Posted tagged ‘John Dashwood’

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 33-36: Cue Edward // Cue Robert

January 24, 2009

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: Getting Started

January 2, 2009

Chapter 1 of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility being not only the first chapter of said book but the first chapter I’ve read by said author, I’m paying special attention to it. I believe I’ve gathered enough information to get Sense kickstarted; ie, it is a generally satisfying first chapter. For my reading of this novel, I’m using the Wordsworth Classics edition, printed in paperback in 2000.

Plot Points

Here, Austen seems to be introducing me to the major characters, with an emphasis on the genealogy necessary to understand a potential main conflict for the novel. I feel that there is not a lot that happens; the story is given as a summary. Perhaps that is necessary, or even ultimately preferred to the alternative. We’ll see. In any event, Mr. John Dashwood is now in possession of the Dashwood inheritance, which includes the estate and monies which have been dedicated to his step-sisters. He, his wife, and young son have moved in with his step-mom and said step-sisters upon his father’s death.

Character Commentary

Now we get to the interesting pieces: the unique personalities created for this universe. The short-lived Mr. Henry Dashwood has one son and three daughters: Mr. John Dashwood, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. I can already sense what is coming with regard to the Elinor-versus-Marianne interplay. Elinor, by Austen’s own admission, has a “coolness of judgment”; she is level-headed “though only nineteen.” Marianne “could have no moderation,” and is like her mother, Mrs. Dashwood, in this regard: “They encouraged each other now in the violence of their affliction.” Of note, the elder owner of the Dashwood estate at Norland Park is not given a name. He is simply the “late owner of this estate” and an “old gentleman,” the uncle of Henry Dashwood.

In Context

Clearly, 19th century social constructs and norms are incited: the Dashwood (Norland?) estate as property; male primacy (and female dependence); division of family members due to lack of blood relation. Do “Mrs. Dashwood” and “Mrs. John Dashwood” have first names? Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret do; they’re not married, I suppose.

Language: Diction & Thesaur

The word “propriety” subtly stands out in two contexts. I think I can safely infer that the alleged meaning of “propriety” among these uses is the same—each is penned by the same author and within close proximity; however, the contexts of this judgmental (as Austen is surely judging the characters in its use) word offers valuable information about the relevant characters (and possible Austen herself [or her thought process, and thus social construct?]), I submit.

In describing Mr. John Dashwood: “but he was, in general, well respected; for he conducted himself with propriety in the discharge of his ordinary duties.” Austen goes on to say that Mrs. John Dashwood is less than amiable, and thus a detractor to his respect, and that “he was very young when he married, and very fond of his wife.” Mrs. John Dashwood is “more narrow-minded and selfish” and affects her husband’s respectability thusly. For John Dashwood, acting with “propriety” is a means to respect, in which the ordinary duties he succeeds, though he acts against it to secure a familial relationship.

In describing Mrs. [Henry] Dashwood (his step-mother) three paragraphs later, Austen points out that, upon threat of leaving the estate, she is successfully convinced to stay by Elinor: “… she would have quitted the house for ever, had not the entreaty of her eldest girl induced her first to reflect upon the propriety of going … and for their sakes avoid a breach with their brother.” Although she is angry and “did … despise her daughter-in-law,” she consciously makes a decision to preserve her position (and her daughters’) for the better. She acts toward propriety to secure a familial relationship.

I think that “propriety” can be substituted for “appropriateness” in both of these cases. But, Mr. John Dashwood acts appropriately to secure respect in normal affairs; his step-mother acts appropriately to maintain a familial relationship. Is the maintenance of relationships among the “ordinary duties” for her? Surely, Mrs. Henry Dashwood has a financial reason to do so, and apparently, Mr. John Dashwood has the luxury to break propriety in the getting of his wife. I can think of a few possibilities for this discrepancy; what are their differences? Age, sex, financial status, social status, marital status, committment/dependency requirements… In any (or all?) case(s), there’s a bit of a double standard apparent through the use of this choice of diction.


A few remarks by the narrator jump out at me. As a first-time reader (a tag I don’t intend to hide behind for long), I’m not sure if some of this is sarcasm, comedy, or just akin to when a college professor told me not to talk in such “high and verbose language.”

“He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold-hearted, and rather selfish, is to be ill-disposed…”

As referenced earlier: “They encouraged each other now in the violence of their affliction.”

Looking Ahead

Very little is said of Margaret, (“the other sister”!). Maybe she’ll come into play later, to help anchor (narratologically) some conflict between the other sisters. After reading the first chapter, my expectation is that the two (Elinor/Marianne) will do battle: the title implies as much.