Heroines... post five on Jane Austen


Sense and Sensibility

This story had the title "Elinor and Marianne" to begin with, and that's quite appropriate, but the latter title is even more so. Here we have two heroines, the Dashwood sisters: Marianne, who is 17 years old, and Elinor, who is 19. Right from the start, the girls go from great wealth to having very little, because they have a rat with a capital R for a half-brother. Despite explicit instructions from his father on his deathbed, the man refuses to help in even the smallest way when he dies and, as so many rules of inheritance back then play out, everything goes to the Rat.
The RAT brother
Happily, a relative of their mother saves them from poverty and offers a small cottage for the bereaved family to live in. Ere long, Marianne has Colonel Brandon showing a clear interest in her. However, she is uninterested because he is twenty years older! which is actually refreshing, considering in those days old guys are always marrying teenagers and no one seems to bat an eyelash! Anyway, Marianne is filled with vitality both physically and emotionally and she figures an older man just won't do ... enter Willoughby, a dashing
young man who is handsome, loves the same poetry as Marianne, and (to top it off) will inherit plenty from his aunt. Just as things seem to be turning up roses for Marianne, Willoughby abruptly leaves, with no hope of returning. This turns Marianne into one of the most lovelorn figures in Austen’s world.

Then there is Elinor, who is prudent and rational and it is a good thing, too! Her situation becomes complicated: she develops feelings for one Edward Ferrars, only to learn from Lucy Steele that he is secretly engaged to ... Lucy Steele! I know this makes Edward sound like a scoundrel, but he really isn’t, and Elinor knows that. Now, with Marianne torn up over Willoughby, and a mother that acts more like a younger sister than a mother, Elinor must bear her emotional turmoil with patience and a deep regard for doing what is right.
With Marianne’s emotional openness playing off Elinor’s silent endurance, what is created is a gripping emotional drama that makes you yearn for something good to happen to the Dashwood girls. Once again, Jane Austen has created an intriguing story with strong female main characters.