Sense and Sensibility

"I have suffered NOW": Jane Austen's Repressed Romantic

Elinor Dashwood’s famous speech in Volume III of Sense and Sensibility, in which she gives vent to emotions long-repressed, is in many senses the heart and soul of the novel. Having suffered through months of silent disappointment, endured for the sake of obligation and propriety, Elinor is at last given the chance to explain her passivity to her sister Marianne—to whom the very mention of such quiescence is an enigmatic outrage. It is generally held that Elinor’s defense of discretion is Austen’s own voiced espousal of so-called sense over sensibility; and while this may be true, it is not the passage’s only truth. Starting with Marianne’s denunciative summation of Elinor’s “way of thinking” (246), there unfolds a bewitching shift in both women’s apparent intonations. Before long it is Marianne who speaks the language of coolheaded restraint, and Elinor who indulges in intense theatricality. Keeping in mind the fact that Elinor’s speech at this juncture is meant to represent everything she stands for, it is undeniably interesting that she actually delivers it in a manner that represents everything she stands against. Austen is careful to set Elinor up as the victor in this passage, and in this she succeeds—but the methods she...

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