Sense and Sensibility Questions and Answers
by Jane Austen

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In Sense and Sensibility, gossip seems to be one of the main themes throughout the book. There seem to be many different types of gossip going on in the book. What do the many instances of gossip in Sense and Sensibility reveal about Austen; why does she include all this gossip in her book?

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Jane Austen’s intent in the novel Sense and Sensibility with her inclusion of the accounts of gossip and social drivel is to mock and decry it. Austen was famous for her distaste for typical stories, particularly the way in which women were portrayed.

This novel in particular was meant to poke fun at the niceties of society that will constantly gossip behind your back. As the title suggests, one of the biggest themes is the idea of sensibility and prudence, not only in relationships and marriages, but in acquaintances and socialization. It was a common trope in both society and literature of the time to assume that all women did when they spent time together was chatter and gossip endlessly, and this stereotype has persisted to this day.

By choosing to include this dialogue, she mocks it by playing it up. Austen intended to make this story read very similarly to other cheap novels of the time that would drone at length about torrid relationships, unsavory social relations, and other pieces of gossip. Beyond that, however, she juxtaposes these conversations against the actual actions taken by the characters. The women in the novel eventually make very prudent marital arrangements and choose the sensible actions, showing their true wisdom and intuition. Often times women in those days were viewed as flighty or emotional, but the prudence of their decisions throughout the novel shows how scrutinizing and shrewd they could be, especially when it came to selecting a suitable spouse. While they often engaged in frivolous chatter, they eventually proved themselves to be intelligent and decisive.

Austen frequently embeds deeper symbolism into her works, typically prodding at the social status quo without overtly mocking it. Her gentle goading in this piece is a reminder that even in a time when women were viewed as weak, unintelligent, and prone to gossip, they were in reality some of the more shrewd and capable individuals of their time.

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