Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Title:  Sense and Sensibility
Author:  Jane Austen
Published:  1811
Challenges:  Reading England 2015

I admit that I did not go into Sense and Sensibility with much enthusiasm.  Why?  Because: Jane Austen.  If reading is exercise for your mind, reading Jane Austen is the Insanity Fitness workout. For me, that is.  Beginning Jane Austen is similar to my sporadic impulses to start working out again, knowing it is going to be hard - meaning extremely challenging (and that I am immensely intimidated) and may consider quitting (because I usually do).  I should now say: that is how I felt about reading Sense and Sensibility.  

Insanity Workout or Reading Jane Austen

My concern with reading Austen is my own comprehension skill because her writing demands it. The more one reads demanding works, like this, the better prepared she becomes for other challenging works.  As with all things difficult, including physical exercise, it often makes you stronger and better prepared or more familiar.  I can say with all confidence that I am so happy to have read and greatly enjoyed Sense and Sensibility.  Not only do I want to reread it for better clarity, but also I am less intimidated to read another Austen.  I can do this!

Here is another issue I had: I wasn't in the mood to read about young girls fretting over men or getting married, and maybe that is because I am already married; plus I never shared the eager desire to be married when I was single.  Also, as a reader, I had to consider that marriage was a major concern for women during Austen's time, when young women today enjoy many more options than marriage alone.  (Thank God!)

Unfortunately, I related to Marianne, and it was unsettling.   It felt like I stepped outside of my past self and relived the crap I pulled as a young woman, distressed over jerks that broke my heart.  I was completely senseless, but full of sensibilities - a person of delicate sensitivity that makes her readily offended or shocked. Yep, that was me.  Oh, how I wish my younger self were more like Elinor, who appeared more well-grounded, full of wisdom and sense, and able to maintain better control of her emotions.


If you have not read Sense and Sensibility, it is a story about two sisters of opposite temperaments, in similar circumstances with men, and how they survive differently through each of these relationships and their outcomes.  The wonderful part of the story is that misunderstandings are given opportunity for explanation, and issues are forgiven or resolved.  And most of all, weaknesses and faults are acknowledged and sort of righted, as best as humanly possible.  It all makes for a happy ending.

Austen wrote this story to contrast sense and sensibility and to demonstrate how relying on feelings alone may be harmful to self and relationships.  It was common in Austen's time, and still is today, to abandon all reason and logic to follow one's emotions, as a way to discover truth.  Having a feeling about something does not make it real or true.  Also, focusing solely on one's emotions may cause one to be self-centered.  Marianne came to see her behavior as very selfish because it was.


Meanwhile, Austen believed that self-control was a better option than complete exposure of emotions.  She established, in the more mature Elinor, how self-restraint might yield better peace of mind and health, healthier relationships and friendships, and a finer reputation.  As someone who still struggles with extreme sensibilities, I would personally argue for self-restraint, self-control, and a mature display or expression of feelings or emotions, any day.  Strive always to be like Elinor.

Even still, Sense and Sensibility is not as simple as just that because there are numerous other ideas addressed by Austen.  There are many other lessons to be learned here.  It is truly a commendable piece of literature that leads me to proclaim: Jane Austen is a genius and worthy to be read for a healthy and fit mind.


Anonymous said...

Great review! I definitely agree that reading Austen requires a very agile and sharp mind, but it is definitely worth the effort. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading this book! :)

Carol Apple said...

I also was an extreme Marianne in my teens and early 20s and it probably did not serve me well. I was fortunate enough to happen upon a very sensible guy who was happy to put up with a little drama. Lovely review. I have loved Jane Austin for a long time and have read all her novels an watched lots of films based on them. My husband loves the films but has only read Sense and Sensibility. So guess what he's getting for Christmas: the complete collection of all six novels.

Ruth said...

Thank you!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Carol. How wonderful that your husband enjoys Austen with you. A very sensible man, I agree. I am curious what his reaction will be when he opens his gift.

Cleo said...

I love Austen because, as you said, her books can be read on a number of different levels, and they can actually mature with you as a reader. When I first started reading her novels, I thought they were about love and romance. It was only later (and with maturity) that I realized that she only used these common themes from her time to actually highlight larger (and possibly more important) issues. The love/romance was the "light" used to shine on the bigger picture.

I read all her major works this year and even though I had read most of them before, I was surprised at the further insights I gained. Northanger Abbey especially moved up in my estimation, as well as Mansfield Park. I hope in 2016 to get to her minor works.

Jillian said...

YOUR LAST LINE MAKES ME SO HAPPY! I used to hate Austen's work. I read Pride & Prejudice and didn't get it. The more you read her, the better she gets. Sincerely, I've read a few of her titles three times, and the third is the best. Pride & Prejudice is now one of my favorite novels. But Sense & Sensibility is my favorite by Austen. :) I love the illustrations in this post! And I, too, strive to be like Elinor. :) I love your acknowledgment of the importance of marriage in a woman's life back then. It was her politics, whether she liked it or not. (Merry Christmas!)

Ruth said...

Excellent point, Cleo. This is so true. Maybe that is why her works are mistaken as romance novels or chick lit. But dig deeper and you will be enlightened. She is so awesome.

I am reading Mansfield Park in 2016! ( I'm so proud of myself.)

Ruth said...

Yes, Austen must be reread numerous times. Basically, she should be studied like a piece of history.

The one issue I related to about marriage is how important it is to know that when you marry someone, you not only take the individual, but you also marry their family. Oh, how true, how true. What a warning! or enlightenment.

P.S. I love the illustrations, too. I think I love the dresses even more.

Merry Christmas again!

o said...

This is such a good review! I hated Jane Austen the first time around but now I really enjoy her works. Sense and Sensibility (which I used to DETEST) is now one of my favourites. And like Cleo, I'm hoping to read some of her minor works in 2016.

Marry Christmas - hope you have a beautiful day! :)

Ruth said...

Thanks, o. Hope you are enjoying your Christmas, too.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

What an enjoyable post! I'm glad reading S&S ended up being fun as well as challenging :-) I agree that Austen requires you to have your brain engaged -- it's not restful fluff! I find her quite invigorating.

Merry Christmas!

Ruth said...

Last night my daughter and I just watched the film version (with Emma Thompson), and we really liked it.

Merry Christmas, Hamlette!

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

My mom and I watched that version when I was visiting her this autumn -- first time I had seen it in many years. Emma Thompson has become one of my favorite actresses, and I really enjoy her in that.

Rachel said...

Sense and Sensibility is my favorite of Austen's books. I love Brandon. I always wanted to strive to be like Elinor too, though when reading it several times more I realized that Elinor's personality isn't really the best, either. I mean, she seems to suppress her emotions a bit, don't you think? And she almost seems like she's friendly to Lucy partly out of self-torture and partly out of a wish to hear more about Edward. At least, that's what occurred to me in my last reading. Regardless, I generally tend to agree with your assessment on her.

Ruth said...

Good point: Elinor was desirous to hear all she could about Edward, but then it was obvious later that Lucy was a thorn in the side. I admired Elinor for her mature patience and self-control, but I also often feel the need to share my emotions here and there or I will explode. I suppose if one can find a right way to share her emotions without looking like a fool is always preferred.