Sense and Sensibility Chapters 10-12

Does anyone else feel as though these chapters are discordant? I am not even sure what I mean by that, but they have a different flow. I felt as if I were getting different set pieces rather than a story. This isn’t meant as a complaint—just an observation.

Ch. 10

Willoughby’s observation of the Dashwoods was lovely:

He was received by Mrs. Dashwood with more than politeness; with a kindness which Sir John’s account of him and her own gratitude prompted; and every thing that passed during the visit tended to assure him of the sense, elegance, mutual affection, and domestic comfort of the family to whom accident had now introduced him

This truly is a congenial family. I do wonder how people would describe my biological family. I think it would be different. One friend used the word “terrifying” as one adjective. 😉

It is interesting the Austen isn’t much for physical description.  It is common in Austen that one’s nature is described and scaffolded first for for her, it is more important. We are seeing the female protagonists described for the first time in Chapter 10. And just like in Northanger Abbey, while attractiveness is desirable, beauty is rare, and in this novel, I would argue, problematic.

So what do we actually know of Willoughby after this chapter? Is Marianne right? Is he perfect?

Austen offers another masterclass in knowing one’s characters:

In Mrs. Dashwood’s estimation he was as faultless as in Marianne’s; and Elinor saw nothing to censure in him but a propensity, in which he strongly resembled and peculiarly delighted her sister, of saying too much what he thought on every occasion, without attention to persons or circumstances. In hastily forming and giving his opinion of other people, in sacrificing general politeness to the enjoyment of undivided attention where his heart was engaged, and in slighting too easily the forms of worldly propriety, he displayed a want of caution which Elinor could not approve, in spite of all that he and Marianne could say in its support.

Each woman is true to her nature, and we completely understand and know how they feel about Willoughby. We further are not surprised to learn that:

Her mother too, in whose mind not one speculative thought of their marriage had been raised, by his prospect of riches, was led before the end of a week to hope and expect it; and secretly to congratulate herself on having gained two such sons-in-law as Edward and Willoughby.

In one week all of this has happened! We are part of two completely different stories here. Elinor, the sort of pragmatist, and Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne, the impetuous romantics. Whose story will win?

I do not entirely understand the cruelty about Col. Brandon. Yes, we have the impestuouness of youth. They are young and in love, and people who are 35 who have cares and are not passionate about life are to be pitied, apparently. Got it. But, Brandon has done nothing to these people. Is Willoughby jealous? Does he spot that Brandon cares for Marianne? I don’t believe Willoughby sees and understands other people. And Marianne is not Isabella (we seem to agree on this.) She doesn’t seem to be a mean girl/person, but here she kind of is. Is this just throwing everything to the wind as she engages fully in feelings for Willoughby so everything is up for grabs? Someone help me with this. I don’t like this side of her.

Chapter 11

Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished that it were less openly shewn; and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not in themselves illaudable, appeared to her not merely an unnecessary effort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and mistaken notions. Willoughby thought the same; and their behaviour at all times, was an illustration of their opinions.

Someone of Marianne’s disposition would scoff at Elinor and consider her a stick in the mud, but there are perils to this type of behavior. Like what? Well, maybe in expressing negative opinions about others who have done nothing wrong, like of Col. Brandon in the previous chapter. But of course, I mean something more than that. Or, is this just part of the frumpery of the age that is unfortunate, and aren’t we glad we live in a time when people can express how they feel?

There is one way that I admire Marianne, and that is that her conversation is never insipid. Elinor, being a woman of civility, has boring conversations with her new acquaintances on a daily basis. I’m guessing staying home and reading a good book would not be acceptable. Great—let’s go to the Park again and hear Mrs. Jenning’s stories for a fifth and sixth time, and let’s hear nearly zero from Lady Middleton except encomiums on her terrible children. This bolsters her enjoyment of Brandon’s conversation. I am having trouble though entangling the following paragraph. I get the gist of it, but I find some of it confusing:

In Colonel Brandon alone, of all her new acquaintance, did Elinor find a person who could in any degree claim the respect of abilities, excite the interest of friendship, or give pleasure as a companion. Willoughby was out of the question. Her admiration and regard, even her sisterly regard, was all his own; but he was a lover; his attentions were wholly Marianne’s, and a far less agreeable man might have been more generally pleasing. Colonel Brandon, unfortunately for himself, had no such encouragement to think only of Marianne, and in conversing with Elinor he found the greatest consolation for the indifference of her sister.

Col. Brandon has a secret.

Chapter 12

The whole horse incident is so perfect for showing us Marianne. She accepts the horse completely. It is perfect. It is romantic. She will get to ride along the downs, and it is a gift from her lover.

It is Elinor, as usual, who has to point out reality like, we aren’t rich, we can’t afford to build a stable and hire a new servant. Wake up, Marianne!

I was annoyed that Marianne didn’t instantly grasp this and suggested, among other not so nice ideas, that the horse could just use a shed (not caring for the horse’s comfort) and that mom could bear the cost of the servant meaning less comfort for everyone from less money.

But, before I could harden my heart completely against selfish Marianne, she wakes up out of her romantic dream and understands this will not do. Good job, Marianne. To her credit, it didn’t take long or much convincing.

This chapter, everyone, is about sex. My notes tell me that the horse that Marianne now owns, despite it being continued to be housed by Willoughby, is named Queen Mab. The Fairy Queen Mab sent sexual fantasies was said to encourage romantic love. Hmmm.

Adding to this notion, Willoughby uses Marianne’s Christian name, something that men only did when engaged.

Margaret, whom we rarely hear from (does anyone else find this odd?) witnesses an important moment in the parlour when Willoughby takes a lock of Marianne’s hair. Sure, this sounds simple enough, but the implication is huge and I urge you to take a look at Pope’s “Rape of the Lock.”

Surveillance culture continues with a very difficult scene of Mrs. Jennings and Sir John engaging in raillery against (and I use that word deliberately) Elinor as they try to get Margaret to spill who Elinor is in love with. They think they are being fun and jolly, but this causes Elinor pain. First, she is a rule follower. It is indecorous to be open about romantic attachments, especially when nothing has been promised. It’s emotionally dangerous, for one thing. Marianne is the passionate one, but I think Elinor’s feelings are quite deep, maybe even deeper than Marianne’s. Not being open about such things does not make one less of a feeling person.

Second, as of Chapter 12, we are in the dark about Edward, and I think we are to believe, so is Elinor. I don’t think she has heard anything from him since she left. No letter, message, or visit. I think she is feeling pretty hurt and possibly confused. Mrs. Jennings and Sir John do not mean to be unkind. They aren’t malicious, but what they are doing is no less painful.

And then there is discussion about a visit away. Such a shift!

2 thoughts on “Sense and Sensibility Chapters 10-12”

  1. How interesting you mentioned you were aware of a lack of flow in these chapters. I did as well. But I can’t put my finger on the bumps along the narrative way to say exactly when and where and why. I guess these chapters felt a little distant to me because the purpose seemed to push into us a couple of understandings about character. First, we get to know the Knight in Shining Armor known as Willoughby a little better, and oh, dear dear dear, after Chapter 10 I liked him so much less. True colors: he speaks way too much and in an opinionated manner about Brandon. Youth being what it is– a la ‘I am only 20 something! I can recover from anything!–Willoughby shows his mean side by criticizing Brandon so. Why does he do this, besides the fact he is oblivious to others’ feelings, perhaps, and is an ageist most likely?

    It’s someone interesting to watch the developing romance between Willoughby and Marianne, but these two don’t mean as much to me as NA’s characters for some reason I again will want to give more thought to as my reading through the study progresses; here it must be noted by this reader that I was exceedingly tired when I read these chapters, such fatigue very possibly being the reason I am rolling my eyes a bit at W and M, thinking, “Oh who cares???” Whereas I was extremely (oddly!) excited when W saves the day when M falls down and breaks her ankle, I am now only excited by looking into the corners of the story board at the minor characters because, well, I want MORE. W and M’s love will progress very sensibly along its way, and Elinor will proceed as well to find her way. I like her and trust her. (I like Marianne too, but she’s growing to be a little pretentious and therefore annoying to me.) With the major characters–and is this the part that makes me feel these chapters a bit bumpy–I just feel like I know the game. All will develop as it should. How different a reading experience this has been for me than NA was. BUT……but…but…I am obsessed with Mrs. Middleton, Mrs. Jennings, and especially Margaret. Mrs. Middleton simply cannot be in the novel to serve as a mere contrast to her husband, can she? If so, why? I’m watching her at the edges of the story now–and wonder how delicious it would be if the came to life a little bit more. So disappointed was I when she stayed behind from the outing at the end of these chapters because she had a cold. As for Mrs. Jennings, I love her simply because she prides herself on matchmaking. She so believes in the institute of marriage it is the most critical thing to her. And as for Margaret, I was so delighted when she told on Marianne, revealed to Elinor the very romantic lock cutting scene. It’s a huge huge deal (Yes, Rape of the Lock), but it was made much more interesting relayed through Margaret’s narrative to Elinor (as a scene of confirmation) than if the narrator had revealed it, or Marianne herself had spilled the beans of the deep bond between them. Younger sisters in a family of mostly/all girls fascinate me (Amy in Little Women comes to mind) because they are both the baby and the ones through so much female influence are innately wanting to belong, to be grown up.

    I guess overall I don’t know who Austen in this novel wants me to champion, to like, to follow with more intent. Whereas in NA I had to follow them all because there was a little mystery here and there (e..g., how slowly but surely we saw the weirdness and badness of Mr. Tilney), in S&S I keep thinking Austen is showing us her hand with characters as they roll from scene to scene. It’s very odd. I would like a little UNsensibility from the author. Or is that just her point? Taking us on a bumpy path in these chapters that eventually will smooth out for us? I so hope so. Anyway, I am wide awake and one the next chapters. Thanks for letting me stay in the game here. I am oodles of noodles behind in the discussion but will proceed as though it’s not a problem.

    1. Thank God for your participation, Marcia! First of all, because you always have a terrific interpretation, and second, I would be talking into the void otherwise. I have already decided if no one joins in, I’m going to keep going, at least with this novel, because it is apparently keeping me somewhat sane right now, and I need all the help I can get.

      Based on what you have said here, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the upcoming chapters. I think narrative voice? stream? river? I don’t know what to call it, is back after Ch. 12. I think that is OK though–and I think you are right. I think what made it bumpy was Austen wanted to focus on character and not story…hmmm. Her side characters are fun. I don’t like Mrs. Jennings, and I am in the minority on that one. She is interesting though and important to the story. I hate Lady Middleton, in part, because let’s just admit it–I enjoy hating.

      On Margaret, again, I agree with you. It is important we see the lock incident from her perspective. Austen does a decent job of having a character who would understand some of the significance but not all. And how juicy for such a ones as Marianne and Willoughby to have an observer. How different a scene it would have been if it were Edward and Elinor.

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