Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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What are narrative structural elements in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, particularly in Chapters 11 and 12?

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There are three narrative structural elements that we find in Jane Austen's Chapter 11 and 12 of Sense and Sensibility. The first is one we find all throughout the book and that is Austen's chosen narration style of third-person limited . The narrator is omniscient, seeing and knowing all, and therefore able to philosophize about all, however, it is Elinor that the narration focuses on. We witness all of Elinor's scenes and private conversations; we do not witness Marianne's. In Chapter 11, the narration focuses on a conversation between Elinor and Colonel Brandon that expresses one of the novel's...

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Chapters 11 and 12 give the reader detailed information about the two sisters: Marianne and Elinor. As the title suggests, Marianne represents sensibility whereas Elinor is a model of good sense. The following passages elucidates this.

"Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished that it were less openly shown; and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne." Chapter 11

“This was the season of happiness to Marianne. Her heart was devoted to Willoughby; and the fond attachment to Norland, which she brought with her from Sussex, was more likely to be softened than she had thought it possible before by the charms, which his society bestowed on her present home." Chapter 11

Jane Austen wrote Sense and Sensibility, which was published in 1811, when the Romantic Movement was starting to influence writers and poets. Sense and Sensibility may be considered a Neoclassical novel; however Austen uses Romantic devices to depict some of her characters. Chapters 11 and 12 are a good example of this: Marianne’s nature is passionate, which is a typical feature of the romantic heroine, whereas Elinor is reasonable and fastidious, strengthening the static image of the classic character. In Neoclassical works, emotions are controlled and sense is widely preferred to sensibility. However, with the birth of Romanticism, individuality and imagination are prioritising. In this way, showing one’s passions is more suitable and acceptable. Austen goes further by placing the two sisters in two opposite poles: Marianne is the sensitive sister, and her actions show impulsiveness and spontaneousness. Elinor is the “sense” since she has self-control and she often hides her feelings.

Furthermore, it is important to emphasize the importance of the epistolary novel. Before Austen, writers included letters in their novels, usually between the protagonist and his/her family members or friends in order to expound plot, description, and characterization. Before achieving “Sense and Sensibility”, Austen wrote “Elinor and Marianne” in an epistolary mode. Analysing Austen’s texts closely, we may find vestiges of the epistolary novel. Consequently, the five first paragraphs in Chapter 11 could have been a letter written by Elinor with the purpose of telling her first impressions about the Dashwoods’s new acquaintances and the infatuation Marianne has for Willoughby.

Finally, Austen was the first writer to use the free indirect discourse. In chapter 12, we have an example of free indirect discourse:

As to an additional servant, the expense would be a trifle; mamma she was sure would never object to it; and any horse would do for him; he might always get one at the Park; as to a stable, the merest shed would be sufficient.

This passage reveals Marianne’s enthusiasm about the horse Willoughby has just given her in spite of Eleanor’s reticence about the subject.

Finally, we have to consider that some words used in Austen’s time are no longer used or have another meaning nowadays. An example of this is the word illaudable, which may mean despicable.

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