Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

So, where are the dragons? No, seriously, where are my dragons?

(I really hope everyone has read my review for Tooth and Claw, which I wrote recently, and so have on my mind. Otherwise, that first sentence will seem rather opaque.)

I'm getting very close to having read all of Jane Austen's books. I think I just have Mansfield Park left, unless there's one I'm forgetting. It took me a long time to come to then, perhaps in stubborn response to my younger sisters' enthusiasm for her. I had a comic book adaptation of Pride and Prejudice when I was younger, but that was about it.

The question is, do I have anything new to say about Sense and Sensibility? I'm late chiming in on this, on the order of centuries. I don't feel like the themes created any particularly original thoughts in my head so I guess we'll go with impressions.

I'd seen the Emma Thompson movie version, but from disdainful commentary from someone I work with, I knew that the two weren't that similar. Indeed, I think I was most struck by how far Elinor goes to the side of sense. I knew Marianne was going to be over the top in her desire for true emotion, but Elinor is equally as extreme in her reactions the other way. I wanted to shake her, sometimes, and remind her that while propriety might be good, too much can eat you up inside! If things hadn't turned out the way they had, I could easily see her becoming an embittered old woman.

It is the story of two sisters who take extremely opposite views in how they should behave in society. Elinor is hung up on propriety, and while she's mostly shown to be correct in her choices, she does also use that as an excuse to repress her feelings from everyone, even those to whom she should go for solace. There are times that I worry about her marriage. Will she ever tell her husband if there's something wrong? Or would that be improper?

Marianne, on the flip side, thinks there is something immoral in hiding all emotions, ever. Disagreeing with her on matters of taste is also just plain wrong. She spurns a steady older love interest in favour of a dashing young man who knows exactly what to say to sweep her off her feet.

Elinor and Marianne's joint romantic problems - Marianne in being too attached to someone who doesn't return the emotion, and Elinor in being attached to someone who is not free to pursue her - form the basis of this novel. Marianne learns to be more like her sister, while Elinor's patient silence is rewarded.

Austen is amazingly good at creating characters you would like to strangle, if you could convince them to manifest themselves in front of you for just a minute. And there are those aplenty. The brother, his wife, a few other characters. I was surprised how much I ended up liking Mrs. Jennings, who is silly and jumps to conclusions, but in the end, is a true-hearted friend.

What else is there to say? Late as I came to her works, I always enjoy Jane Austen, although sometimes I want to strangle some of her characters. I'm pretty sure they're the characters I'm supposed to want to strangle, though, so I'm okay with that.

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