First Published in 1811
Published by Penguin Classics in 1995
Meet the Dashwood sisters. Elinor, the eldest of all three daughters, is considerate, reserved and very sensible, while Marianne, the second daughter of the Dashwoods, carries a set of characteristics completely opposite of those of her older sister. She is wildly romantic, outspoken and emotional. In the pursuit of love, neither sister was successful at finding happiness by solely relying on their natural instinct, be it Elinor’s sensible reasoning or Marianne’s uninhibited passion. Marianne falls head-over-heels in love with deceitful Willoughby who, in the end, confesses that he’s never had the intention of returning her affection. At the same time, Elinor finds out that the man that she has become attached to, Edward Ferrars, was already engaged to someone else.
Early on in the story, Jane Austen established the parallel progression of both sisters’ love lives. The obvious contrast between Marianne’s and Elinor’s different ways of dealing with the pain caused by every turn of event allows readers to identify and compare the mental capacity and behaviors produced by each disposition – sense and sensibility. Austen has chosen Elinor as the person who delivers most of the important scenes in the story. It is not hard to detect that Austen favors the cool-headed and thoughtful Elinor over the romantic Marianne who is still too young and stubborn to compromise her emotions outburst for the consideration for others and circumstances. The main contrast between Elinor and Marianne codes of conduct lies in Marianne’s romantic insistence that desires be spoken, whereas Elinor requires that they be silenced. When Marianne learns that Elinor has silently suffered just as much as she has, if not more, she is ashamed by comparison with the virtues of her sister Elinor. But is this to say that sense is a superior form of disposition than sensibility?
If we define Elinor and Marianne’s temperament with our modern-day psychology jargons, Elinor would certainly be labeled as someone with a high EQ, whereas Marrianne a not so high one. The ability of reserving one’s emotions and thoughts and directing them to an appropriate outlet at an appropriate time is a derivate action of delayed gratification which is the most important sign for high EQ. Elinor possesses exactly this ability. It is unfortunate that women in Jane Austen’s time could only bestow this power in tasks that are no more impressive than the task of searching for a good husband. However, when Elinor puts her high emotional quotient to use in the matter of love, she fails miserably. Her cautiousness and emphasis on form have delayed her from getting to the truth that would have made her suffer much less by lessening her attachment to Edward Ferrars.
While reading texts from the beginning part of the book where the sisters are excitedly speculating of the verity of affection from their prospective lovers, I was fondly reminded of the scenes from movie “He is just not that into you”. Throughout time, women have waited by either their door or their phone for their lovers to call. It is undeniable that women have disposed to be emotional, and they have been in the passive and submissive position during courtship for as long as time. What Jane Austen is trying to tell us with Sense and Sensibility is that neither being highly sensible and logical nor being crazily romantic and emotional guarantees the success of love. Sometimes, women have to love with their heart, just as much as with their head.