Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Reading Sense and Sensibility - Part II -The protagonists, class distinction & more answers


Elinore and Marianne Dashwood are the heroines in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Which one do you sympathize with more?
I know I'm an "Elinore" but I've always admired Marianne, always admired her free spirit. Austen, instead, wanted her female readers learn from both of them. Their changes in the course of the narration should teach any young or less young reader the middle way ... the "aurea mediocritas" of the Ancient Romans? Maybe. Balance in on e word. Anyway, according to Jane Austen extremities  are always really dangerous.
Elinor's scupulous inner life is the dominant medium of the novel. She represents the author's conscience and is never a target of irony. Actually through her portrait Austen shows that the complete human personality needs certain qualities in balanced proportion. Sense and sensibility, reason and passion complement each other in her. She controls her emotions and regulates her behaviour according to the conventions of society, through this effort she achieves strength and balance of character.
Marianne, on the contrary, does not try to please other people , she refuses to conform. She is lively, sensitive, intelligent, but she is inclined to rely on first impressions - something Austen will exemplify in Pride & Prejudice . She regards sensitivity as a great quality; however, she will be so disappointed and hurt by her following her impulses and her heart that she will gradually acquire sense and settle down by prudent middle-class marriage.


(from Juliet McMaster, The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, 2008)
Class distinction was a fact of life for Austen and its acute observation a necessary part of her business as a writer of realistic fiction. She never presents royalty, nor any of the great aristocrats who still owned great tracts of the country, and were prominent in its government. In fact characters with titles are seldom admirable in her novels. The long-established but untitled landowning family does seem to gather Austen's deep respect, especially its income comes from land. (...)
Mr Bennet of Longbourn in Pride and Prejudice and Mr Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility are gentlemen of property and owners of estates but they lack the long-term commitment to the land that makes a good steward and moral aristocrat of Darcy.

The aristocracy and the inheritance of the land depended heavily on the system of the primogeniture which accumulated all property in the hands of one family member. It was developed as an arrangement for the preservation of the family name and estate through the generations. Austen highlights the injustice of this system of inheritance at the beginning of Sense and Sensibility. where both money and land must stay in the male line. (...)
Austen best sympathies rest with the professional class - her own, that is. A gentleman's son who must earn his living has limited choices: the church, the army, the navy, the law, and medicine. Austen locates few major characters in "trade". It is not surprising that  the gentry and the professional classes felt somewhat threatened by the large changes  that were coming with the Industrial Revolution. Austen pays close attention to the gradual assimilation if the trading classes  into gentility. Charles Bingley in Pride and Prejudice is a gentleman of pleasure, and already associated with such a prestigious member of the country gentry as Darcy. But his is new money, "acquired by trade" in the industrial north of England."


Let's go on discovering the answers to the questions previously posted  from John Sutherland and Deirdre LeFaye, So You Think You Know Jane Austen, A Literary Quizbook , 2005. Today questions/answers 1/11 - 1/20.

1/11 Where do the Miss Careys live? Newton village.

1/12 What time of day (according to Sir John Middleton) does Willoughby usually rise in the morning? Noon. Sir John, who has doubtless been kept waiting to get out into the fields with his fellow sportsman, is probably exaggerating. When it comes to paying court to Marianne, Willoughby is quite capable of making a mid-morning call at Barton Cottage.

1/13 Who, apart from Marianne, is Willoughby's 'inseparable companion ' at Barton Cottage? His pointer, a black bitch.

1/14 Where does Edward Ferrars stay when he comes to Devon and where does his horse stay? He in the cottage, the horse in the village. There is no stable at Barton Cottage, so Willoughby's proposed gift of Queen Mab to Marianne would have been a major expense.

1/15 Mrs Ferrars has been trying to push Edward into taking up a profession. What has she suggested, what are his objections, and what does he eventually do, at the end of the novel? Her first choice for him was the army, as being very smart; Edward felt 'it was a great deal too smart for me'. Her second choice was the law, as young barristers could likewise present a dashing appearence as menabout-town; Edward has no inclination for the law, nor is he interested in a political career. The navy 'had fashion on its side'; but at 18 Edward was already too old to sign on as a midshipman. He himself wanted to enter the Church, but 'that was not smart enough for my family'. He went to Oxford as a time-killing last resort, and now that he has left, has no occupation at all (other than potential bigamist). Eventually he does drift into ordination, thanks mainly to Colonel Brandon promising him the living of Delaford.

1/16 What is the epithet most accurately applied to Charlotte Palmer? Silly.

1/17 Who (before Elinor is spitefully told) is the only other person who knows about the secret engagement of Lucy and Edward? Nancy Steele.

1/18 How much does the public postal service, for a letter, cost in the world of Sense and Sensibility? Two pence within the area of London, considerably more for the countryside beyond London.

1/19 What is MrsJennings's favourite meal'? Breakfast (taken, at this period, around noon).

1/20 What is given Marianne to relieveher 'hysteria ', in the extremity of her disappointed love? Lavender drops—smelling salts, designed to stimulate and revive (they were not taken internally).

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