Discuss the role that money and property play in Sense and Sensibility.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 It comes to no surprise that the role of money and property would take a center stage in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. After all, in a society where money is equivalent to social respectability and opportunity, having the means (and the ways to show them off) are the Regency England's equivalent as what would be a modern form of our "American Dream."

In addition to money representing a form of "dream of social success" , in Austen's male-oriented society, money and property also represent a form of "passport" that greatly benefits females. With a good dowry in place, a woman would be able to secure a husband in good financial standing. As a result the two families involved gain much benefit from solidifying their financial future through the union of two good fortunes.

This is not the first time we see the motifs of marriage, money, and property in Austen's works. Even Pride and Prejudice clearly shows how marriage, money, and property are an expected social transaction.

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

Hence, the desire to further solidify or create financial networks and securing the financial stability of a "blood line" are the underlying goals of a well-matched marriage. Therefore, the role of money is to procure a chance to anchor a family's financial future, and it also gives women, specifically, the chance to come to some property and social standing of their own.

The treatment of "property" is similar to that of money, except that "coming to property" entails that only males are allowed inherit property in Regency England. This means that, if the head of the household dies, like in the case of Mr. Dashwood senior, the women have no choice but to allow the next male kin within the bloodline to take over their property. As we see, the Dashwood women become practically disinfranchised within their own estate, and had to move out basically because of the fact that Dashwood's son from his first marriage is entailed to Norland.

Additionally, "coming to property" is considered a huge deal to those who wish to flaunt that they have options as to where to spend "the season". If you are fashionable, you would be able to spend the London season (when Parliament is in session) at a fancy city apartment. Once the season is over, those "who are who's" would continue their entertaining and merry-making away in their country estates. You can see why Mrs. Dashwood (Fanny) is so enchanted with the idea of acquiring Norland. She would be one of those lucky ladies that can boast to having a choice of residences.

Therefore, money and properties are staples of social distinction among the characters of Sense and Sensibility. Those who lack either, like the Dashwoods, or the Miss Steele's, would have a harder time climbing up the social ladder that begins with a good marriage. Hence, this shows that marriage is a tool of negotiation that helps to speed the process of acquiring money and property at the same time.

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Sense and Sensibility

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