What literary devices does Jane Austen use in Sense and Sensibility?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Austen does not typically use figurative language, but rather prefers to be very direct in her writing style, Sense and Sensibility is one novel where she does employ a tiny bit of figurative language. The reason is that, although Austen wrote during the Romantic movement, she actually abhorred and protested against the movement. In fact, Sense and Sensibility is a blatant protest against romanticism. Romanticism valued intense, unrestrained emotions above reason. It also valued the individual above the greater good, or society. Hence, we see that, with its main argument to promote the use of reason and sense above unrestrained emotions, Sense and Sensibility is a protest against the movement. As a protest, Austen chose to parody things commonly found in romantic novels, such as figurative language.

One example of figurative language we see is personification. Marianne personifies Norland when saying goodbye to it the evening before they move to Barton Cottage. Just like many romantic poets, Marianne practically composes her own ode to the house, personifying it as a real person. We especially see the personification in the lines:

Dear, dear Norland! ... when shall I cease to regret you!--when learn to feel a home elsewhere--Oh! happy house, could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence perhaps I may view you no more! (Ch. 5)

We also see Austen using one little simile in the novel. A simile is a type of analogy in which two objects are compared using the words like or as. We see a simile used when Mrs. Jennings later relays the long story of Fanny Dashwood being told about Lucy Steele's secret engagement to Edward Ferrars. In this long account, Mrs. Jennings describes Fanny's rage by using a simile, saying that Fanny "scolded [Lucy] like any fury" (Ch. 37). In Greek mythology, the furies were "female spirits of justice and vengeance" ("Furies"). Their job was to punish people on earth and torture those already in the underworld. Hence, with this analogy, Mrs. Jennings is describing Fanny as being so angry with Lucy that Fanny is acting like a torturous spirit bent on correcting Lucy's wrongful engagement.

davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title itself could be construed as symbolic. Elinor is the sensible Dashwood sister in the story, whereas Marianne is given to sensibility, or emotions. In the long run, however, once Marianne comes to her senses, she will find a suitable husband for herself instead of lavishing her attentions on the likes of Mr. Willoughby. As well as her undivided attention, Marianne gives Willoughby a lock of her hair. The bestowal of something so intimate symbolizes the giving of Marianne's heart to her new beau.

There are also a number of metaphors in the book. A metaphor can be defined as a person, place, thing, or event that stands both for itself and for something beyond itself. In the scene where Mr. Willoughby assists Marianne after her accident, he's out hunting, and he's introduced to us as carrying a gun, with two pointers playing around him. Metaphorically speaking, Willoughby is hunting Marianne; she is his quarry. And just as a hunt's quarry ends up being put through a lot of pain and suffering, so too does poor Marianne suffer emotionally from her ill-advised involvement with the frightful Willoughby.

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Sense and Sensibility

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