Sense and Sensibility Questions and Answers
by Jane Austen

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How is "secrecy" one of the main themes in Sense and Sensibility

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Secrecy is a motif in Sense and Sensibility which we find in two instances that stand out the most: first, when Edward Ferrars hides his engagement to Lucy Steele. Second, when Willoughby hides the real reason why he has to go to London and leaves Marianne in Barton, after having led her to believe that they were something more than just friends. 

There are reasons why Edward hides his engagement from everybody: first, he may have come to realize that this engagement was too hasty and he now regrets it. Second, Lucy Steele is beneath Edward's social status and Edward's family is quite rich and snobby. Nevertheless, the secret, which is exposed by Lucy, herself, shocks Elinor in chapter 22:

(Elinor) It is strange, [...]that I should never have heard him even mention your name.

No; considering our situation, it was not strange. Our first care has been to keep the matter secret.-- You knew nothing of me, or my family, and, therefore, there could be no OCCASION for...

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