How does their arrival at Barton Cottage influence the lives of the Miss Dashwoods and the plot, as seen in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility?
Having to transition from Norland Park to Barton Cottage is a huge shock and a huge transition for the Dashwoods. Their manner at Norland was so grand and beautiful as to "engage the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance" (Ch. 1). However, the estate was left to Mr. Henry Dashwood's son, with nothing for his wife and daughters, except five hundred pounds a year. Therefore, upon Henry Dashwood's death, the girls are forced to leave Norland and accept a cottage to rent from another family member.
The cottage is certainly small in comparison to Norland manner, with only two sitting rooms, four bedrooms, and two garrets. It is comfortable and well built; however, the girls were disappointing because it looks nothing like what a cottage should look like. As Austen describes:
The building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered in honeysuckles. (Ch. 6)
The mere size of the house and the fact that they no longer live in Norland is enough to bring tears to their eyes, but they are determined to be happy. Hence, one way that their arrival at Barton Cottage influences their lives is that they must learn to accept a significant change. They are now poor when before they were very rich.
In addition, their arrival at Barton Cottage helps move the plot forward because it is here that they meet some other central characters, especially Colonel Brandon and Willoughby, but also other characters like Mrs. Jennings, Sir John Middleton, and Lucy Steele.
The Dashwood women's removal to Barton Cottage significantly changes the company they keep as well as their prospects for marriage. Obviously, the family move means that Elinor will no longer see—with any regularity—her sister-in-law's brother Edward Ferrars, with whom she seems to have fallen very much in love. Their circumstances dramatically reduced, they can only afford to keep three servants in their employ, and they simply do not have the room to entertain much company. Through the Middletons, the ladies meet Colonel Brandon as well as Mrs. Jennings. Colonel Brandon is everything gentlemanly and good, while Mrs. Jennings is a relatively harmless gossip who meddles incessantly. They also meet Willoughby, the man who eventually abandons Marianne for Miss Grey and her fifty thousand pounds. After their falling out from society—caused by their reduced circumstances and fortune—most people think it unlikely that any respectable gentlemen will propose to them. (Thankfully, these people are wrong.)