Sense and Sensibility

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Mrs. Ferrars Character Analysis

The mother of Fanny, Edward, and Robert Ferrars. Mrs. Ferrars’ primary concern is to make sure her sons marry wealthy women. She is more concerned with gaining wealth and social status through their marriages than with the happiness of her own children. Mrs. Ferrars is particularly rude to Elinor, but is fond of Lucy when she first meets her. However, she becomes furious when she learns of Lucy and Edward’s engagement. She disinherits and practically disowns Edward for this engagement. Somewhat hypocritically, though, she easily forgives Robert for marrying Lucy at the end of the novel, mainly because Robert is her favorite son. While not a particularly admirable character, Mrs. Ferrars is a rare example of how women can exercise some power in 18th century society. As her family’s matriarch, she determines the inheritance of her children, and thus has an enormous amount of power (though both her sons end up thwarting her wishes).

Mrs. Ferrars Quotes in Sense and Sensibility

The Sense and Sensibility quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Ferrars or refer to Mrs. Ferrars. 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 37 Quotes

All that Mrs. Ferrars could say to make him put an end to the engagement, assisted too as you may well suppose by my arguments, and Fanny's entreaties, was of no avail. Duty, affection, every thing was disregarded. I never thought Edward so stubborn, so unfeeling before. His mother explained to him her liberal designs, in case of his marrying Miss Morton; told him she would settle on him the Norfolk estate, which, clear of land-tax, brings in a good thousand a-year; offered even, when matters grew desperate, to make it twelve hundred; and in opposition to this, if he still persisted in this low connection, represented to him the certain penury that must attend the match. His own two thousand pounds she protested should be his all; she would never see him again; and so far would she be from affording him the smallest assistance, that if he were to enter into any profession with a view of better support, she would do all in her power to prevent him advancing in it.

Related Characters: John Dashwood (speaker), Fanny Dashwood, Edward Ferrars, Mrs. Ferrars, Miss Morton
Page Number: 249-250
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Ferrars is absolutely hysterical upon learning of her son Edward's engagement with Lucy Steele, and here Marianne and Elinor learn, through John Dashwood, just how far Mrs. Ferrars will go to try to convince Edward to act according to her wishes. In close detail, John Dashwood describes exactly which financial and social rewards she dangles in front of her son, as well as the economic punishments that will ensue if Edward persists in marrying Lucy.

Mrs. Ferrars is acting according to her own understanding of what is proper for a particular social class. Lucy is far below Edward in both rank and income, so while her marriage to Edward would represent a step up for her (and a way to gain greater stability, of course), for Edward it can only represent a social failure. Mrs. Ferrars, however, takes something that is socially common at this time - a concern for class differences - and takes it to its absolute, absurd extreme. Edward, meanwhile, may no longer be in love with Lucy, but his sense of honor prevents him from breaking his engagement with her. Society of course respects honor as well, which is why some people will respect Edward's choice; for others, however, the economic and social clash represented by their engagement is simply too much to stand, so Mrs. Ferrars can only be in the right.

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Mrs. Ferrars Character Timeline in Sense and Sensibility

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Ferrars appears in Sense and Sensibility. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 17
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Wealth, Class, and Greed Theme Icon
...part. She attributed this to something to do with Edward’s mother, and asked Edward what Mrs. Ferrars’ plans were for him. Edward said he had no grand career plans and no wish... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...Lucy were walking together to Barton Cottage, Lucy asked Elinor whether she knew Edward’s mother, Mrs. Ferrars . (full context)
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Elinor answered that she did not know Mrs. Ferrars . Lucy apologized for the “impertinently curious” question, saying that she was in an uncomfortable... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Wealth, Class, and Greed Theme Icon
...keep the secret of the engagement. Because Lucy did not have a fortune, she feared Mrs. Ferrars would not approve of Edward marrying her. She told Elinor that Edward had been staying... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Wealth, Class, and Greed Theme Icon
...Lucy said that Edward’s love for her had been constant. She said that she worried Mrs. Ferrars would disinherit Edward if she married him, so they had to wait until Mrs. Ferrars... (full context)
Chapter 34
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John and Fanny invited Elinor, Marianne, Mrs. Jennings, the Steeles, and the Middletons to dinner. Mrs. Ferrars was supposed to attend, and Elinor was eager to see what she was like, though... (full context)
Character, Sense, and Sensibility Theme Icon
...able to attend, much to Elinor’s relief. At the dinner, Elinor and Lucy finally met Mrs. Ferrars , “a little, thin woman, upright, even to formality, in her figure, and serious, even... (full context)
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Mrs. Ferrars appeared to dislike Elinor, but Elinor did not care much, since she knew Mrs. Ferrars... (full context)
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Colonel Brandon admired the paintings. Mrs. Ferrars looked at them and upon hearing that Elinor had painted them, she dismissed them “without... (full context)
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Marianne’s outburst offended John, Fanny, and Mrs. Ferrars . Colonel Brandon, though, seemed to admire Marianne’s protective affection for her sister. Marianne couldn’t... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Society and Strategy Theme Icon
Elinor had seen enough of Mrs. Ferrars to get a sense of her character and was almost happy that she wasn’t engaged... (full context)
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...sure she could spend time there with Edward. She continued to talk about how much Mrs. Ferrars appeared to like her, and was interrupted only by the chance arrival of none other... (full context)
Chapter 37
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Elinor was anxious to hear what Mrs. Ferrars would do when she found out about Edward’s engagement. She told the news to Marianne... (full context)
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...anyone else over the situation. The next morning, John came to visit, and described how Mrs. Ferrars suffered and was “in agony” when she heard of Edward’s engagement. She disinherited Edward and... (full context)
Character, Sense, and Sensibility Theme Icon
Wealth, Class, and Greed Theme Icon
...pitied Edward’s situation, and then left. Marianne, Elinor, and Mrs. Jennings all disapproved of how Mrs. Ferrars had handled the situation. (full context)
Chapter 38
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Anne spoke of how rudely Mrs. Ferrars , John, and Fanny behaved with the matter of Edward’s engagement, before having to leave.... (full context)
Chapter 41
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John said that Mrs. Ferrars was unaware of the recent news and said that he thought she and Edward would... (full context)
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...of view, as he had received Edward’s former fortune. John then told her that, although Mrs. Ferrars would have opposed a union between Edward and Elinor, it would have been preferable to... (full context)
Chapter 49
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Wealth, Class, and Greed Theme Icon
...lost” Edward’s love, and that she had fallen in love with Robert. Elinor wondered how Mrs. Ferrars would take this news, but Edward said that Robert was her favorite, so he would... (full context)
Character, Sense, and Sensibility Theme Icon
Wealth, Class, and Greed Theme Icon
...girl,” and her pity for Edward. John also wrote Elinor a letter, saying how unfortunate Mrs. Ferrars was, as neither of her children married wealthy women. John hinted to Elinor that he... (full context)
Chapter 50
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Mrs. Ferrars eventually did forgive Edward, and called him her son again. He told her of his... (full context)
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Mrs. Ferrars visited Edward and Elinor and made a pretense of “decent affection,” though her “real favour... (full context)
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...was gradually forgiven by her, as well. Before long, Lucy and Robert were closer to Mrs. Ferrars than Edward and Elinor were. (full context)