Monday, March 16, 2015

The Jane Austen Book Club: Sense and Sensibility

Most people's first foray into the world of Jane Austen is Pride & Prejudice. I suppose mine was too, in the form of the PBS show, Wishbone, in their episode "Furst Impressions."

Considering it was as bare bones as could be, for a twenty-minute children's show, I didn't get much out of it, except that Wishbone can pull off any look.

Around the same time, the film version of Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet came out. I'd seen previews for it on the super old school TV Guide channel (previously known as the Preview channel), and thought it looked interesting. I bought it on tape at Best Buy, and watched it. I didn't really understand it, but something resonated with me in this story.

I felt connected to both sisters. To Marianne's thirst for a dramatic, romantic life, but Elinor's more guarded nature. It took many viewings of this film for me to truly understand everything that was happening, to peel back all the layers of the characters' behaviors.

Reading the book is a completely different experience. Along with the basic story, you learn more about what happened with Edward and Lucy, how conniving Lucy Steele really was, just how much Fanny hated everyone who didn't have money, how much Willoughby intentionally, but unintentially, hurt Marianne. We especially learned how much weight Elinor had on her shoulders.

2008 (Source)

Elinor was the one who handled her family's finances, who made sure her mother didn't overspend their budget, who looked after them all. She thought she'd found love in her sister-in-law's brother, only to learn from a vindictive Lucy Steele that he was taken.

One thing I love about Jane Austen is that she writes characters so well that you can find them in your own life. I've met some Lucy Steeles in my day, the ones who want to be your best friend, but at the same time, it's to watch you, and make sure you don't get too close to the object of their affection. If she asks you if you think a certain boy is cute, if you say yes, she'll tell you he's taken, and if you say no, she'll ask what's wrong with him. She's similar to Isabella Thorpe in her vindictiveness.

1995 (Source)
It's impressive how quickly Marianne falls in love. I'm a bit pragmatic, much like Elinor, but when I was eleven, I totally understood how she fell for Willoughby. He was handsome and charming, funny, and I would've loved to have fallen in love with someone like him, even if he did break her heart. As I read through the book, I had to wonder if the story was told in this day in age, would Willoughby and Marianne have been able to make it work?

If she had any self-respect, I would hope not. A man like Willoughby, while he is able to love, he never learned any self-control, and I think he would've broken her heart time and time again.

I think that Elinor and Marianne eventually married men who their sister sort of represented. Calm, collected Elinor was deemed a suitable match for Col. Brandon, by her older brother, John. He was so obviously ignoring Col. Brandon's preference to Marianne, and it was pretty comical. I think Elinor and Brandon would've been fine together, but only because they're both so agreeable.

Edward and Marianne, while polar opposite, hear me out. Edward was secretive, passionate in his own way (and obviously moreso in the past), and believes in the power of his word, much like Marianne.

Marianne and Edward wouldn't have been a good couple, but Elinor and Brandon would've been fine. Just goes to show that just because two people make good friends, and almost siblings (Marianne long considered Edward to be her brother before he became so) doesn't mean they'll make a good match.

Elinor+Brandon=Too much practicality
Marianne+Edward=Sibling-type Love
Marianne+Willoughby=All passion, and no practicality
Elinor+Edward=Practicality and a genuine affection
Marianne+Brandon=Practicality, Romance, Friendship

Which of these do you think will last?

Honestly, people have complained in reviews that this novel is the most boring of Austen's work. That might be true, but because of Emma Thompson's lovely script, for which, she won a Golden Globe. By the way, best acceptance speech EVER.

  • Have you read Sense and Sensibility
  • What's your favorite Austen?
  • Should I read Pride & Prejudice or Mansfield Park next?

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