"In "Sense & Sensibility, Elinor represents sense and Marianne represents sensibility". Do you agree?

Essay by coco__beanCollege, Undergraduate February 2006

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The title "Sense and Sensibility" sets up a juxtaposition between two ways of thinking, behaving and knowing that are embodied in the novel's two protagonists, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. In these characters Austen ostensibly contrasts practicality with sensitivity, restraint with impulsiveness and strait-laced sense with exorbitant sensibility. Each opposing trait to be found in the Dashwood sisters, Elinor personifying sense and Marianne, sensibility.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines sense as "a sane and practical attitude to situations", Elinor Dashwood certainly embodies this to the full. Upon first meeting Elinor, we are struck by her rationality and reason. Following her father's death she becomes the keystone of the family, searching for a new home and managing the family finances. Although it is a common misconception that Elinor is insensitive,which Marianne mistakenly terms "cold-hearted" (18), it is entirely untrue. In fact her sense is quite like the Latin stem of the word, "sentire", meaning to feel.

She is astute and perceptive. Her sense is clearly seen in her ability to analyse those around her. She recognises Lucy's falseness, pretence and insincerity, and thus, does not trust her. She also sees Colonel Brandon as a gentle, kind-hearted soul "[he] is a sensible man" (43) when Marianne fails to recognise this. Personally I would admire Elinor. She is a pillar of strength, and clearly represents the qualities associated with sense; reason, restraint, and a concern for the welfare of others.

In stark contrast Marianne represents sensibility. Sensibility is defined as both "the ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences" and "the tendency to be easily offended or shocked". It is obvious in the novel that Marianne exemplifies both these traits of sensibility. She is rash and emotional when Mrs Ferrars is rude to Elinor, "urged by a strong impulse...