Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen’s first published novel, focuses on the lives and loves of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. This is a story of the English moneyed class and its eternal struggle for creating “sense and sensibility” in its world. A potential marriage prospect must make “sense” by bringing with it enough assets and income to permit the couple to continue to live in happy, idle leisure, complete with servants and a prestigious address. Provided one can find such a match among the eligible persons of the opposite sex, one then hopes for “sensibility”, or capacity for emotion, so that if love is not immediately to hand, it might come around later. And while these gentlemen and ladies make their hopeful pirouettes in the social eye, they must of course adhere to all the forms of civility.
Jane Austen writes of the family of a gentleman named Dashwood who dies and leaves most of his fortune to his son, with the understanding that he will “look out for” his mother and three sisters. When that son marries a grasping woman who convinces him that his sisters’ funds are suitable to their needs and so require no contributions from his inherited fortune, the sisters are left to play the game of “Sense and Sensibility” in earnest.
But all’s not fair in love. Carefully prepared “attachments” can and do go awry when gentlemen find other young women of greater fortunes than the Dashwood sisters. So, will they marry for love? Or money? Or perhaps, not at all?
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