Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

Pdf fan
Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Character, Sense, and Sensibility Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Character, Sense, and Sensibility Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Society and Strategy Theme Icon
Wealth, Class, and Greed Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Sense and Sensibility, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Character, Sense, and Sensibility Theme Icon

Both Austen’s characters and her narrator spend a great deal of time thinking about people’s character, trying to ascertain and distinguish someone’s particular nature. Austen’s omniscient narrator is generally able to pinpoint exactly what kind of person someone is with exact, often sharply ironic description. It is important for the novel to spend time introducing and describing characters before relating their actions, because—in the world of the novel—people’s inner character is essential for understanding their motives, actions, and desires.

Austen’s title offers one important way of understanding someone’s character, based on where they fall on a kind of spectrum between sense and sensibility. Elinor is on the side of sense, while Marianne can be classified as someone more given to sensibility. This means that Elinor is a rational thinker, who values reason and restraint. She doesn’t allow herself to be carried away by emotions, even when she learns of Lucy and Edward’s engagement. Marianne, by contrast, is a character of extreme emotions. As the narrator says, “Marianne could never love by halves.” She gives herself entirely to her feelings of love, happiness, or despair. Much of the novel demonstrates the follies of excessive sensibility like that of Marianne. It brings her to dangerous extremes of emotion and hysteria. Elinor, meanwhile, is generally admired for her good sense. However, in the end, it takes a bit of both sense and sensibility for each sister to achieve happiness. Elinor ends up giving into her powerful feelings of love for Edward, while Marianne abandons her overly idealistic conception of love and allows herself to gradually learn to love Colonel Brandon. For both sisters, sense and sensibility become not so much opposites as complementary parts of their characters.

The narrator—and by extension, often the reader—is generally able to know exactly what a person’s character is, where precisely they fall on the spectrum of sense and sensibility. But, the novel’s characters themselves often have a difficult time discerning someone’s true character. Willoughby is the prime example of this. Marianne builds up one idea of his noble character, only to be forced to revise her understanding of him when he abandons her for Miss Grey. But then she must reverse her understanding of his character once again after he explains himself to Elinor. Through Willoughby’s shocking, surprising behavior, the novel implicitly asks how well we know Willoughby, and even how well anyone can know another person. Nonetheless, surprises like Willoughby’s sudden abandoning of Marianne arise not because people are ultimately mysterious or have no particular character, but simply because their character has been insufficiently known. We are gradually able to understand Willoughby’s actions better after learning more about his character from Colonel Brandon and from Willoughby himself. In Austen’s world, a radical change of character alters our understanding of a particular person, but does not call into question our ability to understand that person. Character is ultimately knowable, even if not entirely known, and for the narrator of Sense and Sensibility, one’s actions and behavior are always explainable by someone’s inner character, their own mix of sense and sensibility, among other traits.

Get the entire Sense and Sensibility LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sense and sensibility.pdf.medium

Character, Sense, and Sensibility Quotes in Sense and Sensibility

Below you will find the important quotes in Sense and Sensibility related to the theme of Character, Sense, and Sensibility.
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.


Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Sense and Sensibility quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

Marianne’s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor’s. She was sensible and clever; but eager in every thing: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. she was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.

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

After describing Elinor at length, the narrator turns to her sister Marianne. While Elinor had been described in terms of her prudence, and in terms of how different she is from her mother, here Marianne's similarities with her mother are emphasized. The narrator has seemed somewhat disapproving of Mrs. Dashwood's character, but Marianne is depicted more generously. It is not that she is less capable than her sister, or less able to know how to act reasonably - she is instead simply incapable of acting according to that knowledge. Although the adjectives used to describe Marianne are largely positive, the narrator emphasizes that Marianne is unable to be moderate in any of these elements.

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 8 Quotes

Mrs. Jennings was a widow with an ample jointure. She had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and she had now therefore nothing to do but to marry all the rest of the world. In the promotion of this object she was zealously active, as far as her ability reached; and missed no opportunity of projecting weddings among all the young people of her acquaintance.

Related Characters: Mrs. Jennings
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

As the mother of two daughters, Mrs. Jennings is in the position of having to be clever and strategic, not necessarily to encourage her children to move up the social ladder, but simply because women in this society cannot possess wealth themselves and so have little other opportunity to ensure their own stability other than marrying someone who will grant it to them. Mrs. Jennings has accomplished this task, but she has obviously taken a liking to the strategic games of society marriages - enough so that she takes pleasure in pursuing this game with others unrelated to her as well. Mrs. Jenning's character is portrayed as a bit silly and obsessive, and yet at the same time it is an understandable projection of the way marriage must take place in this society.

Chapter 10 Quotes

Their taste was strikingly alike. The same books, the same passages were idolized by each—or if any difference appeared, any objection arose, it lasted no longer than till the force of her arguments and the brightness of her eyes could be displayed. He acquiesced in all her decisions, caught all her enthusiasm; and long before his visit concluded, they conversed with the familiarity of a long-established acquaintance.

Related Characters: Marianne Dashwood, John Willoughby
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

Marianne has been shown to be dissatisfied and impatient with the way Elinor has acted regarding Edward Ferrars, and with the sensible judgments on their compatibility or lack thereof that define how Elinor understands her relationships. Marianne's interactions with Willoughby could not be more different. Here, finally, she has the chance to measure what "taste" might mean in another; it turns out that sharing the same taste - books and passages "idolized," for instance - is, for Marianne, a sign of shared sensibility and thus of complete compatibility. She takes the fact that they feel the same way about such things to be indicative of strength of character, not simply of shared interests. Marianne holds the deeply romantic view of shared souls, believing in signs that two people can be meant for each other if they share certain feelings. She is so strident in this belief that she breaks with social custom in getting to know Willoughby much more quickly than is usually the case.

Chapter 11 Quotes

Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished that it were less openly shewn; and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not in themselves illaudable, appeared to her not merely an unnecessary effort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and mistaken notions. Willoughby thought the same; and their behaviour at all times, was an illustration of their opinions.

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood, John Willoughby
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

Elinor might prefer for Marianne to be in love with Colonel Brandon, who adores her and for whom Elinor feels great compassion, since he has loved and lost before. Still, she is not one to judge Marianne's choice of suitor - she disapproves only of the way in which Marianne chooses to carry out this courtship. Here, the narrator makes another distinction between the characters of Marianne and Elinor, one that can be mapped onto the difference between sense and sensibility. For Marianne, attempting to conceal one's feelings for another person, or even one's beliefs in general, is dishonest and disingenuous. If there is nothing wrong with how she feels about Willoughby, as she believes (and he does he as well), then there is no reason for her to hide how she feels about him.

Elinor, however, believes that such openness is not a positive trait in any circumstances, even if the reasons are justifiable. Since she can never know what might happen next or where things may go wrong, it is better, she finds, not to share everything with the world. Marriage, in particular, is such a bedrock of society and such an important means of stability for women that she considers it better to be prudent rather than to expose one's feelings immediately.

Chapter 16 Quotes

Marianne would have thought herself very inexcusable had she been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby. She would have been ashamed to look her family in the face the next morning, had she not risen from her bed in more need of repose than when she lay down in it. But the feelings which made such composure a disgrace, left her in no danger of incurring it. She was awake the whole night, and she wept the greatest part of it. She got up with a headache, was unable to talk, and unwilling to take any nourishment; giving pain every moment to her mother and sisters, and forbidding all attempt at consolation from either. Her sensibility was potent enough!

Related Characters: Marianne Dashwood, John Willoughby
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

The rest of the family is still not sure exactly what happened between Marianne and Willoughby, but it is certain that Marianne is desperately unhappy. We have already seen how important Marianne has felt it to be not to hide any of her true feelings - how she has considered this unpleasantly dishonest. At the very least, Marianne is consistent in her beliefs about character: now that her true feelings are no longer joy but despair, she similarly cannot imagine failing to reveal these sentiments around others. It is not just that Marianne is really physically suffering from her emotional unhappiness: as it seeps into every part of her daily life, she finds it necessary to ensure that her family recognizes how she is feeling.

The narrator does not parody or caricature Marianne's feelings or the way she shows them, but we are meant to look skeptically on her obvious displays of despair. Rather than critiquing sensibility entirely, this passage suggests that it is the exaggerated exhibition of sensibility that is to be smiled at, if not totally dismissed.

Chapter 19 Quotes

Elinor sat down to her drawing-table as soon as he was out of the house, busily employed herself the whole day, neither sought nor avoided the mention of his name, appeared to interest herself almost as much as ever in the general concerns of the family, and if, by this conduct, she did not lessen her own grief, it was at least prevented from unnecessary increase, and her mother and sisters were spared much solicitude on her account. Such behaviour as this, so exactly the reverse of her own, appeared no more meritorious to Marianne, than her own had seemed faulty to her. The business of self-command she settled very easily;—with strong affections it was impossible, with calm ones it could have no merit.

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage stands in sharp contrast to the way in which Marianne was depicted following her own final conversation with Willoughby and her own lover's departure. We know from this passage that Elinor is just as upset by the events as Marianne had been in her own case: she cannot "lessen her own grief" even as she tries to distract herself and involve herself in her family's affairs. At the same time, we see how Marianne mistakenly judges Elinor's actions based on her own understanding of the relationship between feelings and action. For Marianne, if one does not display grief or despair, it must be that those feelings do not exist - it must be, therefore, that Elinor never truly felt anything for Edward. Distanced from the interactions of the characters, we as readers are meant to grasp just how wrong Marianne is, even as we understand her mistake and may even find Elinor's behavior confusing ourselves.

Chapter 20 Quotes

Elinor was again obliged to decline her invitation; and by changing the subject, put a stop to her entreaties. She thought it probable that as they lived in the same county, Mrs. Palmer might be able to give some more particular account of Willoughby's general character, than could be gathered from the Middletons' partial acquaintance with him; and she was eager to gain from any one, such a confirmation of his merits as might remove the possibility of fear from Marianne.

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood, John Willoughby, Charlotte Palmer
Page Number: 110-111
Explanation and Analysis:

Elinor has taken it upon herself to arrange her and her sisters' social affairs and invitations, since Marianne is too distraught over Willoughby and their mother is too flighty to be of much help. Here, she thinks strategically about which invitations to accept and which to avoid, as well as whom she might be in touch with in order to gain greater knowledge about Willoughby for Marianne's sake. In a society where friends might not see each other for weeks or months, and news traveled more slowly than it does today, people - especially women, who were less free to travel around alone - had to plan at greater length how to find out what they wished to know about people's characters and past lives.

Indeed, Elinor, while troubled by Marianne's feelings, takes the more pragmatic approach of attempting to figure out exactly what kind of a man Willoughby is, rather than of simply waiting for him as Marianne seems to be doing. Although Marianne might scorn Elinor's attitude towards romantic relationships, she remains unaware that her sister's practical, sensible mindset may well work in her favor.

Chapter 23 Quotes

Her resentment of such behaviour, her indignation at having been its dupe, for a short time made her feel only for herself; but other ideas, other considerations, soon arose. Had Edward been intentionally deceiving her? Had he feigned a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement to Lucy an engagement of the heart? No; whatever it might once have been, she could not believe it such at present. His affection was all her own. She could not be deceived in that. Her mother, sisters, Fanny, all had been conscious of his regard for her at Norland; it was not an illusion of her own vanity. He certainly loved her. What a softener of the heart was this persuasion! How much could it not tempt her to forgive!

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood, Edward Ferrars, Lucy Steele
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

Elinor has learned from Lucy Steele that she and Edward Ferrars are engaged. Understandably unwilling to share the details of her own past with Edward, and committed to remaining calm and friendly to this woman rather than break with decorum and expose her true feelings, Elinor is nonetheless shocked by the news. In great inner turmoil, she returns to the conclusions that she had carefully, cautiously drawn based on what she had experienced with Edward.

At first, Elinor questions these conclusions: but her rational side soon returns, as she recognizes that his character is the same as it always was, and he could not have simply changed his personality so suddenly and briefly. As she returns to the confidence of Edward's love for her, her confusion and shock are somewhat assuaged. She still cannot understand how or why Edward is engaged, but she is confident that he does not love Lucy, and this knowledge - even though, in this world, it may well mean that he could marry Lucy anyway - helps to stabilize her feelings at a difficult moment.

Chapter 28 Quotes

At that moment she first perceived him, and her whole countenance glowing with sudden delight, she would have moved towards him instantly, had not her sister caught hold of her.
"Good heavens!" she exclaimed, "he is there—he is there—Oh! why does he not look at me? why cannot I speak to him?"
"Pray, pray be composed," cried Elinor, "and do not betray what you feel to every body present. Perhaps he has not observed you yet."
This however was more than she could believe herself; and to be composed at
such a moment was not only beyond the reach of Marianne, it was beyond her wish. She sat in an agony of impatience which affected every feature.

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood (speaker), Marianne Dashwood (speaker), John Willoughby
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

Marianne and Elinor have arrived at Lady Middleton's party, and Marianne has caught a glimpse of Willoughby from the other side of the room. Even though Willoughby has failed to return Marianne's messages and to get in touch with her while the sisters are in London, Marianne doesn't think anything might be amiss, and is absolutely delighted to see him. Elinor, on the other hand, is more skeptical. Even if she believed that everything was ideal between Marianne and Willoughby, she would still believe it better for Marianne to reign in her emotions and to "keep composed," as she says, if only so as not to share everything she feels with everyone in the room.

It is even more important, in Elinor's eyes, that Marianne act with greater reserve, since Elinor is thinking more rationally regarding the couple's relationship, and is wary of what Willoughby's present situation might actually be. Once again, the book emphasizes that Marianne's embrace of sensibility is not simply because she has no ability to restrain herself, but because she believes earnestness or openness to be a positive good, such that she sees no reason to change her actions.

Marianne, now looking dreadfully white, and unable to stand, sunk into her chair, and Elinor, expecting every moment to see her faint, tried to screen her from the observation of others, while reviving her with lavender water.

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

Willoughby has done all that he could to avoid Marianne, and finally speaks to her coldly: she is absolutely shocked and hurt. Immediately, Elinor steps into disaster mode. She knows that Marianne is not only stricken with grief, but will not be able to hide anything that she is feeling, and if she cannot help her sister to "revive," then the entire party will soon know or guess just what has happened between Marianne and Willoughby. While Marianne is so sensitive that she can only deal with her own feelings, Elinor is well aware of how serious it would be for all of London's social scene to know about their private lives. As young women who are relatively vulnerable, lacking fortune or even paternal care, the two sisters cannot afford to have society scorn them, and Elinor wants to avoid this at all costs.

Chapter 29 Quotes

Elinor could no longer witness this torrent of unresisted grief in silence.
"Exert yourself, dear Marianne," she cried, "if you would not kill yourself and all who love you. Think of your mother; think of her misery while YOU suffer: for her sake you must exert yourself."
"I cannot, I cannot," cried Marianne; "leave me, leave me, if I distress you; leave me, hate me, forget me! but do not torture me so. Oh! how easy for those, who have no sorrow of their own to talk of exertion!”

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood (speaker), Marianne Dashwood (speaker)
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

Elinor and Marianne have read a letter from Willoughby to Marianne, which has claimed that he never meant to imply that his feelings for her were greater than friendship. Both the sisters are shocked by this evidently disingenuous letter. However, Marianne immediately returns to spasms of grief, unable to restrain herself, as usual. Elinor once again takes on the voice of reason. Here she asks Marianne to think of others, not simply of herself, in order to perhaps be better able to regain control over her own emotions.

As readers, privy to more knowledge than certain characters, we can well understand how stinging Marianne's response must be for Elinor. Marianne assumes that Elinor has never felt the same way for anyone, so she cannot possibly understand what Marianne is going through. Of course, Elinor knows almost exactly how Marianne feels, and it is almost more hurtful to have those feelings denied legitimacy by someone who assigns only coldness and lack of feelings to Elinor. Still, of course, it has been Elinor's choice to keep everything hidden regarding her emotions, so Marianne cannot be entirely faulted for assuming a consistency between her sister's feelings and behavior.

Chapter 31 Quotes

“He had left the girl whose youth and innocence he had seduced, in a situation of the utmost distress, with no creditable home, no help, no friends, ignorant of his address! He had left her, promising to return; he neither returned, nor wrote, nor relieved her."
"This is beyond every thing!" exclaimed Elinor.
"His character is now before you; expensive, dissipated, and worse than both.

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood (speaker), Colonel Brandon (speaker), Colonel Brandon, Eliza (Younger)
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

Colonel Brandon has shared with Elinor a long story that, he believes, will make clear what Willoughby's character is truly like. The story seems to prove Willoughby's irresponsibility and indecency: it ends with him abandoning a girl, while pregnant, whom he had seduced. Elinor is of course shocked by this tale, especially as she realizes to an even greater extent how little she (or Marianne) had understood of Willoughby's true character. She is not confused as to what Willoughby is really like; instead, here as elsewhere, the book defines character as something consistent and stable - one might not fully know another person, but that is only because one has not learned all there is to be learned about the person, not because the person is inconsistent or overly complex.

Brandon finally is confident enough to make a sweeping statement about Willoughby's character by the end of his story, though he had begun apologetically, unwilling to smear someone's reputation rather than allow that reputation to come forth naturally. Now, though, Elinor can be grateful to Brandon for exposing Willoughby's past to her, and for helping her to understand the root of Willoughby's actions regarding Marianne.

Chapter 35 Quotes

I am very sure that conscience only kept Edward from Harley Street. And I really believe he has the most delicate conscience in the world; the most scrupulous in performing every engagement, however minute, and however it may make against his interest or pleasure. He is the most fearful of giving pain, of wounding expectation, and the most incapable of being selfish, of any body I ever saw.

Related Characters: Marianne Dashwood (speaker), Edward Ferrars
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

Elinor finds herself in an incredibly awkward situation: Lucy, Edward, and she are all in the same room, when Marianne - who is entirely unaware of Lucy's secret engagement with Edward, of course - walks in. This is a classic case of Marianne's sensibility prevailing over any sense of social decorum or subtlety. Even though she was never greatly in favor of Edward as Elinor's suitor, she continues to hint at Edward's feelings for Elinor, and lavishes praise on Edward as she does so. It is even more ironic that she keeps stressing Edward's inability to hurt another human being or to be selfish, as he has certainly hurt Elinor deeply - though, of course, Marianne has no idea of this. Elinor, however, also must learn the difficult lesson that being selfless and subtle can often complicate things more than ease them.

Chapter 37 Quotes

"If such is your way of thinking," said Marianne, "if the loss of what is most valued is so easily to be made up by something else, your resolution, your self-command, are, perhaps, a little less to be wondered at.—They are brought more within my comprehension."
"I understand you.—You do not suppose that I have ever felt much.—For four months, Marianne, I have had all this hanging on my mind, without being at liberty to speak of it to a single creature; knowing that it would make you and my mother most unhappy whenever it were explained to you, yet unable to prepare you for it in the least.”

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood (speaker), Marianne Dashwood (speaker)
Page Number: 247
Explanation and Analysis:

The news of Edward's engagement has become public, which gives Elinor the opportunity to speak of what she had been forced for so long to keep secret. Initially, Marianne is simply surprised that Elinor didn't share such a secret with her, but she continues to believe that Elinor's calm and composure is merely a sign that Elinor never cared much for Edward to begin with. The "loss" of Edward cannot, she imagine, be a great one for her sister.

For the first time, however, Elinor begins to disabuse Marianne of such a notion. She explains that it has been deeply difficult to have had to keep such a secret for so long, unable to share some of the burden with anyone. As she prepares to make Marianne understand that she, too, feels and suffers just as keenly as someone who shows it more, Elinor too must learn to adopt a bit of sensibility into her more rational nature. Only by exposing some of what she truly feels will Marianne ever understand that Elinor is not the cold-hearted woman she thought she was.

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.

Chapter 42 Quotes

Marianne entered the house with a heart swelling with emotion from the consciousness of being only eighty miles from Barton, and not thirty from Combe Magna; and before she had been five minutes within its walls, while the others were busily helping Charlotte to show her child to the housekeeper, she quitted it again, stealing away through the winding shrubberies, now just beginning to be in beauty, to gain a distant eminence; where, from its Grecian temple, her eye, wandering over a wide tract of country to the south-east, could fondly rest on the farthest ridge of hills in the horizon, and fancy that from their summits Combe Magna might be seen.
In such moments of precious, invaluable misery, she rejoiced in tears of agony to be at Cleveland; and as she returned by a different circuit to the house, feeling all the happy privilege of country liberty, of wandering from place to place in free and luxurious solitude, she resolved to spend almost every hour of every day while she remained with the Palmers, in the indulgence of such solitary rambles.

Related Characters: Marianne Dashwood, Charlotte Palmer
Page Number: 283-284
Explanation and Analysis:

Marianne and Elinor have left London to arrive at Cleveland, which for Marianne is symbolically significant because of how close the estate lies both to her family's home and to Willoughby's own estate. The way Marianne acts toward this house almost personifies it: she treats it as possessing the same levels of charm and attraction as a person. Marianne is enraptured by beautiful landscapes and impressive vistas, and she is perfectly happy to wander in solitude, enjoying the emotional fullness of being in the country. Her embrace of country life is reminiscent of the Romantic poets that she so loves to read and recite: she seeks in these landscapes the kind of sensibility that she often finds too lacking in real life, even if that same strength of emotion has prompted great pain for her already.

Chapter 45 Quotes

Willoughby, he, whom only half an hour ago she had abhorred as the most worthless of men, Willoughby, in spite of all his faults, excited a degree of commiseration for the sufferings produced by them, which made her think of him as now separated for ever from her family, with a tenderness, a regret, rather in proportion, as she soon acknowledged within herself—to his wishes than to his merits. She felt that his influence over her mind was heightened by circumstances which ought not in reason to have weight; by that person of uncommon attraction, that open, affectionate, and lively manner which it was no merit to possess; and by that still ardent love for Marianne, which it was not even innocent to indulge.

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood, John Willoughby
Page Number: 311
Explanation and Analysis:

After Willoughby has shared his long story with Elinor, she finds herself once again having to reevaluate his character, having to reevaluate the significance of his prior actions - and, in particular, the relationship between his behavior and his true feelings for Marianne. She is initially wary of feeling any pity for a man who caused her sister such pain, and whom she knows to have made a great deal of mistakes in his life. However, she is now confident that Willoughby can never be with Marianne: he is "separated for ever from her family."

Elinor regretfully admits to herself that she is allowing her own sensibility to win out to a certain extent over her sense: her judgment of Willoughby is softened by her knowledge that he still deeply loves Marianne. Still, she has come to recognize that she finally understands his character better than she ever has. She and Marianne were privy only to an aspect of it while he and Marianne were courting, and Colonel Brandon exposed a greater, though incomplete, part of it: now his character lies open to be judged and understood as well-intentioned and fundamentally good but also deeply weak.

Chapter 46 Quotes

As they approached Barton, indeed, and entered on scenes of which every field and every tree brought some peculiar, some painful recollection, she grew silent and thoughtful, and turning away her face from their notice, sat earnestly gazing through the window. But here, Elinor could neither wonder nor blame; and when she saw, as she assisted Marianne from the carriage, that she had been crying, she saw only an emotion too natural in itself to raise any thing less tender than pity, and in its unobtrusiveness entitled to praise. In the whole of her subsequent manner, she traced the direction of a mind awakened to reasonable exertion; for no sooner had they entered their common sitting-room, than Marianne turned her eyes around it with a look of resolute firmness, as if determined at once to accustom herself to the sight of every object with which the remembrance of Willoughby could be connected.

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood, John Willoughby
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

Marianne has finally recovered enough from her illness to travel with Elinor and their mother back home to Barton. Marianne hasn't been here since she and Willoughby were in the midst of a happy courtship, and now everything she sees reminds her of Willoughby. Still, it is obvious that Marianne has grown up a great deal in the time since she left. Her "resolute firmness" is certainly something new, as she comes to terms with the fact that she will have to suffer the recollection of Willoughby for some time yet.

The novel is clear in pointing out that Marianne's character does not undergo a complete revolution. She is still quite susceptible to emotional exaggeration, and she cannot entirely reign in her emotions: she cries much of the way home, for instance. But we are meant to see that significant life experiences can work some changes on people, so that within the character traits that define them a certain measure of development is actually possible.

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

That Lucy had certainly meant to deceive, to go off with a flourish of malice against him in her message by Thomas, was perfectly clear to Elinor; and Edward himself, now thoroughly enlightened on her character, had no scruple in believing her capable of the utmost meanness of wanton ill-nature.

Related Characters: Elinor Dashwood, Edward Ferrars, Lucy Steele
Page Number: 341
Explanation and Analysis:

As Edward tells Elinor of his childhood infatuation with Lucy, a relationship that went on far longer than it should, she begins to understand better why Edward acted the way he did. As Edward grows in Elinor's esteem, Lucy falls correspondingly. Elinor had always been careful to remain kind and friendly to Lucy, even though she never lost her feelings for Lucy's fiancé, but now she recognizes that Lucy was constantly scheming and was far more conniving than she believed. In some ways, Lucy's behavior makes sense for a woman in a vulnerable social situation, determined to climb her way up in the world. But the novel is unequivocal about condemning the sneaky, deceptive way in which Lucy, for instance, does so. With Lucy's character now firmly in the open, Elinor can take solace in the fact that she need not feel sorry that she can now be with Edward.