Saturday, July 19, 2003

Sense and Sensibility

"His errand at Barton, in fact, was a simple one. It was only to ask Elinor to marry him; -and considering that he was not altogether inexperienced at such a question, it might be strange that he should feel so uncomfortable in the present case as he really did, so much in need of encouragement and fresh air."
-Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility)

I'm not sure why I found that so funny, but I did. I have finally finished the book, and found that while the beginning is incredibly dull and full of tortured dialogue from Elinor, a little over a third of the way through it takes off and becomes interesting. The question arises, of course, of what we make of the different philosophies of Elinor and Marianne. The back cover holds that the difference is one between "prudence, discretion, and self-control" and "emotion, openness, and enthusiasm." I'm not sure that's quite right. Elinor's emotions are just as strong as Marianne's; however, they are more mature. Marianne's problem was not in her loving, but in her loving too quickly, and by placing all of her affection in the hands of an unworthy ideal. Still, I'm not entirely convinced by her eventual fate in marrying Colonel Brandon - the notion that she eventually became as devoted to him as she had been Willoughby seems accomplished simply by writer's fiat. I guess where I come down is where we'd all like to: Let our hearts fly after the manner of Marianne Dashwood, but always channel the good sense of her wiser sister.

Next up: The King of the Fields, by Isaac Bashevis Singer


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