The sense of the novel's title refers to the rational, sensible nature of Elinor, which Austen holds up as exemplary. Elinor suffers through various trials and tribulations, particularly after being jilted by Edward. However, she never abandons herself to her emotions and never lets her own disappointments affect her behavior toward others. In fact, she strives to keep her heartbreak to herself for the sake of social propriety and for the sake of her own family's ease. She always remains sensitive to others' feelings, even if she does not particularly like them, and strives to behave with social graciousness. She keeps the secret of Lucy's engagement to Edward to herself. En route to London, while Marianne indulges her obsession with Willoughby and ignores her hostess, Elinor holds polite conversations with Mrs. Jennings. Austen, in making Elinor the heroine of the book, shows that the sensitive approach to social interactions is superior to a selfish abandon to emotions.
Sensibility, or Passion, and Romanticism
The sensibility in the novel's title can be read as passion and refers to Marianne's emotional, romantic nature. Sense and Sensibility is largely seen as a criticism of romanticism, of which freedom of passion and emotion is an important tenet. The romantic sensibility of Marianne is portrayed by Austen as selfish and is gradually unmasked as weak and unrealistic when compared to Elinor's diplomatic and...
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