Patriarchy in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility Essay

Patriarchy in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility Essay

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Patriarchy in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility


Despite the fact that Jane Austen has become what Julian North describes as a “conservative icon in popular culture” signified by her depictions of “traditional class and gender hierarchies, sexual propriety and Christian values,” the novel _Sense and Sensibility_ provides, if not a feminist perspective, a feminist discourse lacking in Emma Thompson’s film version (North 38). In this essay, I attempt to argue briefly that the novel, which initially seems to uphold cultural norms of sexuality and does little to question women’s subaltern position, can be read to undermine the patriarchy and especially male-controlled courtship rituals. Next I seek to demonstrate how the film’s adaptation by Emma Thompson undermines its own feminist intentions to become another late 20th-century romantic-comedy prescribing a happy marriage to an attractive and wealthy man as a cure-all for the single woman’s woes (Giddings 11). Ironically the novel _Sense and Sensibility_, which many critics consider embodying the paradigm of conservative Georgian literature, appears staunchly, if graciously, countercultural in comparison to its 20th-century film adaptation.

Two features of the novel can clearly be identified as providing a feminist perspective: the discourse between sense and sensibility which presents contrasting but complementary strands of female temperament and the sisterly bond that provides the Dashwood women with a self-sustaining, if only temporary, method of resistance to an ineluctably encroaching patriarchy. Often linked to post-revolutionary ideological tumult, the triumph of sense over sensibility in the novel has spurred critics to identify it both as a reactionary vi...


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... Novel: The Theory and Practice of Literary Dramatization_.
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990.

Kaplan, Deborah. “Mass Marketing Jane Austen: Men, Women, and
Courtship in Two Film Adaptations.” _Jane Austen in
Hollywood_, ed. Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield.
Lexington: U of Ky. P, 2001.

North, Julian. “Conservative Austen, Radical Austen: Sense and
Sensibility from Text to Screen.” _Adaptations: from Text to
Screen, Screen to Text_, ed. Deborah Cardwell and Imelda
Whelehan. London: Routledge, 1999.

_Sense and Senibility_. Dir. Ang Lee. Perf. Emma Thompson, Hugh
Grant, Kate Winslett. 1995.

Whelehan, Imelda. “Adaptations: The Contemporary Dilemmas.”
_Adaptations: from Text to Screen, Screen to Text_, ed.
Deborah Cardwell and Imelda Whelehan. London: Routledge,
1999.

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