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Polar Opposites in the Novel Sense or Sensibility

Polar Opposites in the Novel 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. Marianne couldn't believe

Elinor's reserved attitude, calling Elinor "cold-hearted" for not

saying more positive things. As far as Marianne was concerned, love

and nothing else determined the possibility of a good marriage, a fact

confirmed by Marianne's courtship with Willoughby. After falling and

meeting her "knight in shining armor," Marianne quickly fell in love

with Willoughby wi...

... middle of paper ...

...arrying 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.
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