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Polar opposites in 'Sense and Sensibility

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Not titled "Sense or Sensibility" Polar opposites. Night and day. Hot and cold. These are just some adjectives and nouns that are on opposite sides of the spectrum. The words are perfect ways of contrasting the characters of Marianne and Elinor in the novel Sense and Sensibility. Sense, defined as the ability to be aware of things around her describes Elinor. She is the calm, quiet and collective sister, who makes decisions based on practicality. Sensibility, or the trait of being affected by changes in surroundings fits Marianne. She's the foolish, whimsical and irrational sister, driven by passion and emotion. Both characters are put in similar situations throughout the book and, true to the title, act with sense and sensibility. Elinor's courtship with Edward against Marianne's affair with Willoughby contrasts the characters ideas of marriage and love. Elinor, though interested in Edward, would not admit anything more than having "great esteem" for him. Elinor looked at the situation practically, citing that Mrs. Ferras would be the ultimate factor in their courtship because Edward's future (and fortune) depended on what Mrs. Ferras thought of Edward's possible wife. Thus, Elinor waited for more proof before she got carried away. ...read more.


The elder sister even took time every day to think of Edward fondly. Marianne's behavior bordered on the verge of pure childishness because she felt an obligation to show the family she was suffering. The fact that Elinor conducted herself in such an indifferent way showed that their family and friends would've condoned the younger sister getting a good night of sleep. Elinor again showed she acts with sense, knowing that she would see Edward again. Marianne, displaying sensibility, caused herself unneeded stress, focusing purely on the present. Later in the novel, Elinor learns that Edward was previously engaged to Lucy and we also find that Willoughby was previously engaged to Miss Grey. The commonalities are striking. Willoughby and Edward both have secret marriages that had no planning. Both marriages would have been ridiculed and not allowed by the parents of the two. Elinor reluctantly becomes the confidant of Lucy, displaying remarkable restraint and self-control when Lucy tells Elinor of her affair. "Elinor's security sunk; but her self command did not sink with it," said the narrator, displaying Elinor's incredible discipline. Despite knowing the truth about Edward, Elinor became neither vengeful nor angry for more than short period of time. ...read more.


Elinor, who had displayed remarkable control throughout the novel couldn't hold sense anymore. The same held true for Marianne, who throughout the novel had acted purely with sensibility. After finding out that Elinor had gone through the same struggles and persevered, Marianne began amending her ways. "My feelings shall be governed and my temper improved," Marianne said. "They shall no longer worry others, nor torture myself." Though their personalities and actions contrasted greatly throughout the novel, by the conclusion, Marianne matured, and heeded advice from her sister. Furthermore, marrying Colonel Brandon, who also had displayed sense throughout the novel, Marianne further bridged the gap between her and sense. Through Marianne and Elinor were polar opposites at the beginning of the novel with Elinor acting completely with sense and Marianne with sensibility, they managed to come more towards a moderate spot in the spectrum. Marianne finally acted with sense, marrying Colonel Brandon, a more practical marriage than Willoughby. Meanwhile, Elinor displayed some sensibility, finally shedding tears that had built up throughout the book. Austen appropriately named this novel "sense and sensibility," and not "sense or sensibility," because she wanted to convey the idea that either extreme of the spectrum leads to misery and unhappiness. By balancing the two, Marianne and Elinor found tranquility. Wesley Cheng Page 1 5/10/2007 Prof. Mortenson ETS 313 ...read more.

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