Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: A Dual Exploration of Human Nature

Categories: Novel

Jane Austen's novel "Sense and Sensibility" is a masterful work that delves into the complexities of human nature, relationships, and societal expectations. First published in 1811, the novel portrays the lives of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they navigate the contrasting realms of sense and sensibility.

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Through the characters' experiences, Austen examines the intricate interplay between reason and emotion, social norms, and the consequences of choices, creating a timeless narrative that remains relevant even today.

The character of Elinor Dashwood embodies the virtue of sense.

Elinor is characterized by her rationality, practicality, and controlled emotional expression. She exemplifies the idea of self-restraint and the importance of conforming to societal norms, especially in the context of relationships. Her handling of her feelings for Edward Ferrars, despite the hardships she faces, showcases her commitment to duty and prudence. Elinor's ability to remain composed in the face of adversity illustrates Austen's commentary on the value of reason in personal and social matters.

Contrasting Elinor's sense is Marianne Dashwood's sensibility.

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Marianne is defined by her intense emotions, impulsive actions, and her inclination to openly express her feelings. Her romantic nature leads her to become infatuated with John Willoughby, a charismatic suitor who ultimately disappoints her. Marianne's journey reflects the perils of unchecked sensibility, as her unbridled emotions lead to heartbreak and social embarrassment. Austen uses Marianne's experiences to caution against the dangers of making life-altering decisions solely based on fleeting emotions.

The novel's narrative arc focuses on the sisters' growth and eventual understanding of the need to strike a balance between sense and sensibility. Elinor's emotional fortitude is tempered by her realization that embracing her own emotions is not a sign of weakness but a facet of her humanity. Marianne, on the other hand, matures through her heartbreak and acknowledges the significance of reason in making informed choices. This evolution emphasizes Austen's belief in personal growth through self-awareness and a harmonious interplay between rationality and emotion.

Beyond the individual journeys of the Dashwood sisters, "Sense and Sensibility" also offers a satirical commentary on the societal norms and expectations of Austen's era. The limitations imposed on women in terms of financial independence and marriage prospects are subtly critiqued through the characters' struggles. The contrast between the ostentatious wealth of characters like John and Fanny Dashwood and the more modest living of the Dashwood sisters highlights the social complexities of the time. Austen's portrayal of these dynamics underscores her critique of a society where financial considerations often took precedence over genuine emotional connections.

Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" stands as a thought-provoking exploration of human nature and societal expectations. Through the contrasting characters of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, the novel delves into the intricate interplay between reason and emotion. Austen's commentary on the consequences of unchecked sensibility and the need for a balanced approach to life's decisions remains pertinent in contemporary times. As readers, we are reminded of the importance of self-awareness, personal growth, and the navigation of societal norms while staying true to our authentic selves.

Updated: Aug 21, 2023
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Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: A Dual Exploration of Human Nature. (2023, Aug 21). Retrieved from

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: A Dual Exploration of Human Nature essay
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