Jane Austen's characters always undergo an event that morally changes their being. In Sense and Sensibility this moral change is obvious in Elinor and Marianne. The development of these adolescents into mature, reasonable adults is a gradual transformation seen in Sense and Sensibility. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy begin Pride and Prejudice as arrogant and biased adults and end the story as liberal minded individuals.
In Sense and Sensibility the family has been forced to move from the plush lap of luxury into a more modest setting. Mr. Dashwood has just passed away. Since this was a patrilineal society, the eldest son, John Dashwood, inherits all of Mr. Dashwood's estate. John planned to live at Norland with his wife, Fanny Dashwood. Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters needed to relocate. This is a significant adjustment for everyone involved. In addition to the move to Barton Cottage, the family is also experiencing a decline in their income and thus must live a more middle class existence.
Marianne was Mrs. Dashwood's middle daughter. She was sensible and clever, but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent.'; (Austen, pg5). Marianne was only seventeen and behaved as such. She was unable to hold back her feelings even in a social setting with friends. Mrs. Dashwood's disposition was similar to Marianne's. They were similar in the expression of emotions. After Henry Dashwood died Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood, 'encouraged each other now in the violence of their affliction.'; (Austen, pg 5). The phrase misery loves company comes to mind to explain how they would commiserate with each other.
Marianne was full of emotions and thoughts that she would not conceal. Her personality was the extreme opposite of Elinor's The moral development in Marianne has its roots in Willoughby, a young gentleman that rescues her from a fall on a mountainside near their new home. It was a very romantic scene when Willoughby, 'took her up in his arms without further delay, and carried her down the hill'; (Austen, p21). Marianne was excited at the whole situation especially since ;his manly beauty and more than common gracefulness were instantly the theme of general admiration'; (Austen, p21). Willoughby wa...
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... the highest kind'; (Austen, p296). Mr. Darcy has completely forgiven Elizabeth and is attempting to prove her opinion wrong. Elizabeth has broken her prejudice and realizes her fault.
Darcy comes to Longbourn and Elizabeth's mother comments on him, 'but else I must say that I hate the very sight of him'; (Austen, 333). Elizabeth has overcome her bad opinion of Darcy, but the rest of the family has not. After Elizabeth tells her mother of Darcy's proposal she says, 'We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing, if you really like him'; (Austen, p354). Her family is willing to allow the marriage to proceed, mostly for financial reasons.
These books show a maturation of character through the trials and tribulations that life grants. In each of these stories there are parallel worlds, one of upper class and one of the middle to lower class. They show that even though two people come from different worlds and have different financial positions, love will conquer all.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London: Penguin Books, 1996.
Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. Ed. Margaret Anne Doody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990.
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