Sense and Sensibility


Jane Austen

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Locks of Hair Symbol Analysis

Locks of Hair Symbol Icon
Twice in the novel, young lovers exchange locks of hair as signs of their affections. Marianne gives Willoughby a lock of her hair, and Lucy gives Edward a lock of hers, which he keeps in a ring. These locks of hair are symbols of affection and intimacy. By keeping a loved one’s hair, Willoughby and Edward keep a part of their beloved with them at all times, remaining in a sense close to their respective women even when they are separated. But if these locks of hair are symbols of close affection, they are also symbols of the unreliability of such feelings and the difficulty of reading romantic intentions. When Marianne and Elinor see Edward’s ring, they both think that the hair is from Elinor, and mistakenly see it as proof of his attachment to her. And Marianne’s hair given to Willoughby, a sign of permanent love, is returned to her after Willoughby abandons her. In the end, as tokens of affection, locks of hair are unreliable: in fact, both relationships involving exchanges of hair fail (Edward and Lucy’s, and Willoughby and Marianne’s). The only real guarantee of a lasting love is marriage, sought desperately by most of the novel’s characters. Unlike a lock of hair, a wedding ring may be the only true symbol of a permanent romantic relationship.
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Locks of Hair Symbol Timeline in Sense and Sensibility

The timeline below shows where the symbol Locks of Hair appears in Sense and Sensibility. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 12
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Character, Sense, and Sensibility Theme Icon
Society and Strategy Theme Icon Elinor, but Elinor was not so certain. Margaret said that she saw Willoughby cut a lock of Marianne’s hair to keep. Elinor could not deny that it seemed likely Willoughby and Marianne would get... (full context)
Chapter 18
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Society and Strategy Theme Icon
Marianne saw a ring on Edward’s finger that had a lock of hair in it. She asked if it was Fanny’s hair. Edward blushed and, after a long... (full context)
Chapter 22
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Character, Sense, and Sensibility Theme Icon
...letter from Edward and Elinor recognized Edward’s handwriting. Lucy mentioned that she had given Edward a lock of hair that he kept in a ring, and Elinor could have no doubts that Lucy really... (full context)
Chapter 29
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...someone else. He had sent back all of Marianne’s letters to her, along with the lock of hair she had given him. (full context)