Friday, July 30, 2010

Finishing up Sense & Sensibility

Confession: I could read Sense & Sensibility over and over and over again. I really could. For some reason, this story pulls me in and keeps me entertained more than Jane's other books. It's not that it's my favorite (I still don't know which is my favorite. It's been Emma for a while). I just love spending time with these characters and the story they tell. It has the right mixture of sadness and joy, without leaving me with that bittersweet hollow feeling at the end. It helps that my copy (Penguin Classic's Hardbound Collection) is absolutely delicious: light blue and pink, with flowers on the cover that almost bring to mind the "art nouveau" style.


There are lots of good lessons to be learned in Sense & Sensibility. I was just rereading Elenatintil's wonderful review of the Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet Sense & Sensibility film. She writes, "Marianne and Elinor are not just dealing with the question of whether to marry for love or money, but with the question of "how does one conduct oneself when one is in love?" And that, believe it or not, is a question that every young person deals with. Do they show themselves richly enamored (as Marianne does) or remain guarded and aloof (like Elinor)? The times may be differant now, but even though our society embraces the openness of Marianne, we also see Marianne's heartbreak and embarassment repeating itself over and over again in our young people."

I don't even know what else to say. That's just so wonderfully put. :)

I'm almost finished with my re-read. Edward and Elinor are finally together. Everything is explained, everything is happy. I think Jane Austen gave Elinor the happiest possible ending. Instead of letting Edward come directly to her, tell her he couldn't think what he had ever seen in that Lucy Steele, and would Elinor pretty please marry him and make him the happiest man on earth, Jane put Elinor through a few pages of misery first and writes one of the most heartbreaking paragraphs I have ever read:

"Elinor now found the difference between the expectation of an unpleasant event, however certain the mind may be told to consider it, and certainty itself. She now found, that in spite of herself, she had always admitted a hope, while Edward remained single, that something would occur to prevent his marrying Lucy; that some resolution of his own, some mediation of friends, or some more eligible opportunity of establishment for the lady, would arise to assist the happiness of all. But he was now married, and she condemned her heart for the lurking flattery, which so much heightened the pain of the intelligence."

Even when Elinor hears that "Mr. Ferrars is married," she is calm. Amusingly, Marianne is the one who goes into hysterics.

Then, lo and behold, all misunderstandings are cleared away with the arrival of Edward. He is not married, and...

"Elinor could sit it no longer. She 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."

That sudden sharp turn from misery to joy always gets me. :)

Another thing I love about this book is the warm, happy family atmosphere. Aside from Marianne and Elinor's obvious closeness, Mrs. Dashwood is a loving mother who takes good care of her children. Marianne clearly inherited her sense of drama from her mother, but Mrs. Dashwood is still a sensible woman who raised her daughters to be intelligent, virtuous and sweet young ladies. Unlike some other Austen mothers I can think of, whose children only turned out all right by some miracle of fate. The warmth of the Dashwood women's family life is very appealing, and it's so absent from Austen's other books. Think about it: In Pride & Prejudice, Jane and Lizzy are the only sane members of their family. Lizzy can't hold a conversation with her mother without giving up in exasperation at the latter's foolishness. In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price's parents give her up to rich relatives quite readily, and when Fanny goes back to visit them years later, she is disappointed with their vulgar manners and habits. Her relationship with the aforementioned rich relatives is no better. One aunt takes advantage of her submissive disposition and the other constantly picks on her. Her girl cousins look down on her and only her cousin Edmund pays her any proper attention or kindness. In Persuasion, Anne does not have ANYone of sense to talk to in her family. Her father and sister are conceited jerks and her younger sister is just silly. Emma never knew her mother and appears to take care of her aging father instead of the other way around. Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey spends so much of the novel away from her parents that an accurate picture of her relationship with her family can never be drawn. Sense & Sensibility is the only one of Jane's novels that portrays the heroine's family in a truly positive light.

Now I am off to read the last few pages of this delightful book. :) Next on my Jane Austen reading list: Northanger Abbey.

1 comment:

  1. I love this book so much. And I keep coming back to the new "S&S" as perhaps my favorite of Austen film adaptations... One thing I appreciate about both film adaptations of the novel is that they do play up the "warm family" atmosphere. I especially like the newer Mrs. Dashwood, as she seems such a sensible level-headed woman.

    Also, I'm honored to have been quoted in such a complimentary fashion!