Friday 2 December 2011

Advent With Austen: Sense And Sensibility, Chapters 1-9

I've read Sense and Sensibility I think twice before, but the story has somehow never really managed to stick in my brain (it's the same deal with The Great Gatsby, for some reason) which I put down to having read it before my poor little brain could handle it (I was probably about 18 the last time I read it, but that was speed reading on a Thursday night before a seminar, so I think I can be forgiven!) So anyway, I decided to take part in Reading Fuelled by Tea's readalong of it as part of Advent with Austen so I'd be forced to think about it over 4 weeks, and then definitely remember it (just like I'll always remember The Help. The fucking Help...)

Anyway, best not to dwell on these things, and to distract myself with the awesome that is Jane Austen. And the start of Sense and Sensibility is truly great. There's a lot of setting up of future things, and since I vaguely know what's going to happen (I know who Marianne marries, for example, and some other stuff that I won't give away yet in case you haven't read it) it's really fun to see all the 'Captain Brandon loves you' and 'ooh, isn't Willoughby handsome and heroic' things because I know how well they end up!

Let's talk about Brandon and Willoughby, now that I've mentioned them. Clearly already set up as Marianne's love interests, Colonel Brandon is Ollllllld, although he does listen nicely to music; whereas Willoughby has rescued Marianne from, you know, a twisted ankle, swept her off her feet and into the house, and doesn't that sound romantic?! And let's think: Marianne is a complete slave to her emotions, and to beauty and all that stuff, so who do we think she's going to like more? Old still and silent Brandon, or sexy young hero Willoughby? I think we all know the answer to that, but we'll find out more next week!

Wow. I just managed to make Sense and Sensibility sound like a Soap. Must stop doing that. So anyway, it's clear that Elinor is the sensible one in the family, since she doesn't go around behaving like an idiot all the time (and I swear I used to think Elinor was boring, and Marianne was all cool and emotional- this must be what growing up is like) and, poor Elinor, her mother is exactly like her sister (there's another sister but Austen doesn't seem to want to get into that so I won't either. Poor Margaret.) so she's left being all practical and sensible and just generally not being silly all the time. Observe:
"Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister's sensibility, but by Mrs Dashwood it was valued and cherished. They encouraged each other now in the violence of their affliction. The agony of grief which overpowered them at first, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, was created again and again. They gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increase of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it, and resolved against ever admitting consolation in the future."
Don't they sound exhausting to be around?! That much emotion, doubled, all the time? Wow. Just wow. Poor Elinor.

Elinor isn't cold-hearted though, far from it- I think this is why Austen makes it clear that she has a boyfriend (or, you know, the early nineteenth century equivalent of a boyfriend) from the beginning, so that we know that, sensible as she is, she is still capable of love and feeling emotion, just as much as her sister and mother, but just in a less life consuming way. Hence, another reason I love Elinor, and also she says this about Edward: "'At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or at least almost so.'" Ok, so lukewarm ending, BUT it totally reminds me of this bit in Doctor Who where Amy says that when you know someone for a long time, their personality starts to be written over their face and then you find them beautiful ("Rory's the most beautiful man I've ever met" SOB) and I love that in general, and now I'm starting to think that the writer of that episode totally read Sense and Sensibility! Or, possibly, I'm the first person to have ever made that connection, and I'm just totally unhinged. Maybe.

Moving swiftly on, and finally, I want to talk about my favourite part of this section, which is the conversation between Mr and Mrs John Dashwood. Because they're terrible, but it's all so cutting and brilliant that I'm like 'Dammit Jane, you've done it again!' We're clearly not meant to like or respect these people because, as we know "Mrs John Dashwood was a strong caricature of [her husband];- more narrow-minded and selfish." Ouch. So, because Elinor and Marianne's father has died, and they are girls, and the guy who left his estate to their dad tied it all up so only boys can inherit it, (which, excuse me, but uck, but also I think this happened a lot, and possibly also happened to Jane herself. I think. I'll research on Wikipedia and get back to you.) enter John Dashwood, half-brother, and all round douche. I feel like, if he hadn't married such a dick the girls would have been ok, but because Fanny (that's her name, and do you think I can actually cope with it? Of course not. Also, I've already called her a dick, oh the hilarity!) But anyway, the whole thing where John's like 'oh, I can afford to give them money and I did promise my father I'd look after them', and then Fanny's like 'hmm, yes, but they can do with way less money, and by the way they're only your half siblings, and by the way more have you even thought about your son?!' and then completely manipulates him into doing what she wants. To which I say 1) You go girl!, but then also, 2) You're such a bitch!

So, basically, Sense and Sensibility is great so far. More hilarity and excellence to come next week, I'm sure!


  1. I would like to point out that Colonel Brandon is like 35, but because Marianne's...what, 16? 17? she sees him as really old.

    Also the 2007 miniseries version AND the Emma Thompson version are excellent.

  2. Also THAT DOCTOR WHO SCENE IS FANTASTIC. I love The Girl Who Waited. Huzzah.

  3. @Reading Rambo: I know I'm butting in, but, ever since I saw the movie version a couple of years ago, I always think of Emma Thompson when I picture Elinor. She was PERFECT.

    Since I read this book as a teenager, I was scared to admit that I identified with Elinor. I've always been quiet and hesitant to reveal my emotions. Looking forward to your future thoughts on this one.

  4. @Reading Rambo- I can't watch costume dramas in general because they make me itch. Although I did like the BBC adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. And, not that I don't think Emma Thompson's great guys, but wasn't she like 30 when she made it when Elinor was supposed to be 19? Just sayin'...
    Also, YAY DOCTOR WHO! I really loved that episode :)

    @Darlyn- I think it's ok to be an Elinor- I mean, if we had a world full of Mariannes', it would be a scary scary place... I'm really loving Elinor at the moment, but we'll see how I feel about her as the story goes on :)

  5. So glad you are joining our readalong! Totally agree. I love Elinor to bits but I'm having to admit that Marianne might not be so ridiculous as I read more and more Team Marianne support in people's blog posts!