Sense and Sensibility

The Sisters, by Rembrandt Peale

The Sisters, by Rembrandt Peale

The summer my son was two years old, a dear friend gave me a Modern Library volume of all of Jane Austen’s works. I spent that summer, during Danny’s nap times, reading each book. It was a wonderful summer.

For me, re-reading Jane Austen at different stages of my life has, each time, been a delightful re-discovery of a favorite author. But it has also given me new views and understandings of myself as I relate to the books in ways quite different from my earlier readings. I would hope to be re-reading Jane Austen well into my 90s, and still learning about myself from her!

Her Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorites, and I greatly enjoyed this re-reading. Elinor and Marianne, so different from each other in temperment, and yet so alike in those differences, have once again fascinated me. They are very young women, ages 19 and 16 respectively. Elinor is the practical, sensible older sister, and Marianne is the romantic, passionate, emotive younger sister. They are a family with great integrity and their emotions are honest and sincere, whether expressed openly or held more private. Both fall in love, both suffer heartbreak, and both change and grow as they meet and come to terms with the adversities and realities of their lives as women in a culture that defines them in very restrictive ways.

Which sister are you? is a favorite question in the blogging world. In my previous readings of this book, I have always identified with Elinor because I’m a quiet, introspective, private person by nature. Marianne’s effusiveness embarrassed me a little. However, at this age and stage, I realize how much of Marianne’s nature is in me, also. I am passionate about things, and react to things with deep emotion. Oh brilliant, Jane Austen, to construct at age 19, such a lovely world, with such lovely characters, and with such a deep understanding of human nature and the culture of the time! What a pleasure to read this book…again… and become for a short while, one of the Dashwood sisters!


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