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Sense and Sensibility was the first published work of Jane Austen. It is a story about two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they come of age and experience romantic relationships in the midst of being homeless. It also gave readers a glimpse of the 19th-century middle-class life.
See the fact file below for more information on the Sense and Sensibility or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Sense and Sensibility worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
JANE AUSTEN’S LIFE
- Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire, England.
- The second daughter of four siblings, her father, Reverend George Austen, encourage learning among his children.
- She grew up close to her older sister, Cassandra.
- She grew up in an affectionate family, which likely triggered her style in writing.
- Her mother was a woman of wit and was famous for her impromptu stories and verses.
- She wrote Sense and Sensibility in 1795, and it was published in three volumes in 1811.
- Elinor Dashwood – embodied the “sense” in the title. She was the first-born daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dashwood. She was level-headed and calm, which was sometimes misconstrued as apathetic.
- Marianne Dashwood – embodied the word “sensibility” in the title. As the second-born daughter, she was emotional and wore her heart on her sleeve.
- Edward Ferrars – Fanny Dashwood’s younger brother. He came from a wealthy family and had developed a close friendship with Elinor during their stay at Norland Park.
- John Willoughby – a charming and handsome young man whom Marianne fell in love with. He was insensitive and irresponsible. He had dark secrets that were discovered near the end of the book.
- Colonel Brandon – an army officer in his mid-thirties. He was captivated with Marianne but did not do anything about it. He made himself disposable for the Dashwood family, though.
- Mrs. Jennings – mother of Lady Middleton, whose husband invited the Dashwoods to stay in the Barton Cottage. She brought the Dashwood sisters to London and Cleveland.
- Lucy Steele – a distant relative of Mrs. Jennings. She was engaged to Edward Ferrars and later to Robert Ferrars.
- John Dashwood – the Dashwood sisters’ half-brother. He promised on his father’s deathbed that he would take care of his second family.
- Fanny Dashwood – wife of John Dashwood who convinced him to get rid of his father’s second family in Norland Park.
- Henry Dashwood – the patriarch of the Dashwood family. His death caused financial sufferings for his second family.
- Mrs. Dashwood – the matriarch of the family who decided to leave the Norland Park and accept the invitation of her distant relative in Devonshire.
- Margaret Dashwood – 13-year-old sister of Elinor and Marianne. She was the good-tempered, romantic, youngest sister of the Dashwood family.
- The death of Mr. Henry Dashwood, father of Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, was about to significantly change their life.
- Their half-brother would inherit their home, Norland Park, and everything their father owned.
- Elinor, Marianne, Margaret, and their mother were left with a very small fortune.
- Henry made his first son, John Dashwood, promise that he would take care of his step-mother and half-sisters. John intended to keep his promise.
- Due to the manipulative efforts of John’s wife, Fanny, Mrs. Dashwood and the girls decided to leave Norland Park.
- They were invited to live in Barton Cottage near a distant relative in Devonshire.
- They were welcomed in their neighborhood and made more acquaintances. One of them was Colonel Brandon, who set his eyes on Marianne.
- They also met Mrs. Jennings and the Steele sisters, Lucy and Anne.
- One day, Marianne was having her walk when it started raining heavily. She was not able to get home, as she had twisted her ankle.
- She was saved by the handsome John Willoughby.
- They became fond of each other immediately, as they shared common interests and tastes for music, poetry, and love.
- They let other people think that they were engaged because of the way they unabashedly acted with each other. Marianne believes it is just a matter of time before they get engaged.
- Willoughby was called by his aunt, on whom he is dependent financially, to arrange some business in London.
- Meanwhile, Elinor was having heart troubles. She learned that Edward Ferrars had been secretly engaged to Lucy Steele for four years. Elinor’s mother and sister thought Edward was attracted to Elinor and had been waiting for him to ask for her hand in marriage.
- Lucy also told her that they were waiting for his inheritance from his wealthy mother before they get married.
- Lucy asked Elinor to keep the information to herself. Elinor thought the engagement was only a product of childhood infatuation.
- The Dashwoods were invited to come to London with Mrs. Jennings.
- Marianne wrote to Willoughby but did not get an answer.
- Marianne accidentally encountered Willoughby at a party, but he ignored her. In the morning, she received a letter from him denying he was in love with her and stating that he was engaged to another woman.
- Elinor found out that Willoughby had recklessly lost his fortune and gotten engaged to the wealthy heiress, Miss Grey, to save himself.
- Colonel Brandon also told Elinor about Willoughby’s abandonment of his young ward, Eliza Williams, after getting her pregnant.
- Meanwhile, the Steele sisters were invited by Fanny Dashwood to their London House. Anne accidentally revealed Lucy’s engagement to Edward. Fanny did not like this and sent them home.
- Edward’s mother found out about the engagement and threatened to deprive him of his inheritance and give it all to his younger brother.
- Edward’s sense of honor wins. He let go of the money to keep his promise to Lucy and to save her reputation.
- On the way home, Mrs. Jennings visited one of her daughters in Cleveland, where Marianne fell deathly ill after taking long walks in the rain. Colonel Brandon rushed to fetch their mother as soon as he found out about Marianne’s grave condition.
- Willoughby found out about her sickness and visited her to explain and ask for forgiveness. Elinor talked to him, and he shared that he is miserable with his decisions and regrets losing Marianne.
- Marianne recovered from her illness, but she realized that she would not be happy with Willoughby’s cruel ways. She was also determined to be like her sister, who uses her good sense in dealing with Edward.
- Edward arrived at Barton Cottage and informed Elinor that, after his disinheritance, Lucy turned her attention to his younger brother.
- Colonel Brandon offered Edward a clerical position, which he accepted. Elinor was so happy.
- Elinor and Edward got married, and a few years later, Colonel Brandon and Marianne tied the knot, as well. They lived in Delaford, in close contact with her mother and sister.
THEMES IN SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
- WOMEN IN the NINETEENTH CENTURY
- Women are socially dependent. They have to rely on their father to live and get married. In the case of his death, it is their brother from whom they need to seek grace.
- They do not have a place in society, except to be a wife and bear children. Also, they are to be a good mother and help their daughters find a wealthy husband.
- Women also had no right to inherit real property. They could not even own the Barton Cottage and live there permanently. It was clear that they were allowed to live there out of kindness by Sir John John Middleton.
- The book has a feeling of urgency for these heroines to get married. John Dashwood had been convincing Elinor to secure her place as Colonel Brandon’s wife. He did this to mask his failed promise to their father by making sure that she found a wealthy husband.
- Women in this century saw marriage as the turning point of their life. It secured their place, their wealth, and their future.
- Neither of the sisters believed that marrying for money would make them happy, a characteristic of all of Austen’s heroines. However, that cannot be said for other characters, like Lucy Steele, who took advantage of unfairness and spun it in her favor.
- THE SENSE AND THE SENSIBILITY
- Austen assigned these characteristics to the two heroines of the novel. Sense was assigned to Elinor and sensibility to Marianne.
- It seemed that she was trying to answer the question of which is more important for a woman, sense or sensibility? At the end of the novel, Marianne told Elinor that she would like to emulate her more.
- Some readers suggest that for Austen, during this period, sensibility led to a disastrous ending, not because sense should be used in that social reality, but because sense and sensibility should be combined by women in search of a husband.
- LOVE AND MARRIAGE
- Austen always managed to find her heroines husbands that were worthy of them. She tried to send a message that it is possible to marry for love despite what women in her century believed.
- However, it is not their fault they are trapped in a patriarchal society and that women use marriage as their chance to have a secure life. Once they have it, they already know their place.
- Dances in that era were like the market for a potential bride. Young girls learned early on that they needed to have wit, elegance, and dancing skills to find a suitable match for themselves.
- Marianne and Elinor did not have to go through this because they had already caught their potential husbands’ eyes with their beauty and wit.
- FAMILIAL RELATIONSHIP
- There are different familial relationships presented in this book, and sisterly love was a central part of the story.
- Elinor and Marianne are different from each other. Despite this, both respected the other’s feelings and opinions. They did not degrade each other. They supported each other’s quest for love without judging.
- Mrs. Dashwood may not be an ideal mother, but no one could deny that she wanted what was best for her daughters. She supported the romantic conquests of her daughters, not because she wants them to marry for money, but because she wants them to find happiness.
- It could be argued that Fanny Dashwood pushed the Dashwood girls out of Norland Park because she only wanted what was best for her family. She was trying to protect what was theirs.
- Disinheritance by one’s family was also mentioned in the book a few times. It was used to threaten Colonel Brandon from pursuing Eliza Williams.
- This was the punishment Edward received when he refused to end his engagement to Lucy Steele. Ironically, his engagement to Lucy ended because of the loss of his inheritance.
Sense and Sensibility Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Sense and Sensibility across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Sense and Sensibility worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Sense and Sensibility which was the first published work of Jane Austen. It is a story about two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they come of age and experience romantic relationships in the midst of being homeless. It also gave readers a glimpse of the 19th-century middle-class life.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Sense and Sensibility Facts
- Austen’s Biography
- Not Your Typical Heroes
- Sisters Forever
- Sense or Sensibility
- Austen’s Notes
- Austen’s Words
- The Plot Begins
- Now and Then
- Four Things
- Their Patriarchal Society
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