At the beginning of December I was in the mood to read a lot of classics and that’s why I decided to participate in Advent with Austen. I didn’t manage to read or watch anything else that is Austen related apart from Sense and Sensibility (1811). Today is the last day of the readalong. If you would like to read more enthusiastic takes on the book it might be good to visit Reading, fuelled by Tea.
What about my impression of Sense and Sensibilty? Boy, this was painful. Babushka-like reading. You know, the little doll inside of the little doll, inside of the little doll… Every time I peeled off a layer of pages, the book got magically longer and longer.
I suffered especially all through the first 100 pages. Yes, there were many witty sentences but all in all it was about money, marriages and talk, talk, talk. We could watch a bunch of nasty, fairly rich and scheming characters trying to kill time, marry right, secure their income and avoid at all times introspection and spending time on their own.
But then Marianne fell in love and started to suffer so terribly when Willoughby left for London, that I couldn’t help but being interested.
In many of the comments and posts I read, people state they like Elinor but not Marianne. Why? I think Elinor is a likable character but I love Marianne. She is the only truly honest person in this phony world and that’s why she falls so violently ill. She knows that there is a fine line between politeness and hypocrisy and her body reacts strongly to all the rules and laws of this society.
Some of the scenes in this novel made me cringe. I cannot picture myself in them. At 17, like Marianne, I would have fallen stupidly in love and ill as well. Nowadays, as a saner version of myself, I would just smash a few windows and ruffle whole bagloads of feathers.
Gossip and small-talk, insipid conversations and endless games is the essence of how the society in this book spends its time. People have to be glued to each other constantly. They can’t bear to be on their own. Although they are constantly around each other, they hardly ever connect. The only person who openly disregards this, is Marianne. She is often perceived as impolite, yet all she is, is honest.
I really liked her more and more. Whenever they arrive at a new place, she doesn’t participate in the tedious chit-chat that is soon to follow but walks off, looking for the library.
Elinor, however little concerned in it, joined in their discourse, and Marianne, who had the knack of finding her way in every house to the library, however it might be avoided by the family, soon procured herself a book.
Pretending and lying gives her headaches and she retires to her rooms. Realizing that she has been betrayed by Willoughby affects her so deeply, there is no more behaving or pretending, on the very contrary, she litterally screams, cries and gets very ill.
Despite her psychosomatic ailments after Willoughby’s departure and his breaking up with her, the most critical illness is still to come.
After she hears what Elinor had to endure without being able to talk about it, she is so shocked about having been so self-centered that she develops some late reaction and falls even more seriously ill.
Reading his I was amazed how audacious this really is and how modern but then comes the final part and Jane Austen spoils it. When Marianne has recovered and speaks about her illness, all she sees in it is an experience that helped her better herself, make her more fit for society. It’s not surprising then, that Jane Austen marries the tamed Marianne to the man she thought so ridiculous at the beginning of the novel.
I really didn’t like the book as a whole but Marianne will from now on be one of my favourite heroines of all time and I would have wished for another ending.
As I wrote earlier, the book is witty. Language has always a prominet place in Jane Austen’s novels. The differences between Marianne and Elinor are never as eloquent as when they speak about things they like. This is one of my favourite quotes and one that made me like Marianne even more:
“Dear, dear Norland, ” said Elinor, “probably looks much as it always does at this time of the year. The woods and walks thickly covered with dead leaves.”
“Oh!” cried Marianne, ” with what transporting sensations have I formerly seen them fall! How have I delighted, as I walked to see them driven in the showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they, the season, the air altogether inspired! Now there is no one to regard them. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off, and driven, as much as possible from the sight.”
“It is not every one, ” said Elinor, ” who has your passion for dead leaves.”
How about you, do you like Sense and Sensibility and Jane Austen in general? Do you have a favourite novel?
And what about the movies? I have seen Sense and Sensibility and liked the movie well enough although I thought Emma Thompson was far too old as Elinor. I liked the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice but I liked the film with Keira Knightley even better. Yesterday I discovered that I have a TV version of Mansfield Park on one of my DVD shelves.