How is marriage described in Sense and Sensibility?
Many of Jane Austen's works tackle the issues of love and marriage in different ways, and Sense and Sensibility is no different. The two main protagonists, Elinor and Marianne, are two of three Dashwood sisters, and the novel follows their attempt to marry for love rather than money and status.
At the time that Sense and Sensibility was written, marriage was considered a necessity for women to be provided for and had the ability to raise or lower a family's social standing. Because of this, marriage was often treated by a family as something that everyone could weigh in on. Oftentimes, parents were more involved in deciding who their children would marry than the individuals themselves. Austen depicts this approach to marriage through the characters of the book. When Elinor meets her brother John's brother-in-law Edward, they have feelings for each other. John's wife, Fanny, is against this union and makes Elinor's mother feel as though Elinor is seeking Edward's money. Elinor learns that Edward is secretly engaged to Lucy, and when Fanny learns of this, Edward loses his inheritance to his brother. Lucy, who is marrying for security, marries Edward's brother instead, which allows Elinor and Edward to marry for love.
Marianne, on the other hand, falls in love with John Willoughby, and even though they aren't officially engaged, she isn't afraid to show him that she loves him. Unfortunately, he turns out to be a not-so-nice guy who also happens to be in debt, and he marries another woman for her money. Marianne ultimately falls in love with Col. Brandon, whom she didn't see in a romantic way at first. Rather, she fell in love with him as she got to know him and ultimately married for love.
Austen uses each individual character's love story to address the different concepts of marriage and to convey her ultimate message: that marriage for love is really the best way to go.
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