A Structuralist Reading of Austen's Sense and Sensibility

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A Structuralist Reading of Austen's Sense and Sensibility

The fundamental structural dynamic underlying the whole manifested universe, much less literature, is duality; therefore, Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility is easily analyzed from the structuralist perspective.

Each of us is a complex mixture of polar opposites, the most primary of which being the division between right brain and left brain, or, more commonly, "heart and mind." Austen's technique in this novel is that of eliminating altogether the corpus callosum, thus juxtaposing the two halves into a "binary opposition," a split between the heart that throbs and exults and the mind which ascertains and evaluates. Marianne is, of course, the heart of the novel, Elinor the mind. Moreover, the remaining characters, too, fall within one of these two categories. I have arranged the most important figures of the novel in this way:


Elinor Marianne

Edward Mrs. Dashwood

Lucy &nbs...

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...novel can stand alone from its constituent elements, to be used and reused again and again by simply replacing different characters, different circumstances. Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund is a perfect example. In this novel, the exact same dualism of heart and mind is explored (and far more interestingly, in my opinion) in the experiences of the two title characters.

In closing, it must be stated that there are certainly other structural dichotomies within the novel, contrasts of high and low which bisect the lateral distinctions upon which I have focused. These involve the shifts in social stations experienced by various characters such as Elinor, Marianne, Lucy, and Edward. These are, however, secondary to the primary theme, the seemingly impassable, yawning chasm which separates those with sense from those possessed by mere trivial sensibility
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