Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are quite different from one another, with respect to their emotions and how they show their feelings. Both characters feel intense loss over their father's death, but Marianne displays her emotions, while Elinor is much more reserved. Elinor can control her feelings. Marianne does not want...
Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are quite different from one another, with respect to their emotions and how they show their feelings. Both characters feel intense loss over their father's death, but Marianne displays her emotions, while Elinor is much more reserved. Elinor can control her feelings. Marianne does not want to. For instance, when the sharpness of her heartache eases, Marianne attempts to rekindle her grief so that it is as acute as when their father first died.
Marianne is given to “violent” emotions, which causes Elinor concern. Elinor sees
“the excess of her sister's sensibility …The agony of grief which overpowered [Marianne and their mother] at first, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, and was created again and again.”
Although Elinor is also “deeply afflicted” by her grief, “she could struggle, she could exert herself.” Elinor is able to counsel her mother following the death of their father. Austen says,
“Elinor … possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother.”
Elinor's "feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern them.” This is key to understanding the difference between the two sisters. Elinor feels things deeply but she knows how to control and often mask her feelings. Conversely, Marianne is in love with romance and the idea of masking or controlling her feelings is anathema to her.
When Colonel Brandon says of Marianne, “there is something so amiable in the prejudices of a young mind, that one is sorry to see them give way to the reception of more general opinions," Elinor disagrees. She believes that Marianne's intense emotions and the way she embraces romance are too extreme. Marianne is the sensibility to Elinor’s sense. The author specifically says, “Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister's sensibility.”
Austen says that
Marianne's abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor's. She was sensible and clever,
but unlike Elinor, who can control her feelings, Marianne’s “sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation.”
Austen describes Marianne as
everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.
The reader can surmise that the contrast between Marianne and Elinor, with respect to their emotions, is also “strikingly great.”
The way the two sisters feel the pain of lost love is similar to the way they feel the pain of their father's death. Marianne becomes sick with emotions following Willoughby's betrayal, while Elinor puts on a brave face after she learns that Edward is engaged.