What is the major conflict in Sense and Sensibility?
I know that there are many different conflicts, but what is the major one? Is it the fact that Marianne is in love with Mr. Willoughby and is falling head over heels without thinking? After all, Mr. Willoughby ends up being a jerk and Marianne marries Mr. Brandon.
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The conflict with the most scope and influence inSense and Sensibilityis wealth vs. poverty, because of its effects on so many relationships in the novel. This conflict finds its way into the Dashwood family, forcing them to find cheaper lodging after their father's death.
The wealth vs. poverty conflict also affects Edward's choice in whom he can marry, risking the wrath of his family were he to marry too 'low.' Willoughby and Marianne's relationship is also subject to the poverty vs. wealth conflict, as his decision to abandon Marianne comes from his need to procure a large dowry (after having been cut off from his inheritance). The main story line of the novel revolves around the idea of the penniless Dashwood sisters attempting to balance love and a sensible marriage without the advantage of a dowry.
As the title of the novel indicates, the major conflict is between sense and sensibility. By sense, Jane Austen means reason, logic and self-control. By sensibility, she means a heightened sensitivity to emotions and feelings. Each of the title characters represents an excess of one of these poles. Elinor displays "sense," and it is through her eyes that most of the novel's action unfolds. She is the oldest of the three sisters, rational, controlled and sensible to a degree that can appear unfeeling and which shuts others out of her emotional life. Her younger sister, Marianne, on the other hand, represents an excess of sensibility, wearing her emotions on her sleeve, in need of greater restraint and self-control as she rushes headlong into assuming Willoughby will marry her, despite the fact that neither of them has much money. Austen explores the damage that both too much sense and too much sensibility can cause, but because the book is told from Elinor's point of view, its critique of sensibility is the stronger of the two: Marianne's emotionalism is often rude and hurtful, and in the end she almost kills herself from her excessive reactions to events. These two character studies illustrate the importance of finding a middle ground between effusiveness and restraint, but most pointedly show the folly of self-centered emotionalism, both to oneself and to the larger world.
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