The Middletons were different “in temper and outward behavior,” but both had a similar lack of “talent and taste.” Sir John loved to have guests at his house, and so often held parties and balls. He was fond of the Dashwood sisters because they were “young, pretty, and unaffected,” and in his opinion being unaffected was all that a girl should be.
The narrator continues to specify the particular character of the Middletons. Sir John enjoys hosting the many events that are important for aristocratic society. Sir John has a limited idea of the possibilities of a woman’s character.
The Dashwoods went to dinner at Barton Park, where they were joined by Lady Middleton’s mother, Mrs. Jennings, who was “a good-humoured, merry, fat, elderly woman, who talked a great deal, seemed very happy, and rather vulgar.” She teased the Dashwood sisters about leaving “their hearts behind them” at Norland.
Mrs. Jennings is characterized as good-humored and happy, but somewhat vulgar. She is always interested in teasing her younger companions about matters of love and marriage.
Also at the dinner was Colonel Brandon, a friend of Sir John, who was “silent and grave.” He was handsome and gentlemanly, but, at 35, old for a bachelor. The narrator says that Lady Middleton’s boring character made Colonel Brandon and Sir John seem interesting by comparison.
Again, the narrator gives a short, precise description of each new character that enters the novel. At 35, Brandon is a bit old for a bachelor, which makes it more difficult for him to find a wife.
After dinner, Marianne played piano and sang. Everyone applauded, but Colonel Brandon “heard her without being in raptures.” He paid her attention, but showed no pleasure in the music. Marianne thought that he had outgrown “all acuteness of feeling and every exquisite power of enjoyment.”
Colonel Brandon shows no evidence of the romantic sensibility that Marianne thinks is so important. He is too reserved for her taste and doesn’t overtly display any real pleasure in her music.