Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I think this is one of the shortest of Austen’s novels. I made the mistake of reading this book right after Emma. So many of Jane Austen’s novels involve love triangles, confusion and mixed messages that I felt as if I was rereading Emma for the first 30 chapters of the book. The storyline did finally go on its own path, and became more interesting as the characters became more unique.
This is one book where female superiority reigned. It reigned over men, and over situations. All the women were powerful and in control at all times. Austen likes her heroines to be strong and unique and clever, with the exception of Fanny Price. I have developed an appreciation for Fanny as I read more of Austen’s works. As shy and timid as she is, she is a breath of fresh air, a change of pace from the usual characteristics Austen bestows on the female gender.
The thing that got to me, was how timid and hollow the men were in this novel. Usually there are one or two strong male characters that you use as a standard to judge all other men by. Not in this novel. The men were weak, easily manipulated and indecisive. The women made all the decisions through every step of the novel.
The Dashwoods are an interesting blend. Fanny Dashwood, sister in law to the Dashwood sisters Elinor and Marianne, is selfish, spoiled and manipulative. Every time her husband tries to do something nice for his sisters, she manages to talk him out of it. This dynamic is apparent with all the relationships in the novel, as the women control all the decisions of the men through some kind of flowery verbiage.
Elinor Dashwood is the most sensible of all the characters, leaving her sister to be the most emotional extrovert of all the characters. Other than Fanny Dashwood, there was no single villian in the form of an elder, rich and much doted upon respected woman. There is Mrs. Ferrars, Edward’s and Fanny’s mother, but she only appears once, and is only lighted talked about elsewhere in the novel.
Throughout the entire novel, Elinor and Marianne’s mother is nowhere to be found, as the daughters have left to go visit family friends for the duration of the novel. Its a testament to the girl’s intellect and emotional strength to be able to go through so many emotional rollar-coasters with only themselves for support. The bond between sisters is extremely potent in this novel, as they are in all of Austen’s works. Sisterhood is the high revered form of relationship, then followed with the bonds of family and lastly by the bonds of marriage.
I feel like my common complaint with Austen’s novels is that they are always about 10 chapters longer than necessary. The first half of the book lacks in dialog and is filled with very lengthy paragraphs of description interspersed with shorter paragraphs of description. This one, being only 50 chapters, is a quick read, and if you can get past the first half with mild interest in the characters, then your patience will be well rewarded.