Elinor Represents the Sense and Marianne the Sensibility of the
Novel’s Title. Discuss.
“She had an excellent heart – her disposition was affectionate and her
feelings were strong, but she knew how to govern them…”
Right from the opening of the novel, the author, Jane Austen, makes it
clear that Elinor, the eldest of the Dashwood sisters, represents the
“Sense” in the title of the novel. Elinor endures some very strong
emotions and, in virtually every situation, unlike most heroines in
novels of that era, she is able to conceal or control them. For this
reason she appears to be a perfect role model for her sister Marianne,
the “Sensibility” of the novel’s title. Austen presents Marianne as
fresh, uninhibited and uncomplicated. We are told,
“Marianne’s abilities were, in many respects quite equal to Elinor’s…
She was generous amiable, interesting…”
But, “She was everything but prudent”.
From this we see that Marianne is ruled entirely by her heart.
However, during the coarse of the novel we see different sides to the
sisters’ personalities making the statement in the essay title only
partly true, as some incidents, most obviously the ironic ending,
reveal to us that some role-reversal can take place.
Elinor, commonly known throughout the novel as Miss Dashwood, was
created by Austen to contrast with the heroines in most novels of the
time, who were over-emotional characters, fainting at the slightest
hint of trouble. Austen makes her heroine a strong, understanding, and
cool figure “… which qualified her, though only nineteen to be the
counsellor of her mother”. Elinor takes over after her father dies so
she has to be strong for the benefit of her mother and sisters. From
this we can clearly see that she is the sense in the title.
Austen also depicts Elinor as trustworthy. When Lucy Steele tells
Elinor of her secret engagement with Edward Ferrars, a man whom Elinor
deeply loves, we are exposed to a number of things about Elinor’s
character. Firstly she is immediately trusted by a virtual stranger-
“I have no doubt in the world of your faithfully keeping this secret…”
Elinor also shows that she can govern even the strongest emotion – she
can not and will not allow anyone to see her devastation-
“… but Elinor did not feel very compassionate.” And she “…concealed an
emotion and distress beyond anything she had felt before. She was
mortified, shocked, confounded.”
This demonstrates how incredibly she is able to conceal emotion.
Elinor is the only sensible member of her family, regarding Marianne’s
meeting with Willoughby. The others become carried away and they
begin talking of marriage. Elinor is forced to warn her sisters on
many occasions not to act appropriately, or they would ruin her
“Elinor ventured to doubt the propriety of receiving a gift from a man
so little… known to her” And “Elinor’s happiness was not so great…”
None of this however, proves that Elinor...