Sense and Sensibility

How Objects Define the Dashwood Sisters

At its core, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is the story of two girls and the differing ideologies by which they live and view the world. Elinor, the oldest of the Dashwood girls, is a calm and rational thinker who always tries her best to be courteous and polite in public situations, while her sister Marianne believes in the open expression of feelings and is dismissive of social rules and expectations. Each girl is also associated with an object related to art: for Elinor it is sketching and the pictures that she draws, while for Marianne it is her beloved pianoforte, which she plays constantly. As a result of their association with these girls, both objects serve to reinforce the basic distinction in characterization between the two sisters that appears throughout the book. While Elinor’s artwork reinforces that she is reasonable and logical, it is also possible to learn more about the other characters in the novel from their reactions to her work, an idea which Elinor also puts into practice on her own. In contrast, Marianne’s piano represents her desire to get in touch with her emotions as well as her willingness to disregard the outside world due to her preference for her own personal world of sentiment.

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