction, as far as mere self is concerned.'”

“She came hallooing to the window, ‘How do you do, my dear?'”

Looking Ahead

The Dashwoods seem to be restricting their social capacity in rejecting the inviations for parties and visits by the Palmers and Middletons. Now that both have had a boyfriend-exit event, is there something different between them or about their situation?

Sense and Sensibility 13-16: Curricles and Concealments

January 9, 2009

Here are some notes from Chapters 13-16 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

Despite a planned outing to Whitwell, Colonel Brandon excuses himself, much to the disliking of the group, and leaves the scene. Marianne Dashwood and Mr. Willoughby continue their enthusiasms toward each other, even to the extent of sneaking off to Allenham, much to the surprise of Elinor Dashwood. However, disappointment strikes as Willoughby leaves town in haste, declining an offer by the Dashwoods to stay. Elinor and her mother discuss why he might have left, and Marianne is deeply distressed. As Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are walking one day, they meet Edward Ferrar as he is walking up the road.

Character Commentary

I’d like to touch upon the attitude of Mrs. Dashwood in these chapters. When Willoughby leaves Barton, Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood speculate about the situation. “Something more than what he owned to us must have happened,” Elinor says. Her mother agrees but is somewhat optimistic about what may be the cause of Willoughby’s unusually unexplained exit. In thinking that the cause of the exit rests on Mrs. Smith, Willoughby’s aunt, Mrs. Dashwood seems to be hopeful of an eventual marriage, and even argues that Marianne and Willoughby are most likely already engaged, while Elinor is skeptical of making such a quick assumption.

Mrs. Dashwood: “Concealing it from us! my dear child, do you accuse Willoughby and Marianne of concealment? This is strange indeed, when your eyes have been reproaching them every day for incautiousness.” Is knowledge of character really the reason behing Mrs. Dashwood’s feelings? Or is she simply hopeful that the efforts that have gone into the courtship and eventual marriage between Marianne and Willoughby keeping her spirits up? Afterall, she is fully aware of the reality of the situation, yet almost forcefully optimistic, as Austen notes: “In about half an hour her mother returned, and though her eyes were red, her countenance was not uncheerful.”

The exit of both Colonel Brandon and Mr. Willoughby offer a fun—if simple—view of Marianne Dashwood’s feelings. Marianne has “no doubt of it” that Colonel Brandon left not at being called, but through his own forged (literally and in spirit) actions. Mr. Willoughby, on the other hand, elicits extreme emotional problems for her.

Here is Edward Ferrars at last, but where has he been?


“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”

“It may be proper to conceal their engagement (if they are engaged) from Mrs. Smith … But this is no excuse for their concealing it from us.” – Elinor Dashwood.

Looking Ahead

By the time I finish the story, will Chapter 14 have been that calm before the storm? The time before which a significant transformational event occured in for Marianne? To quote Willoughby there: “Tell me that not only your house will remain the same, but that I shall ever find you and yours as unchanged as your dwelling…”

Sense and Sensibility 2-4: Arguing the “Minuter Propensities,” Changing Perceptions

January 3, 2009

This is my log for Chapters 2-4 of Sense and Sensibility. From now on, my posts will certainly cover multiple chapters at a time.

Plot Points

Continuing from the background given in Chapter 1, the Mrs. Dashwoods are now living with the Mr. John Dashwoods at the Norland estate, having not yet found a reasonable alternative. Mrs. John Dashwood convinces her husband that the amount of money given to his step-mother and step-sisters be diminished to almost nothing. Edward Ferrars enters the story, providing Elinor, Marianne, and Mrs. Dashwood something to discuss and adding to the complexity of the relationships between all parties. After antagonizing comments by Fanny Dashwood, the Mrs. Dashwoods finally decide move out of Norland after receiving a reasonable offer which leaves even Elinor with “no right of objection.”

Character Commentary

The face of Mrs. John Dashwood (now given the first name of Fanny) is clearly shown in Chapter 1; she is manipulative. In a seemingly calculated argument, she convinces her husband to nullify his father’s wishes that the Mrs. Dashwoods be looked after financially, at one point even saying that they would be in a position to transfer wealth to him. Who is the manipulated, then? Mr. John Dashwood. In this scenario he does not resemble the person who, in the opening chapter, was said to conduct his duties with “propriety.” Add to this her using the Elinor-Edward relationship as leverage against Mrs. Dashwood, and Fanny’s position as the antagonist seems clear.

Edward Ferrars is the brother of Fanny Dashwood, and there is something of an intimate relationship developing between him and Elinor. Austen describes him as “not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing.” Elinor and Marianne discuss in detail the merits of his affection toward Elinor; is affection enough when it is not coupled with ideal artistic qualities and social ranking? I’m not sure if we’ve yet seen any true view of Edward in these early chapters, as what I can describe about him is only through hearsay on the part of the sisters’ wavering opinions, or the broad-stroke descriptions given by the narrator. Even then, “handsome” is an expression of opinion, hardly an objective description of one’s features, in my opinion.

Rhetorical question: could Austen have (effectively) achieved describing Edward’s less-than-ideal appearance by saying that he “had a wart on his face” or “didn’t bother to brush his hair or teeth”? Saying he is “not handsome” is effective, but only so by default. I’m not sure if the narrator is being fair to Edward; in other words, I view this way of describing a character to be a bit tacky. See my Out of Context lead below for a continuation of this discussion.

Themes and Threads

Austen seems to be driving home the existence of two distinct worldviews in the sensibilities of the characters. For certain unfortunate souls, their temperament can know no moderation: Mrs. Dashwood: ‘I can feel no sentiment of approbation inferior to love.” Elinor: “You may esteem him.” Mrs. Dashwood: “I have never yet known what it wa to separate esteem and love.” Marianne similarly gives in to the extremes of expectation in her critique of Edward: “… to hear him read with so little sensibility.”

These chapters show a change in perception on the part of several characters: Mr. John Dashwood and the fate of the inheritance previously dedicated to his step-sisters; Mrs. Dashwood’s view of Edward upon Elinor’s remark that he is simply “unlike Fanny”; a dissolving of Marianne’s troubled view of Edward upon discussion and argument with Elinor; doubt developing in even in Elinor’s mind about the possible future with Edward; and Mrs. Dashwood’s change in mood about staying at Norland, to finally move away. It seems that a deadly brew is being mixed in the lives of these characters. In which of the above is there change caused by an actionable event, or even conjecture based on an action? John Dashwood is connived by his wife, the elder Mrs. Dashwood makes judgements based on the opinion of someone else—as does Marianne—both in the case of their view of the potential for Edward in their lives, and Elinor has a moment of doubt despite her effective argument in the opposite direction (granted, a victory against the easily convinced Marianne). At least when the decision is made to leave Norland, it comes as a result of the offer to enter Barton Cottage.

I think this passage adequately describes the change of the end of those months, and the mood at the time: “To quit the neighborhood of Norland was no longer an evil; it was an object of desire; it was a blessing in comparison of the misery of continuing her daughter-in-law’s guest: and to remove for ever from that beloved place would be less painful than to inhabit or visit it while such a woman was her mistress.”

Out of Context

How do writers describe physical traits today? First of all, I think an important de facto rule about fiction needs to be understood. Unfortunately, because stories are not meant (or preferred?) to be a one-time event—authors, filmmakers, and artists want their work to proliferate—the story is attached to market forces. That is, a story must be marketable, and characters are an essential part of a story. Therefore, characters must be marketable. I perceive that in every way, the characters around me are created to appeal to my senses: they are smart, funny, storied with interesting pasts, and most of all, beautiful. Surely, if the story weren’t fiction, ie, a reflection of real life, all of the characters contained therein wouldn’t be among (all) of these traits?

And so, in reading a story given by words, where the visual sense is reliant upon description by words, the author (or narrator) must tread the line between making his/her character appealing (which throws a proverbial wrench into the allegedly/ideally independent process of creating art) and maintaining the aesthetic of words as art. I perceive that, at least in this case, a default solution is sometimes put into practice by authors. For example—and keep in mind that this is anecdotal and by no means a solid survey—I seem to have read many books (usually they are related to the science fiction genre) in which the narrator achieves character ideal by using a catch phrase such as, “she had a slender body” or “he had a square jaw”; and every time I read this phrase and other like it, I think, “just say it”: “imagine Kate Moss in The Matrix, you know, the one with the tight-fitting latex. Yeah, that’s what my character looks like.”

At least Austen doesn’t insult my imagination in this way; she just goes straight in with “not handsome”; incredible!


“… but in the meanwhile, till one of these superior blessings could be attained, it would have quieted her ambitions to see him driving a barouche. But Edward had no turn for great men or barouches.”

“I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own.” – Marianne

Looking Ahead

The Mrs. Dashwoods are moving out; the girls will have to adjust to the new lifestyle, and Elinor will have to adjust to physical and relational divides between herself and Edward.