Jane Austen Book Club – Sense & Sensibility Discussion Qs

What was your favorite moment of the book?

One of my favorite moments of Sense and Sensibility is in chapter 30 when Mrs. Jennings is checking on Marianne after her heartbreak, and offering olives. She says, “Well, poor thing! I won’t disturb her any longer, for she had better have her cry out at once and have done with.” And I just think that is the funniest and truest line ever. Cry it out, Marianne!

The working title of the book was Elinor and Marianne. Why is Sense and Sensibility a better title? In what ways do Elinore and Marianne embody these traits?

I would categorize Elinor and Marriane as dual heroines, and changing the title to S&S broadens the themes of the book. Typically Elinor is seen as the sensible one, and Marianne the sensitive one. But one of the interesting things about this book is how they do a switch, and by the end of the book Elinor is able to touch into her emotions in a way she wasn’t able to before, and Marianne makes much better choices, and shows more sense, which she was lacking at first. So this title change is important because it alludes to the sister’s transformations and dual nature, which I think everyone can relate to. We, all of us, have dual natures, a little bit of sense and a little bit of sensibility!

Margaret is often the overlooked younger sister in this novel–what do you think of her role in this novel?

Margaret Dashwood is mentioned sparsely throughout novel. Her character appears to be minor, existing as a particular supportive element for the her sisters. All her life depends on the events related to the members of her family, and she can not wait to live it by herself and feel all the patience of the independent existence.

What did you think about Willoughby’s apology? Did you feel sympathetic towards him?

I have very unsympathetic feelings toward Willoughby. He seems like a fuckboi and I just don’t like him.

What did you think of Lucy Steele? Did you trust her at first, or were you suspicious of her eagerness to befriend Elinor?

I personally do not trust Lucy Steele. There are moments where she seems to be intentionally petty, and I her keeping secret engagements makes her even less likeable.

Chapter 23 highlights her scheming character traits best, in my opinion. She is seen offering pointed information that Elinor hasn’t explicitly asked for, suggesting that Lucy is purposely choosing what to tell Elinor, and illuminates her pushing Elinor for information in an artful way.

In the end, Lucy gets what she wants—a wealthy husband who allows her to move up the social ladder through marriage. As the narrator says of her at the conclusion of the novel, she is a prime example of what someone can achieve when he or she is persistent, self-interested, and determined.

How do secrets drive Marianne and Elinor’s actions?

Secrets have a lot of power in the novel, both kept secrets and secrets revealed. 

CH 23 — “The necessity of concealing from her mother and Marianne, what had been entrusted in confidence to herself, though it obliged her to unceasing exertion, was no aggravation of Elinor’s distress.”

CH 29 — “Nor I,” answered Marianne with energy, “our situations then are alike. We have neither of us any thing to tell; you, because you do not communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.”

Which sister seems to change the most over the course of the novel? Who would you say is the heroine of the story, or do they share the role equally? 

Elinor and Marianne’s characters both show great development and growth by the end of the book. Typically Elinor is seen as representing sense and Marianne as representing Sensibility throughout the novel, but as the novel goes on, the heroines are able to learn from each other and that drives their characters’ evolution. By the end, Elinor has learned to be more sensible, and Marianne has learned to be more sensical, and that is one of the greatest journeys: learning that it is okay to be a little bit of both.

If I had to choose, I would say Elinor is the heroine of the story, in the same way that Lizzy is the heroine of P&P. P&P presents a story where the heroines are lifted up from poverty to wealth, marry rich handsome gentlemen, and get to marry for love. S&S presents more of a story about choices–both sisters marry, but Elinor gets her man in the end because she makes more rational choices from point A to B. Marianne loses her first choice because of her desperate actions, poor decision-making, and lack of foresight. She marries a good man in the end, but unlike Elinor, she ends up with her second-choice after incredible suffering and heartbreak. It makes her a stronger character, but it is much less idealized than the HEA of P&P.

How would you compare/contrast P&P to S&S? How are they similar, and how are they different?

Ofc P&P is still my favorite, but it’s always interesting to go through her other works and read them closer. I have to say that I do see a lot of similarities between P&P/S&S—even the titles stand out as the most similar of her stories. However, while Pride and Prejudice leans more towards a fantasy HEA, Sense and Sensibility presents a much more realistic (albeit cynical) take on love.