Sense and Sensibility

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Mrs. Dashwood Character Analysis

The mother of Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. Mrs. Dashwood is a kind, caring mother, who looks out for her daughters and tries to see them into happy, comfortable lives with good husbands, but is not as scheming as Mrs. Ferrars and is generally more interested in her daughters’ happiness than in their financial fortunes.

Mrs. Dashwood Quotes in Sense and Sensibility

The Sense and Sensibility quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Dashwood or refer to Mrs. Dashwood. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Sense and Sensibility published in 2003.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counselor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart; - her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn, and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.

Related Characters: Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor Dashwood
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

By the end of the first chapter, we already know quite a bit about several of the main characters in the novel. The narrator introduces us to these characters in a way that emphasizes their consistent, stable characters. We will not necessarily see such traits change over the course of the book: characters like Elinor are assumed to be already fully formed (and this, perhaps, is why less time is spent describing Margaret, the sister who, as a child, does not yet have a fully formed character). What can change, instead, is their realization concerning what others are really like.

Here, Elinor is shown to be the very definition of "sense" as alluded to in the title. While Mrs. Dashwood is flighty and scattered, Elinor is wiser than her age. Still, the narrator is quick to point out that Elinor's good sense does not mean that she is cold or unfeeling. Right from the start, we are meant to understand that having sense does not mean that one has no feelings, but rather that one knows how to manage them, preventing feelings from dictating how one lives.

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Chapter 3 Quotes

Some mothers might have encouraged the intimacy from motives of interest, for Edward Ferrars was the eldest son of a man who had died very rich; and some might have repressed it from motives of prudence, for, except a trifling sum, the whole of his fortune depended on the will of his mother. But Mrs. Dashwood was alike uninfluenced by either consideration. It was enough for her that he appeared to be amiable, that he loved her daughter, and that Elinor returned the partiality. It was contrary to every doctrine of hers that difference of fortune should keep any couple asunder who were attracted by resemblance of disposition.

Related Characters: Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor Dashwood, Edward Ferrars
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

A potential romantic interest is developing between Elinor and Edward Ferrars. Far more than in modern times, such a relationship in this milieu was not to be private and limited to the two people involved: instead, it was to be quickly wrapped up in broader economic and social questions involving the entire family and even other members of the community. Here we learn that Edward Ferrars could potentially be rich, but his wealth will depend on his mother's wishes. Austen often describes marriage as a kind of strategic game, and here the strategy of a mother would depend on her appetite for risk.

Mrs. Dashwood, however, is described as lacking any sense of strategy in marrying off her daughters, instead preferring that love guide the way. In a way, Mrs. Dashwood is thus shown in a more positive light than other mothers who care about nothing other than climbing the social ladder. But this novel is also skeptical that love and "resemblance of disposition" alone is enough in arranging a marriage, which, after all, would be the main way by which a woman in particular could ensure stability at this time and place. Mrs. Dashwood's lack of prudence means that Elinor will be on her own in attempting to play the game of class-based social relationships.

His eyes want all that spirit, that fire, which at once announce virtue and intelligence. And besides all this, I am afraid, mamma, he has no real taste. Music seems scarcely to attract him, and though he admires Elinor’s drawings very much, it is not the admiration of a person who can understand their worth.

Related Characters: Marianne Dashwood (speaker), Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor Dashwood, Edward Ferrars
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

While Mrs. Dashwood is perfectly happy with the relationship between Elinor and Edward Ferrars, Marianne does not feel the same way. In this passage, she judges Edward according to her own hierarchy of taste and merit, and finds him deeply wanting. Marianne highly values knowledge of art and music, which she finds both inherently beautiful as well as telling in terms of the ability of a person to feel deeply and to appreciate beauty around him or her. For Marianne, though, it is not even enough for someone to be able to admire artistic ability in another, if he cannot espouse it himself.

The way Marianne describes Edward is nonetheless vague, from the "spirit" or "fire" that she would like to see in his eyes to the "taste" that she associates with music and art. Marianne clearly holds an ideal of sensibility, but it is not entirely clear what Edward would need to do to prove that he is capable of true feeling, apart from the relatively superficial signs that she mentions to her mother.

Chapter 4 Quotes

You know enough of him to do justice to his solid worth. But of his minuter propensities as you call them you have from peculiar circumstances been kept more ignorant than myself. He and I have been at times thrown a good deal together, while you have been engrossed on the most affectionate principle by my mother. I have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure. . . . At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or, at least, almost so.

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood (speaker), Mrs. Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood, Edward Ferrars
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Elinor's relationship with Edward Ferrars has progressed to such a point that she can reasonably expect that he will extend an offer of marriage to her. However, at this point nothing is yet certain or official. As she talks with Marianne about the pros and cons of marrying Edward, Elinor is wary of plunging headlong into the possibility of a new life with him. She prefers to remain at a slight distance from the situation, carefully considering why she believes she would be making the right decision in marrying him.

Elinor's balanced, cool judgments will of course be shocking to Marianne, but they also strike a typical reader, versed in the expectations of romance in love and marriage, as surprising in the apparent lack of feeling. It seems that Elinor is not at all implicated in the life of the man she describes, instead attempting to cast impartial judgment on his abilities and worth. However, we have been told from the beginning of the book that just because Elinor is able to remain dispassionate does not mean that she lacks feeling, but instead that she is able to direct and manage it. This passage is almost a caricature of "sense" as a character trait, and yet we are meant not to recoil from Elinor's judgments but to seek to understand her embrace of sense over feeling.

Chapter 48 Quotes

Elinor could sit it no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease. Edward, who had till then looked any where, rather than at her, saw her hurry away, and perhaps saw—or even heard, her emotion; for immediately afterwards he fell into a reverie, which no remarks, no inquiries, no affectionate address of Mrs. Dashwood could penetrate, and at last, without saying a word, quitted the room, and walked out towards the village—leaving the others in the greatest astonishment and perplexity on a change in his situation, so wonderful and so sudden;—a perplexity which they had no means of lessening but by their own conjectures.

Related Characters: Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor Dashwood, Edward Ferrars
Page Number: 335
Explanation and Analysis:

Edward has just shared with the Dashwood family that he has not married Lucy: instead, it is his brother Robert who is now married to her. As soon as she hears this news, Elinor - for the first time in the novel - cannot restrain her own joy. We have recently seen Marianne adopt some of her sister's sense, and now the opposite is taking place, as Elinor seems to have been affected by her sister's sensibility. Of course, some things never change: Elinor still finds it necessary to hide her tears from the company of others, even as it is most likely obvious to Edward how she has reacted.

Just as Marianne's experiences have shown her that sense can be a positive trait, Elinor's emotional outpouring now proves itself to be advantageous, as it seems to show Edward how Elinor truly feels about him, without her having to loudly proclaim her love for him. As the book draws to a close, the polar nodes of sense and sensibility are shown to be less opposites than alternative choices in a certain situation, choices that can be balanced between each other in deciding how to react.

Chapter 49 Quotes

One question after this only remained undecided, between them, one difficulty only was to be overcome. They were brought together by mutual affection, with the warmest approbation of their real friends; their intimate knowledge of each other seemed to make their happiness certain—and they only wanted something to live upon. Edward had two thousand pounds, and Elinor one, which, with Delaford living, was all that they could call their own; for it was impossible that Mrs. Dashwood should advance anything; and they were neither of them quite enough in love to think that three hundred and fifty pounds a-year would supply them with the comforts of life.

Related Characters: Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor Dashwood, Edward Ferrars
Page Number: 343
Explanation and Analysis:

Edward knows that he cannot expect much of an income from his mother, since she is most likely still angry at him about his former engagement to Lucy. As readers, we are meant to look down upon Lucy's openly social-climbing behavior - and yet the novel does not embrace love and romance as wholeheartedly as that tone might suggest. After all, while the narrator has sought to portray the poles of sense and sensibility as relatively balanced options, the scales have always been tilted towards the side of sense.

In a society in which marriage is not just a declaration of love but a contract that can be enormously significant in terms of social and economic status and mobility, it is not something to be treated lightly, according to the novel. Nor is an emphasis on practical matters like income to be considered anti-romantic: indeed, love and mutual affection is only possible, the novel argues, when there is a strong base of stability undergirding it. Financial stability, then, is valued even as full-throated greed is looked down upon, and love is able to coexist with an interest in material comforts rather than remain as a sphere apart.

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Mrs. Dashwood Character Timeline in Sense and Sensibility

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Dashwood appears in Sense and Sensibility. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Character, Sense, and Sensibility Theme Icon
Wealth, Class, and Greed Theme Icon
...Right after Henry’s funeral, John’s wife moved into Norland Park immediately without giving Henry’s wife Mrs. Dashwood any notice. John’s wife Fanny “had never been a favourite with any of her husband’s... (full context)
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Mrs. Dashwood was offended by John’s wife Fanny and thought of moving out, but her eldest daughter... (full context)
Chapter 2
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John’s wife Fanny became the mistress of Norland, and Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters became mere guests. Mrs. Dashwood actually liked remaining at Norland, where everything... (full context)
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...from their parents, and John agreed that it would perhaps be more sensible to give Mrs. Dashwood one hundred pounds a year. (full context)
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Fanny worried that under such an arrangement Mrs. Dashwood would live for a long time and they would end up losing a great deal... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters stayed at Norland for several months while they tried to find a... (full context)
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The more Mrs. Dashwood learned of Fanny’s character, the more she disliked her. However, she didn’t mind living at... (full context)
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...to seek some kind of distinguished career, but he simply desired “domestic comfort” and quiet. Mrs. Dashwood didn’t take much notice of Edward when he first arrived at Norland, but then Elinor... (full context)
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Mrs. Dashwood thought that Edward and Elinor would certainly be married before long. She told this to... (full context)
Chapter 4
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A relative of Mrs. Dashwood , named Sir John Middleton, wrote to her with a proposal. He had a cottage... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Mrs. Dashwood announced her planned move to everyone at Norland. Edward was dismayed to learn that they... (full context)
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Mrs. Dashwood sent her furniture to her new cottage and took the opportunity to sell her old... (full context)
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...Fanny persuaded him that letting them stay at Norland for so long was help enough. Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters were sad to leave Norland. Marianne, in particular, walked about the house... (full context)
Chapter 6
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The cottage at Barton was “poor and small,” but comfortable. Mrs. Dashwood liked the cottage, because although it needed some work and additions, she liked to add... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...she worried Edward might be sick, because he had not yet visited them at Barton. Mrs. Dashwood , though, was not expecting Edward to visit anytime soon. Marianne was exasperated at Elinor’s... (full context)
Chapter 9
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
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...spoke of the Dashwood sisters making “conquests” of men like Willoughby, and this phrasing upset Mrs. Dashwood . (full context)
Chapter 10
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...together. For Marianne, he had “all the sensibility and spirit which Edward had unfortunately wanted.” Mrs. Dashwood began to hope that the two might marry and thought the marriage very likely. (full context)
Chapter 11
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Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters soon found themselves busy with many social engagements at Barton Park. Marianne... (full context)
Chapter 14
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To Marianne, Willoughby’s actions clearly meant that he loved her. One day, when Mrs. Dashwood spoke of altering and improving Barton Cottage, Willoughby adamantly insisted that nothing be changed about... (full context)
Chapter 15
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One day, Mrs. Dashwood , Elinor, and Margaret went to visit Lady Middleton, leaving Marianne at home. When they... (full context)
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Mrs. Dashwood invited him to visit Barton Cottage often, but Willoughby was evasive. He said he had... (full context)
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...and remained suspicious of Willoughby. She wanted proof of his engagement to Marianne, even though Mrs. Dashwood was sure they were engaged. Mrs. Dashwood could not believe that Elinor doubted the engagement.... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...or not she was engaged to Willoughby, so that they could know for sure. But Mrs. Dashwood felt that this would be insensitive, and refused. Elinor argued, but her “common sense, common... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Edward gradually grew warmer toward the Dashwoods, but Mrs. Dashwood still sensed some coldness on his part. She attributed this to something to do with... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...due to his mother, who was displeased with his behavior. The morning of Edward’s departure, Mrs. Dashwood suggested that he would be happier if he had a profession to keep him busy.... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...to go, and said that it was up to her mother. Mrs. Jennings went to Mrs. Dashwood , who thought it would be good for Marianne and Elinor to go stay with... (full context)
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Elinor, Marianne, and Mrs. Dashwood discussed the proposed trip together. Elinor was reluctant to go, but Marianne wanted to go... (full context)
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Trying to persuade Elinor to go, Mrs. Dashwood hinted that she might be able to spend time with Edward and the Ferrars family.... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Mrs. Dashwood had written to Marianne after Elinor had written to her. In the letter, Mrs. Dashwood... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...sad at “the loss of Willoughby’s character,” now that she knew him to be dishonest. Mrs. Dashwood , having learned of the news from Elinor, wrote letters back to Elinor and Marianne,... (full context)
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Mrs. Dashwood recommended that Elinor and Marianne not shorten their stay with Mrs. Jennings, as everything at... (full context)
Chapter 43
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Colonel Brandon volunteered to go to Barton and get Mrs. Dashwood . Elinor was very grateful for his friendship and generosity. Elinor went back to Marianne’s... (full context)
Chapter 45
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...men.” She went to Marianne, who was now refreshed by a long sleep. At last, Mrs. Dashwood arrived with Colonel Brandon. (full context)
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Mrs. Dashwood was overcome by happiness upon seeing her daughters again and couldn’t help shedding tears of... (full context)
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Marianne continued to recover, and Mrs. Dashwood was “one of the happiest women in the world.” When she got the chance to... (full context)
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On the journey back from Barton, Colonel Brandon had told Mrs. Dashwood that he had loved Marianne from the moment they met. Mrs. Dashwood said that his... (full context)
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Mrs. Dashwood said that she had told Brandon that she would gladly encourage his union with Marianne,... (full context)
Chapter 46
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Within four days of Mrs. Dashwood ’s arrival, Marianne was well enough to leave her room. Colonel Brandon visited her in... (full context)
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...next few weeks. Marianne was cheerful on the trip back to Barton, and Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood did everything they could to “render her comfortable.” (full context)
Chapter 47
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Mrs. Dashwood was happy to hear about Willoughby and “rejoiced in his being cleared from some part... (full context)
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...from the first offence against virtue, in his behavior to Eliza Williams.” Marianne agreed, and Mrs. Dashwood began talking about the merits of Colonel Brandon. (full context)
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...He said Lucy seemed well and very content. The servant departed, leaving Marianne, Elinor, and Mrs. Dashwood all feeling troubled. (full context)
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After dinner, Mrs. Dashwood realized that Elinor was greatly hurt, even though she tried to project a calm, collected... (full context)
Chapter 48
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...agitation,” as the Dashwoods nervously waited for him to say something. After an awkward silence, Mrs. Dashwood inquired after “Mrs. Ferrars,” and Edward said his mother was doing well. Elinor said that... (full context)
Chapter 50
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...that her “marriage divided her as little from her family as could well be contrived.” Mrs. Dashwood , Edward, and Elinor all hoped that Marianne and Colonel Brandon would marry. Gradually, Marianne... (full context)
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Mrs. Dashwood stayed at Barton Cottage with Margaret, as Marianne and Elinor were now living with their... (full context)