Of all the ways an author has of telling us about a character, how do we learn about the characters in Sense and Sensibility?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Sense and Sensibility is narrated by a third person omniscient narrator, but under the point of view of Elinor and how she would visualize the events in the story.

That being said, it is interesting to note how Austen has a penchant to always favor Elinor as her representative for "sense", while putting down Marianne and her tendency for being overly sensible.

Therefore, Austen is not impartial nor completely objective when it comes to describing her characters and their actions. There is indeed a partiality that tends to gear towards the character that mostly resembles Austen herself. In this case, it would be Elinor.

An example of this is the way in which Austen describes the sisters at the beginning of the novel. Notice how Marianne's youth and bubbly behavior are definitely brought up, only to be "toned down" by a more sophisticated and calibrated description of Elinor- even though Elinor is described first! That is how much more emphasis Austen placed on the character of Elinor.

  • Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart; her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong: but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn, and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.

    Marianne's abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor's. She was sensible and clever; but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.

  • Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister's sensibility; but by Mrs. Dashwood it was valued and cherished.

In this example it is evident that Austen already has an issue with the character of Marianne ,who shines for its bright charisma, but is easily shut down and opaqued due to its lack of common sense.

Therefore, from the very beginning of the novel, we can actually see who is who: Those with sense will overcome all sensibilities.

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