"I can no more forget it, than a mother can forget her suckling child". Jane Austen wrote these words about her novel, Sense and Sensibility, in a letter to her sister Cassandra in 1811. Such a maternal feeling in Austen is interesting to note, particularly because any reader of hers is well aware of a lack of mothers in her novels. Frequently we encounter heroines and other major characters whom, if not motherless, have mothers who are deficient in maturity, showing affection, and/or common sense. Specifically, I would like to look at Sense and Sensibility, which, according to Ros Ballaster's introduction to the novel, "is full of, indeed over-crowded with, mothers" (vii). By discussing the maternal figures in this work, I hope to illustrate the varying possibilities of what mothering and motherhood can entail in Austen, and what this curious spectrum of strengths and weaknesses means for the heroine involved.
When discussing the mothers in Sense and Sensibility, it is only logical to begin with Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne's mother. We meet her just a few pages into the novel, and are immediately told of her genuine and unassuming interest in Elinor's relationship with Edward Ferrars. Unlike most of Austen's mothers, Mrs. Dashwood is neither calculating nor preoccupied with a particular agenda for her daughters:
"Some mothers might have encouraged intimacy from motives of interest...and some might have repressed it from motives of prudence...but Mrs. Dashwood was alike uninfluenced by either consideration. It was enough for her that he appeared to be amiable, that he loved her daughter, and that Elinor returned the partiality" (13).
As generous as thi...
... middle of paper ...
...line of thinking makes perfect sense when we consider Jane Austen's tendency, particularly in Sense and Sensibility, to use her writing as a vehicle for not only entertainment but also instruction. We may view the varying representations of mothers then, not only as examples for Elinor to learn from, but for us as readers as well.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Ballaster, Ros. "Introduction to Sense and Sensibility". Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.
Duckworth, Alastair. The Improvement of the Estate. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972.
Gilbert, Susan, and Sandra Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: the Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1979.
Le Faye, Deirdre, ed. Jane Austen's letters, 3rd. ed. Oxford University Press, 1995.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Surrogate Mothers in Jane Austen Jane Austen created families of varying levels of dysfunction so effectively, that even young readers of today can relate to the story. In some, the mother was either deceased, not present, or just not the right person for the daughter to rely on. For example, Fanny, Emma, Elizabeth and Elinor all struggle because the very people who are supposed to be looking out for them prove to be completely unhelpful. These heroines may not be able to rely on their actual Mother (or Father) but there often are parental figures that they can turn to.... [tags: Mother Mothers Jane Austen Essays]
2118 words (6.1 pages)
- The first published novel of the author Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility has been applauded for its insight into ethics and social vision. Sense and Sensibility’s meaning behind its title comes from the two main characters of the book, Elinor expresses the “sense” half of the title while Marianne embodies the “sensibility”. But why the redundancy. When Austen penned the novel two centuries ago, sensibility didn’t mean practical or sensible (as in today’s definitions), its meaning translated more amongst the lines of sensitive.... [tags: Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen, Novel]
1169 words (3.3 pages)
- In the novel Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen introduces Classicism and Romanticism culture as themes in her novel. She introduces Classicism and Romanticism through the representation of two of her characters, Marianne and Elinor. Accordingly, Elinor most strongly represents Classicism, and Marianne strongly represents Romanticism. Classicism as defined by Dictionary.com is “An approach to aesthetics that favors restraint and rationality” (classicism). Hence, Classicism deals with belief in reason or rationality which are ideals Elinor’s character most strongly possess.... [tags: Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen, Horse]
1144 words (3.3 pages)
- Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is a timeless novel that will continue to be relevant in the future. This quality is due to its detailed portrayal of British social life in the 19th century, and its rich character development. Not only a well-written novel (in the sense of literary mechanical prowess), Sense and Sensibility provides great insight into the world of 19th century British Society; this element alone solidifies its status as a timeless novel. However, there is another component that adds depth to the timelessness of the book.... [tags: Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen]
1659 words (4.7 pages)
- Sense and Sensibility is a book that deals with many of life's circumstances during the eightteen hundreds. Although it was written in the first person it can provide the reader with a detailed perspective on the lifestyle of the upper crust of society. However, in order to get a full sense of appreciation of this lifestyle the elements of the opposite group, the lower class, must be attained. By comparing the differences amongst lifestyles characteristics which differ between individuals of their respective groups can be explained, and more importantly be justified.... [tags: Austen Sense Sensibility]
923 words (2.6 pages)
- Achieving a Balanced Life in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility We are often told that too much of anything can be a bad thing. Even Aristotle, one of the greatest thinkers of all time, insisted that the only path to real contentment and inner peace is "The Golden Mean" (Funk & Wagnalls 328). This life lesson is learned by two of Jane Austen's most well-known characters. Only when Elinor and Marianne Dashwood achieve a balance between Sense and Sensibility do they find true happiness in their lives.... [tags: Austen Sense Sensibility Essays]
1973 words (5.6 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Austen Sense Sensibility Essays]
615 words (1.8 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Jane Austen Sense Sensibility Males Essays]
1539 words (4.4 pages)
- Sense and Sensibility is an elegant story that portrays the advantages of the first over the second, as manifested between two sisters of opposing temperaments, one of whom loves wisely and the other passionately. Set in London and its surrounding countryside, the story relates how Elinor, the eldest of Mrs. Dashwood's daughters, and Marianne, the second eldest, share in the agony of tragic love. In the opening of the book, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters are forced to move to a new and smaller abode, as her husband's death left her fairly unwealthy.... [tags: Austen Sense Sensibility Essays]
1013 words (2.9 pages)
- In her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austin brought to life the spirit of being young, in love and living in the eighteenth century. Her story revealed the heartaches and happiness shared by Elinor Dashwood, who represented sense and her sister Marianne, who stood for sensibility. Both sisters felt strongly for what they unknowingly stood for, but each needed to reach a middle ground to find true happiness. It was not until the end of the novel, through marriage, that Elinor and Marianne overcame their nature of having sense and sensibility.... [tags: Austen Sense Sensibility Essays]
1517 words (4.3 pages)
- Christianity and Paganism in the Epic of Beowulf
- The Decay of a Dream in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
- Comparing Maturation in Catcher in the Rye and Red Badge of Courage
- The Characters in The Canterbury Tales
- alexclo Metamorphosis of Alex in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange
- tragoed Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex) and Greek Tragedy