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Sense and Sensibility



"Sense and Sensibility," Jane Austen's first published novel, explores the lives and loves of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, after their father's death leaves them financially destitute and socially vulnerable. Set in the late 18th century, the novel delves into themes of love, honor, and societal expectations, contrasting the characters' sense (prudence, restraint) and sensibility (emotional impulsiveness).

Key Characters

  • Elinor Dashwood - The embodiment of "sense," Elinor is practical, and emotionally reserved.
  • Marianne Dashwood - Marianne represents "sensibility," with her passionate and unguarded nature.
  • Edward Ferrars - Elinor's love interest, who struggles with family duty and personal happiness.
  • Colonel Brandon - A noble and reserved suitor of Marianne, embodying maturity and patience.
  • John Willoughby - Marianne's initial love interest, who epitomizes the fickleness of first loves.

Plot Summary

The novel opens with the Dashwood family's loss of their patriarch and the subsequent financial insecurity forced upon the widow and her three daughters. Elinor and Marianne, along with their mother and younger sister, move to a modest cottage in Devonshire, where the contrasting reactions of the two sisters to their circumstances and romantic entanglements form the crux of the narrative.

Elinor, quietly suffering from a secret engagement to Edward Ferrars, who is entangled in familial obligations, and Marianne, who falls deeply and openly for John Willoughby, only to face betrayal and heartbreak, navigate their paths through societal pressures and personal growth.

Their journeys of love, loss, and eventual fulfillment explore the balance between restraint and expression, highlighting the importance of both sense and sensibility in the pursuit of happiness.


  • Love and Marriage: The novel critiques the 18th-century marriage market, emphasizing love, compatibility, and economic necessity.
  • Social Class and Reputation: It examines the impact of social standing and gossip on individual lives.
  • Family and Loyalty: The importance of familial bonds and loyalty is a recurring theme.
  • Emotional Restraint and Expression: Through its protagonists, the novel explores the merits and pitfalls of both restraint (sense) and emotional openness (sensibility).


"Sense and Sensibility" remains a timeless exploration of the complexities of human emotions and social mores, emphasizing the need for both sense and sensibility in navigating life's challenges. Austen's keen observation of human behavior and societal norms offers insightful commentary on the balance between personal desire.