Theme Of Marriage In Sense And Sensibility By Jane Austen

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In this short essay, I will discuss the topic of marriage as an economic factor in the early nineteenth century based on Jane Austen´s novel “Sense and Sensibility”, which consists of a complex debate and terms like morality, economics, aesthetics, and psychology.

The novel Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811 after Jane Austen did her first draft in writing Elinor and Marianne. Jane Austen came from an upper-class family and was known for her remarkable skills and talents in creating complex and energetic characters. The novel Sense and Sensibility begins with the story of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, who were members of the upper-class society before being forced into poverty through the sudden death of their father Mr. Dashwood. After the death of Mr. Dashwood, all the fortune of the Dashwoods family inherited to his son John. This inheritance left the Dashwood women penniless, and they were forced to leave their house in Norland Park. Marianne and Elinor Dashwood pursued their fate according to their outlook and belief. They encounter their fate in an unhappy love story.

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During the eighteenth century, women in Great Britain were very disadvantaged; there was no access to high education, and the property rights of women depended upon their marital status. Once a woman was married, her property rights were governed by English common law, which states that their husbands legally absorb to take or acquire the property of his wife. Moreover, it was prohibited for married women to make wills or dispose of any of her property without her husband´s agreement. The separation between husband and wife, whether issued by any one of them, usually left the woman in poverty, due to the law, which offered them no rights to marital property. Thus, social behaviors were regulated at that time by patriarchal principles based on the possession of property where women were subordinated to the male in the family and in society in general. Whereas patriarchal laws were protecting the interests of male heirs and preserving their privileges of ownership, women were prevented from the freedom of making their own choices and forced into marriage which was the only possible way into secure financial income.

In her novel Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen pointed out her rejection of marriage for money rather than love; moreover, she was against the idea of women depending on man to obtain financial relief. Austen utilized the concept of marriage in her novels to inform her audience about the real-life problems of economy and marriage. Although Austen was never married, she was fully aware of the subject marriage, social concerns as well as the disadvantages of remaining single. “Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor – which is one very strong argument in favor of matrimony”.

The novel depicts the characters as obsessive people who are aware of their possessions, relationships and power within the social system. Austen shows that 'patriarchal control of women depended on women being denied the right to earn or even inherit their own money'. John Dashwood was aware of the government law and he was sure that the law will protect him. Therefore, he took all the inheritance and left his sisters without any finical relief. The Dashwood women were in an unfavorable position, which pushed and encouraged them to look at that entrapment as their motive in courtship and barter their beautiful outlook for financial security through marriage. John abruptly advised his sister Elinor, “with some little exercise of a woman´s conquest she can fix Colonel Brandon in spite of himself and her own small fortune”. John Dashwood was also thinking about his other sister Marianne and was wondering if she will marry a man who owns or inherit more than five or six hundred a year. “I question whether Marianne now will marry a man worth more than five or six hundred a year at the utmost”. These are incidents from the novel, in which Austen illustrates, that John Dashwood mirrors not only his views of economic benefits of marriage but also the typical views of the society he was living in, where his sisters would face a severer form of dehumanization.

The two characters John Willoughby and Eduard Ferrars had been under the control of the system as well. Willoughby was an attractive but dishonest young man, who won Marianne Dashwood´s heart but abandoned her later in favor of the wealthy Miss Sophia Grey. At the same time, Eduard´s mother Mrs. Ferrars is threatening her son to withhold some of his income and disinherit him unless he marries a woman from his mother´s choice. Furthermore, one of Austen’s strongest female characters, Mrs. Jennings was interfering with a couple matching, trying to match people taking into account economic issues. “Mrs. Jennings was a widow, with an ample jointure. She had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and she had now, therefore, nothing to do but marry all the rest of the world”. Next to those characters who conceived marriage in economic terms, Jane Austen showed that marriage for love is still alive and possible when Mrs. Ferrars´ son Eduard preferred love over money and thus decided to marry Elinor.

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Theme Of Marriage In Sense And Sensibility By Jane Austen. (2021, September 02). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from
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