Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Elinor Dashwood, a young woman representing the “sense” of the title. She is much attracted to Edward Ferrars, Mrs. John Dashwood’s brother, and believes him to be attracted to her. His seeming indifference puzzles her until she learns from Lucy Steele that the two are engaged but cannot marry because of Mrs. Ferrars’ opposition. Elinor arranges for a living for Edward when he shall have taken Holy Orders so that he and Lucy can be married. Elinor is led to believe that the marriage has taken place but soon learns that Lucy has jilted Edward in favor of his brother Robert, because Edward has been disinherited. Edward is forgiven by his mother, and he and Elinor are married.
Marianne Dashwood, Elinor’s younger sister, representing the “sensibility” of the title. She is emotional and impulsive, with highly romantic ideas of love and marriage. Beloved by Colonel Brandon, she considers him too old for her and falls in love with John Willoughby, an attractive young man. When the sisters visit London, Willoughby ignores Marianne, and this rejection makes her emotionally ill. While stopping at a country estate on her way home, she becomes physically ill as well. Willoughby, having heard of the illness, comes to confess to Elinor that his family, incensed at his seduction of Colonel Brandon’s ward, had cut off his allowance, and, having no money, he had been compelled to marry...
(The entire section is 661 words.)
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Colonel Brandon is the affluent suitor and eventual husband of Marianne Dashwood. Although reserved and not passionate, he has a very good heart and helps out those in distress. His charitable behavior toward Eliza Williams and Edward Ferrars makes him the unnoticed knight in shining armor. Upon first meeting, and throughout most of the book, Marianne considers Brandon much too old (thirty-five) and sensible. He has clearly already had his heart broken, and the romantic Marianne believes that everyone is fated to only love once; she prefers the young, handsome, and spontaneous Willoughby, who eventually jilts her. Proving that patience is a virtue, Brandon remains on the perimeter until Marianne gets over being jilted. Brandon's character and temperament conform to Austen's and Elinor's idea of sense rather than sensibility.
(The entire section is 129 words.)
Miss Marianne Dashwood
Marianne is the middle Dashwood sister. She is considered the "catch" of the Dashwood family by those who gather at Sir Middleton's parties. Marianne personifies the sensibility in the title of the book. Marianne is a girl whose "sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation." She is all passion and romantic notions; this is typified in her playing the piano. While living out her passions, she is totally self-absorbed and unconcerned with the poor impression that she often makes on others. It is often up to her sister, Elinor, to smooth over her behavior. Marianne believes that it is only in the nature of the human spirit to love once. Her obsession with Willoughby, a man who jilts her, as her one true love, leads to a long period of despondency in which she must gradually reassess her values and philosophy. She ends up marrying Colonel Brandon, a man of whom she once spoke derisively. Nevertheless, she is content because she comes to respect the wisdom of sense over sensibility. The transformation of Marianne's values and behavior is a crucial theme in the book.
(The entire section is 184 words.)
Mr. John Willoughby
John Willoughby is the dashing and handsome romantic interest of Marianne Dashwood. He conforms exactly to her idea of love and, at twenty-five, is much younger than Colonel Brandon. He appears out of nowhere to rescue her from distress and then proceeds to sweep her off her feet. He has impassioned views on art that conform with Marianne's exactly. However, he is also a callous womanizer who left one woman in a dire predicament and who immediately begins to see other women after separating from Marianne. He must also rely on a good marriage to procure his fortune. Willoughby jilts Marianne in a most cruel manner with a callous letter, leaving her to wallow in the misery of rejection for much of the book. He remains rather a villain until he confesses to Elinor that he resents having married for money and was forced to write the letter at his future wife's dictation.
(The entire section is 153 words.)
Miss Elinor Dashwood
Elinor Dashwood is the eldest daughter of Mrs. Dashwood. At nineteen years of age, she is quite mature. She personifies the sense in the title of the work; she is practical and concerned with diplomacy. She values coolness of judgment more highly than rash surrender to emotional whims. In spite of the fact that she has strong feelings and artistic talent (she draws), a sense of prudence governs her actions. She puts the concerns and well-being of others above her own. She sees Edward Ferrars, a man who comports himself much like she does, as a future spouse. When this match briefly fails, she copes privately, never letting on to others how much she is wounded. She is the glue that holds the family together during times of stress; she often counsels her mother and sisters to behave with restraint. Throughout the book, Austen holds up Elinor as a paragon of virtue.
Mrs. Fanny Dashwood
Fanny Dashwood is the wife of John Dashwood. She is manipulative and greedy and convinces her husband that he need not concern himself with the financial comfort of his half sisters. Her arguments in chapter 2 show that she is both shrewd and selfish. Her thoughts, much like her husband's, revolve around the family wealth and social standing. Mrs. Henry Dashwood and her daughters dislike Fanny. When Fanny installs herself as mistress at Norland, Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters accept an offer to leave for Barton. Austen never...
(The entire section is 1168 words.)