Sense and Sensibility Chapters 4-6

Ch. 4

In the exchange between the sisters about Elinor’s feelings for Edward, I couldn’t help but think of adolescent girls in the 21st century and what their argument would look like. I’ll be it would be different.

“You love him!”

“No, I don’t. I’m not certain I even like him!”

“Liar! You LOOOOOOOOve him!”

“Well, he sure is sweet, and I think he’s cute and….”

“You love him! I’m telling!”

Or something like that.

Elinor is temperate. Marianne is passionate. More than that, in not being passionate, Elinor is lying, in Marianne’s opinion. Elinor regrets exposing her feelings  even as much as she has.

Elinor started at this declaration, and was sorry for the warmth she had been betrayed into, in speaking of him. She felt that Edward stood very high in her opinion. She believed the regard to be mutual; but she required greater certainty of it to make Marianne’s conviction of their attachment agreeable to her. She knew that what Marianne and her mother conjectured one moment, they believed the next—that with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect. 

As we discussed with Northanger Abbey, romance, engagements, possible marriage were issues not to be joked about or alluded to. They were deadly serious. Elinor knows her sister and her mother. Elinor is temperate and prudent; her mother and sister are not.

To make things worse and more uncomfortable for everyone, to the point that the Henry Dashwoods finally leave what has been their home for over a decade, it is clear that Fanny Dashwood does not approve of Edward’s interest in Elinor, or rather, as she perceives it, Elinor’s reeling in Edward against his better judgment.

Is Elinor right to be circumspect?

Ch. 5

Fanny Dashwood continues to be appallingly amazing with her thought that since the Henry Dashwoods are so poor, what need do they have for lovely furniture and plate? Poor people don’t need nice things. This is not Fanny being cruel—it is her being logical. Rich people have the surroundings for lovely things that poor people lack.

John Dashwood is also impressive here:

Now was the time when her son-in-law’s promise to his father might with particular propriety be fulfilled. Since he had neglected to do it on first coming to the estate, their quitting his house might be looked on as the most suitable period for its accomplishment. But Mrs. Dashwood began shortly to give over every hope of the kind, and to be convinced, from the general drift of his discourse, that his assistance extended no farther than their maintenance for six months at Norland. He so frequently talked of the increasing expenses of housekeeping, and of the perpetual demands upon his purse, which a man of any consequence in the world was beyond calculation exposed to, that he seemed rather to stand in need of more money himself than to have any design of giving money away.

It really is disappointing that Mrs. Henry Dashwood did not give aid to John financially. Such poor manners on her part.

An interesting note in my text about servants discusses how gentry, even those who didn’t have much money, had servants, and three servants was the bare minimum. Servant salary was really low at the time of this novel—about 6-10 pounds a year for a maid. This would be equivalent to about $1000 today. If the servant lived in, the servant would also receive bed and board and uniforms making this salary so worth the work.

Class is key in Austen, especially in terms of money. For more information on what it meant to be gentry, here is a link with great information:

One final note: we see that Marianne continues in a theatrical vein at the end of this chapter. She does remind me of Isabella in the need to exclaim her feelings so often.

Does anyone else see this?

Chapter 6

I, for one, am glad that they removed from their old home and have entered the cottage. Sir John Middleton, Mrs. Henry Dashwood’s cousin, is a much kinder and more amiable person. I so appreciated his welcome—sending fruits and vegetable and game to them.  The difference with John Dashwood is so great.

His pressing them to eat at the park every day was a little much, but again, it was meant kindly. Or was it?!!!

I loved that while Lady Middleton is beautiful and poised, she is not particularly as open as her husband, and that had she not brought her son with her, there would have been no conversation.

Conversation however was not wanted, for Sir John was very chatty, and Lady Middleton had taken the wise precaution of bringing with her their eldest child, a fine little boy about six years old, by which means there was one subject always to be recurred to by the ladies in case of extremity, for they had to enquire his name and age, admire his beauty, and ask him questions which his mother answered for him, while he hung about her and held down his head, to the great surprise of her ladyship, who wondered at his being so shy before company, as he could make noise enough at home. On every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse. In the present case it took up ten minutes to determine whether the boy were most like his father or mother, and in what particular he resembled either, for of course every body differed, and every body was astonished at the opinion of the others.

I find that dogs and cats can also do for this. Or, don’t have social gatherings at all, and then one doesn’t have to come up with any kind of conversation. I personally hate small talk and am quite poor at such social discourse. I think that Jane Austen nails this.

So, what do you think so far?

4 thoughts on “Sense and Sensibility Chapters 4-6”

  1. I am happy the HDs are settled into their new home. So far so good with Sir John and Lady Middleton. I like the Sir John is so chatty and his wife is not.

    I fear, based on Mrs. D’s chatter about putting on an addition to the home, creating a new drawing room, etc., that she will be struggling in this novel with money. I think John will not provide anything to her despite his promise to his father that we KNOW was about money and not about who gets the china. Something more awful financially might befall her.

    Thanks for the article on gentry. I already had to look up “demesne” so look forward to learning more.

    I liked Marianne’s tearful goodbye monologue to Norland at the end of chapter 5, especially how she is, again, a romantic so impassioned. “Oh! happy house, could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot?, from whence perhaps I may view you no more!” I look forward to seeing how Elinore and Marianne grow as characters. (And I do think Marianne is a bit like Isabella in NA only in that they have to express themselves openly and often. But Isabella is vacuous, exaggerative, and selfish. I don’t see that yet in Marianne.)

    1. Wonderful stuff here.
      Yeah, Mrs. Henry Dashwood may not be the best with money. It is lucky the weather is inclement so she can delay doing her addons.
      I agree with your comment about Marianne. She is so much Isabella, and yet she isn’t Isabella. I think Marianne believes what she says, passionately, whereas with Isabella, it was all a put on. You didn’t know where you would stand with her, whereas with Marianne you definitely would know. But, the Marianne sensibility has its own drawbacks, as we shall see. 😉

  2. I definitely think Elinor is correct in being circumspect about Edward, and I agree that Marianne is like Isabella in NA, except she doesn’t seem to be “putting it on” or “playing around.” I think she has this idea about romance and passion, probably reinforced by her mother, and she plays it out, believing that feeling more than others makes her superior. For that reason, Elinor needs to be circumspect because Marianne’s passions could easily lead her to spill everything “accidentally” in the moment because it feels right to say what she feels. It is a bit unfair of me to say that passionate people are not thinking people, but in this context, rationality and logical for women leads me to suspect Marianne would spill the beans about Elinor’s opinions of Edward. And, with Mrs. JD’s perspective about Edward and his marriage prospects, it appears between Marianne and Mrs. HD that Mrs. JD is in a big hurry to get them out of the house.

    I’m glad they moved and think there will be money issues, too. Mrs. HD does not seem to have a strong head for the practical—again, that appears to be Elinor’s role. Lady Middleton’s reserve bothered me a bit, but I can’t really put my finger on it, so we’ll see how that unfolds. I was glad that Sir John was generous with the basket of food and inviting them to dinner. I just keep thinking that Mrs. HD will muddle things because of her romantic notions and ideas about redesigning the cottage.

    1. Yes to everything.
      Passionate people are fun, but messy…and by messy, I mean emotionally. I love your comment that she feels superior–I agree. She has taken life by the reins and her heart guides her. But, again, as you point out, that can lead to sharing other people’s secrets. Or not even their secrets, but what she assumes must be true. Austen really nails the way we all have our own separate viewpoints about things and how this can lead to trouble when we don’t realize we impose our own values on others.

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