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To what extent is Chapter 1 of Sense and Sensibility a fitting introduction for the novel to come?

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Introduction

To what extent is Chapter 1 of Sense and Sensibility a fitting introduction for the novel to come? In this novel, Austen is setting out rules of conduct for women in a time when England was moving from a period a long stability to sudden and total change. Unless people knew how to behave, she thought, chaos would ensue. England was entering the Industrial Revolution, having just seen the French Revolution and the American War of Independence. A new literary style was sweeping the nation, one to which Austen was much opposed: Romanticism. A dichotomy had arisen from the popularity of Romanticism within the literary groups of the time. It is possible to label these two groups as 'Sense' and 'Sensibility'. (The Gothic style also came about at this time, championed by those who had suddenly discovered freedom [both literary and, in some cases, physical] with the fall of oppressive governments surrounding England - Austen also wrote anti-Gothic novels, like Northanger Abbey.) Austen was definitely in support of 'Sense', which this novel shows so clearly. ...read more.

Middle

And this character is set up within the opening paragraph. Austen's behaviour as author in this chapter almost contradicts Elinor later on. The way the aristocratic Dashwood family interact with each other on human terms is mocked and pulled apart by Austen's scathing irony; these first paragraphs could almost be in defence of sensibility! Relationships are described in contractual terms: no longer is your son family, he is clientele; no longer do you love, you esteem. Family isn't about affection, its about affectation. Appearance and finance are all that matter on the Norland estate, respectability and wealth. People are spoken of in terms of utility and actions are taken for the sole purpose of acquiring wealth. Any affection shown with that is an added bonus, purely accidental and by no means essential to the relationship. There is one sentence at the end of the first paragraph in which are contained almost all of the social morays with which Austen holds qualm, and she makes her qualms clear with her irony and diction: "The constant attention of Mr. ...read more.

Conclusion

Austen is by far the most important character in the book, and her characterisation, therefore, is the most important. It is essential for the reader to know Austen before the reader knows Elinor or Marianne, or else the aim of this book to teach people how to behave would be lost. The fact that Austen seems to be pulling apart the social order whilst Elinor is in whole-hearted support for retaining the social order may seem perplexing, but I think a solution comes if one understands Austen as a person of moderation. She punishes Elinor also (though less harshly than Marianne) for being too restrained. In so many passages in the book there is an awful feeling of imprisonment on the part of Elinor as she is unable to do anything socially unacceptable. Therefore, there is contradiction between Austen and Elinor, but that is because Elinor is not Austen, she is not perfect or correct or a paragon of what Austen believes correct behaviour for a woman. Sense is supported, but room for emotion must be allowed or one is not human, says Austen, but cold and dead. ...read more.

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