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Essay on Masks of Society in 'Sense and Sensibility'

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Marriage as an essential for women to gain a favorable social standing is a common Austen theme. In Jane Austen’s era women were expected to settle in their households, they were very dependent on their partner’s income and financial status. Unlike any other woman, Jane Austen was well-raised and had a comprehensive education. Through her passion for reading and writing, she was able to reveal the ugly truths of society in 18th and 19th-century Europe.

Set in the late eighteenth century, Sense and Sensibility is a classic novel by English writer Jane Austen, which achieved great reader response and made her famous. The novel depicts the dichotomy between logic and emotion as typified by two sisters with vastly different temperaments, one of whom loves wisely and the other passionately. Jane Austen brought to life the spirit of being young, in love, and living in the eighteenth century through the life experiences shared by the sisters.

Elinor is well-known for being intellectual and sensible. She can manage her emotions well and attend to practical matters. This makes her the perfect embodiment of “Sense” for the 'possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counselor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart; - her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong, but she knew how to govern them' (Sense and Sensibility, p. 3).

Marianne, the younger sister at seventeen, on the other hand, is the opposite. She represents a woman who rarely thought about what is practical and someone who would probably break the rules set by society.

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In the novel, the Dashwood sisters are left with much less of money after their father’s death, as the inheritance goes to their older brother with minimal support due to the interference of Fanny, their sister-in-law. During these times, wealth and social standing were the most important things in life. Marriage plays a significant role in the lives of women because it secured their financial status. Nonetheless, while people in society marry for reasons other than love, Elinor and Marianne surely had a different stand on marriage. During their stay at Norland, Elinor meets Fanny’s brother, Edward Ferrars whom she falls in love with. Edward may be often described as someone who wasn’t attractive and dashing, he later proves in the story that he is a man with a strong sense of honor and compassion. Elinor sees him differently. He just had one huge dilemma that he’s been hiding from Elinor, he was secretly engaged to Lucy Steele for 4 years. He loves Elinor but he believes that his behavior isn’t fair to Lucy. Even when her mother, Mrs. Ferrars, asked him to drop the engagement with Lucy, he didn’t abandon her. But later on, when Mrs. Ferrars disinherited him, Lucy changed her mind and released him from the engagement. Just then when he confessed his feelings to Elinor.

Marianne, again on the other hand, falls in love with the man of her dreams- handsome, poetry-loving, musical, and most importantly, comes from a good family. Not knowing that she is being blinded by love, makes it hard to see the reality of a man capable of affection but not commitment. Also, it was revealed that Willoughby was engaged to a wealthy woman named Miss Grey. When Marianne learned about this, she suffered emotional anguish and became seriously ill. But through this, she was reminded to thank the people around her and appreciate the man who has been there for her in good times and in bad: Colonel Brandon. Marianne was infatuated with Willoughby, She was dependent on her senses. When she fell for Colonel Brandon, she realized that true love extends beyond the senses. In the end, both dispositions intertwined, Elinor was finally comfortable in expressing her feelings towards Edward while Marianne is more romantic and emotional, and she winds up with a practical romance.

An Oscar award for best writing, Emma Thompson’s 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility starring Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and Emma Thompson was given recognition by critics and viewers for its outstanding screenplay. Despite the historical gap, Thompson was able to interpret the movie while preserving the essence of the novel and its moral beliefs. There were some differences in terms of character, plot, setting, and techniques used by Austen and Thompson. The film focuses more on the lives of the Dashwood sisters while the novel revolves around their love life and interests. Another difference is that the character of Hugh Grant, Edward Ferrars, was depicted as a very handsome man while in fact in the book he wasn’t really attractive. Also, the characters were more developed in the movie, Marianne is 16 and Elinor is 19 in the novel, but in the film, Marianne is 19 and Elinor is 27, this was done in order to suit the modern audience.

The book forms a basis for the movie giving it a chance to see it visually and have the audience connect to the story on a different level. Even with changes and some parts lacking, the movie has its own charm in retelling the story with the goal to show what the readers imagined while reading the book. In the end, both have their own appeal to their audience giving one purpose¬¬-- live entertainment. Nevertheless, Both interpretations played a significant role in providing the audience and readers with a more comprehensible perspective.

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Essay on Masks of Society in ‘Sense and Sensibility’. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from
“Essay on Masks of Society in ‘Sense and Sensibility’.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
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