Friday, April 4, 2008

Sense and Sensibility

In anticipation of Masterpiece’s adaptation on Sunday, I reread Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I hadn’t read the book in over ten years and had forgotten many of the details, but I liked it as much today as I did then.

Elinor and Marianne Dashwood each deal with the joys and heartaches of young love: Elinor is the more sedate of the two sisters, and Marianne the more passionate. Naturally, as an emotionless automaton, I always relate more with Elinor who loves quietly and endures well. In fact, I remember feeling absolutely exasperated with Marianne who spends weeks nursing her love and heartbreak. I wanted to shake her and tell her to get over it already.

This time, though, I could not judge Marianne as harshly. I may not share her zeal and passion for love, but she is, after all, only 17. And she clearly inherited her mother’s sensibilities. I had forgotten that Mrs. Dashwood is equally as emotional and fanciful as Marianne. No wonder Marianne carries on so passionately in both her happiness and distress.

Fortunately for my romantic heart, and Marianne’s, Austen novels always end well. She is a consistently smart and delightful writer, but that does not mean the novel is perfect.

Sense and Sensibility relies heavily on coincidence. Without ruining the novel for those who have not read it (but seriously, you should have read it by now), everyone seems to be magically associated with and related to everyone else. Colonel Brandon, who loves Marianne, just happens to have connections with Willoughby, who also loves Marianne. The Misses Steele, who disrupt Elinor’s love life, just happen to be related to the Dashwoods’ neighbor, Mrs. Jennings.

Despite the coincidences, and though I may not be as emotional as Marianne, I am still a sucker for love and romance; Sense and Sensibility fills that need perfectly.

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