Austen for Beginners

Sense and Sensibility - start here!

The first novel Jane Austen ever wrote, and one of the most well-known. Some say it's the easiest one to read for beginners.

Our heroines are Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, the elder two of three sisters. Elinor has sense and Marianne has sensibility, which in modern terms means she is more sensitive and emotional than sensible.

The heroes are played by Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon. There's a villain too, of course.

There's a happy ending but the path to it is complicated. A large cast of secondary characters, both relatives and others, interfere with the course of true love. Or something like that.

Classic quotes from the novel you may have heard somewhere before...

"At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or at least, almost so."
Elinor Dashwood's opinion of Edward Ferrars. What she means is that she's in love with him, but she's not going to admit it.

"That is what I like; that is what a young man ought to be.  Whatever be his pursuits, his eagerness in them should know no moderation, and leave him no sense of fatigue."
Marianne Dashwood, after meeting Mr Willoughby.

When he was present she had no eyes for any one else. Every thing he did, was right.  Every thing he said, was clever.

We're talking about Marianne and Mr Willoughby, of course. Oh dear...can't you tell it's all going to end in tears?

"Oh dear, yes; I know him extremely well," replied Mrs. Palmer;--"Not that I ever spoke to him, indeed; but I have seen him for ever in town."

Mrs Palmer, when asked by Marianne if she is acquainted with Mr Willoughby. Clearly, he's one of her best friends.

"To your sister I wish all imaginable happiness; to Willoughby that he may endeavour to deserve her."

Colonel Brandon, trying to be noble at the thought that Marianne and Mr Willoughby might be engaged, when he's in love with her himself.

"But there is one comfort, my dear Miss Marianne; he is not the only young man in the world worth having; and with your pretty face 
you will never want admirers."

Mrs Jennings, on discovering that Mr Willoughby is to marry Another Woman. She's doing her best, but Marianne isn't falling for it. Well, not right now, anyway; she's too busy being miserable.

"Where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?"

Colonel Brandon, who has been dithering over whether to tell Elinor about something very disgraceful in Willoughby's past. He does tell her, and she is duly grateful, although Marianne is less grateful than she should have been.

She was determined to drop his acquaintance immediately, and she was very thankful that she had never been acquainted with him at all.

Mrs Palmer, once she discovers what Mr Willoughby has been up to. No longer one of her best friends, then.

...when they all sat down to table at four o'clock, about three hours after his arrival, he had secured his lady, engaged her mother's consent, and was not only in the rapturous profession of the lover, but, in the reality of reason and truth, one of the happiest of men.
Edward Ferrars has had a busy afternoon - but he's not complaining, and neither is Elinor.

"And if they really do interest themselves," said Marianne, in her new character of candour, "in bringing about a reconciliation, I shall think that even John and Fanny are not entirely without merit."
Marianne on the subject of her brother and sister-in-law. As you can tell, she's never been one of their fans, but she's prepared to admit that they might have their uses.
..though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement
between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.
Elinor and Marianne end up happily...

But that he was for ever inconsolable, that he fled from society, or contracted an habitual gloom of temper, or died of a
broken heart, must not be depended on--for he did neither.
...and Willoughby manages to survive Marianne's loss.

If you'd like to know more about the story, click here:
Sense and Sensibility - the plot

If you'd like to read the original text, click here: Sense and Sensibility - the text

The text now has links to explanatory notes - click on the links as you go along to get more details.

If that's quite enough about Sense and Sensibility,
return to home page

Austen for Beginners 2008


Austen for Beginners   Pride and Prejudice   Sense and Sensibility   Emma   Mansfield Park   Northanger Abbey   Persuasion