Sense and Sensibility (Bantam Classics)

Jane Austen

Published by Bantam Classics (December 1, 1982)
ISBN 10: 0553213342 / ISBN 13: 9780553213348
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Synopsis: In 1811, Jane Austen’s first published work, Sense and Sensibility, marked the debut of England’s premier novelist of manners. Believing that “3 or 4 families in a country village is the very thing to work on,” she created a brilliant tragicomedy of flirtation and folly. Romantic walks through lush Devonshire and genteel dinner parties at a stately manor draw two pretty sisters into the schemes and manipulations of landed gentry determined to marry wisely and well. Neither sense nor sensibility can guarantee happiness for either—as romantic Marianne falls prey to a dangerous rascal, and reasonable Elinor loses her heart to a gentleman already engaged. Wonderfully entertaining yet subtle and probing in its characterizations, Sense and Sensibility richly displays the supreme artistry of a great English novelist.

Review: Though not the first novel she wrote, Sense and Sensibility was the first Jane Austen published. Though she initially called it Elinor and Marianne, Austen jettisoned both the title and the epistolary mode in which it was originally written, but kept the essential theme: the necessity of finding a workable middle ground between passion and reason. The story revolves around the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. Whereas the former is a sensible, rational creature, her younger sister is wildly romantic--a characteristic that offers Austen plenty of scope for both satire and compassion. Commenting on Edward Ferrars, a potential suitor for Elinor's hand, Marianne admits that while she "loves him tenderly," she finds him disappointing as a possible lover for her sister:

Oh! Mama, how spiritless, how tame was Edward's manner in reading to us last night! I felt for my sister most severely. Yet she bore it with so much composure, she seemed scarcely to notice it. I could hardly keep my seat. To hear those beautiful lines which have frequently almost driven me wild, pronounced with such impenetrable calmness, such dreadful indifference!
Soon however, Marianne meets a man who measures up to her ideal: Mr. Willoughby, a new neighbor. So swept away by passion is Marianne that her behavior begins to border on the scandalous. Then Willoughby abandons her; meanwhile, Elinor's growing affection for Edward suffers a check when he admits he is secretly engaged to a childhood sweetheart. How each of the sisters reacts to their romantic misfortunes, and the lessons they draw before coming finally to the requisite happy ending forms the heart of the novel. Though Marianne's disregard for social conventions and willingness to consider the world well-lost for love may appeal to modern readers, it is Elinor whom Austen herself most evidently admired; a truly happy marriage, she shows us, exists only where sense and sensibility meet and mix in proper measure. --Alix Wilber

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Title: Sense and Sensibility (Bantam Classics)
Publisher: Bantam Classics (December 1, 1982)
Binding: Paperback

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