They were all in high spirits and good humour, eager to be happy, and determined to submit to the greatest inconveniences and hardships rather than be otherwise.
What an upsetting set of three chapters! It is a roller coaster ride of emotion. Austen, as usual, nails it. The participants for their various reasons, will put on a show, will act “appropriately” in order for social happiness to occur.
Yet, look at what happens. The longed for visit is put off because Col. Brandon has to leave quickly. I found myself rather surprised at how upset I was at his treatment. He was mocked. He was asked to put off his trip. This is a circumspect man, and he doesn’t share things easily, but he made it clear, this was an emergency, and yet people decried him as selfish. I did not like these people.
Marianne and Willoughby refuse to allow their day to be ruined, so they take off, by themselves, away from the crowd. Folks, this is terrible behavior! We later find out they visited a house, the house belonging to someone that Marianne was not introduced to beforehand. This is another rule of social decorum broken.
I think for those who don’t read Austen, she is regarded as someone who is quite proper, yet look at the things mentioned! Illegitimacy, secret engagements, a beautiful young woman celebrating her own choices even against society’s viewpoints…
I find it interesting that all that Mrs. Jennings reported about what happened between Willoughby and Marianne was true…what does that mean? Does that mean she isn’t just a gossip and will say anything? Or is she to be trusted?
This argument between the sisters is, I think, really important:
“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”
“On the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure.”
“But, my dear Marianne, as it has already exposed you to some very impertinent remarks, do you not now begin to doubt the discretion of your own conduct?”
“If the impertinent remarks of Mrs. Jennings are to be the proof of impropriety in conduct, we are all offending every moment of our lives. I value not her censure any more than I should do her commendation. I am not sensible of having done anything wrong in walking over Mrs. Smith’s grounds, or in seeing her house. They will one day be Mr. Willoughby’s, and—”
“If they were one day to be your own, Marianne, you would not be justified in what you have done.”
What say you?
So currently, Willoughby’s allowance is about $70,000 a year in 2020. He does not work for this money. He gets to do with it what he will, and he frequently pleads poverty. So far in this novel, we have several people with money issues. (Yes, I am making a huge understatement.)
Willoughby’s love of the cottage—his heart is with this family…
Are Willoughy and Marianne engaged?
Does it matter if it is unstated if everyone believes it to be so?
Willoughby is leaving. Remember when Colonel Brandon and much was made of his leaving, even the rudeness of his doing so? Note that Willoughby is not treated in such a rough manner. I found that interesting, and it has to be deliberate on Austen’s part, in the sense that the two incidents are so close together. Another example of foiling, and clearly something I need to do in my novel.
Not only is Willoughby leaving, and not explaining the reason, but he is going away for a year!
He leaves with these his last words:
He stopt. Mrs. Dashwood was too much astonished to speak, and another pause succeeded. This was broken by Willoughby, who said with a faint smile, “It is folly to linger in this manner. I will not torment myself any longer by remaining among friends whose society it is impossible for me now to enjoy.”
Why is it impossible to enjoy their society? Is it simply because he is now leaving? Hmmm.
Marianne is understandably distraught.
But whatever might be the particulars of their separation, her sister’s affliction was indubitable; and she thought with the tenderest compassion of that violent sorrow which Marianne was in all probability not merely giving way to as a relief, but feeding and encouraging as a duty.
This is Marianne’s work that she has been preparing for. That comes off as mean. I think that Marianne is devastated, and I feel sorry for her.
This exchange between Elinor and her mother is amazing, and I want to memorize Elinor’s comment.
You will tell me, I know, that this may or may NOT have happened; but I will listen to no cavil, unless you can point out any other method of understanding the affair as satisfactory at this. And now, Elinor, what have you to say?”
“Nothing, for you have anticipated my answer.”
Of course, her mother could not grasp Elinor’s view and nor did she want to.
What a powerful chapter.
What is going on with Willoughby? Are Marianne and Willoughby engaged or were they ever? Who is right? Mom or Elinor?
I love these chapters.
8 thoughts on “Sense and Sensibility Chapters 13-15”
Wow! I agree. These chapters were action-packed. Two surprising, abrupt departures by men in this circle. Brandon’s mystery has me clinging to the edge of my seat. I like Brandon. I have sympathy for him. I really, however, don’t understand why the group gives him such a hard time about leaving and didn’t get a sense they were mocking him although, yes, they wouldn’t leave him alone about his departing. I thought Willoughby’s comment about Brandon making up the need to leave because he is one of *those people* who can’t have fun and adventure to be cruel. And, therefore, once again I wonder about Willoughby as a person of integrity. Austen gives us so so so much dialogue that we really are privy to what they feel about life and each other almost solely by what they say. A limited narrator in this regard is a bit of a mystery-maker. Austen stirs the pot, yes, not by description but by character interaction.
It was very ‘Isabella and whoever in NA she goofs around with’ for Marianne and Willoughby to take off on their own. Silly selfish in-love people. Secretly engaged? I don’t know. I don’t know why they would bother being secret about it, for the manner of the time was, apparently, for families to grow so fond of the visiting paramour to the young lady of the household that ‘understandings’ are gained, glances are shared, and a knowingness abounds. When things do not work out, the discussion is huge and personal. Wow. It’s as though a young lady’s courting and possible engagement to a man is everybody’s business. And indeed it was then, apparently, if Austen is writing realistically and if we recall (which I have to do ALL the time when reading her) that marriage was a HUGE deal then. Oh how have times changed.
Mrs. Jennings is the source of so much finding-out that yes she can be perceived as a gossip, and utterly on-task to say what she believes to be true or know to be true. Her speaking out at dinner to M and W in plain earshot of others at the table about M and W’s whereabouts was delightful to me, in part because it was oddly comical that a woman could be so outspoken as to say whatever she wants in the name of courtship, engagement, and bonding but also because she is RIGHT. She speaks the truth. So yes, I think she can be trusted, and I can’t wait to see what else she says in this novel.
Chapter 15 was a thrill because I was just getting over accepting Col. Brandon’s mysterious departure and hoping so much to learn more soon when here comes another one: Bye, bye, Willoughby. Honestly, I have no idea why he is going, but Elinor and her mother have such a long, diffused conversation about it that doesn’t do much except solidify in my mind how familial relationships were so involved in romantic relationships in Austen’s time. Perhaps, perhaps Austen is trying to suggest through these conversations between mother and daughter and sister and sister about Marianne and Willoughby’s love relationship–conversations that are so filled with conjecture and ‘we-really-don’t-know’s–that it’s no one’s business (a VERY modern idea if so) and that it’s perfectly fine for couples to be secretly engaged given all they have to face in the familial light.
I like your comment that with so much dialogue we see character through what they say. You said this so much better. It makes me realize how much I have to work on dialogue in my novel. I love your assertion that this creates mystery and stirring the pot. Yes!
Yes to everything you are saying. Secret engagements were such a big deal for good and bad reasons. Such drama potential in reality and in fiction. I also think, since so many of these people didn’t have jobs, it was another reason to be obsessed with what people were doing. We already see that the Middletons can’t abide to not be surrounded by others. They would be so bored!
So, these people are truly the idle class, yes? In NA, several of the characters had jobs/titles/occupations. Perhaps that is why NA makes me a bit happier (although, sheesh, ‘servants’ abounded in NA, but it was as Mark Schumann pointed out at the beginning of the novel pretty unacknowledged by Austen…sort of ‘enter early 19th century middle to upper class, know servants abound’). In S&S, are most of the characters ‘landed gentry’? Even the Dashwoods who land at Barton? How can I sympathize with those who are of ‘working age’ but don’t have to work to make a living?? It creeps me out that I can’t. For aren’t we all humans? Is this why some people don’t like Austen, they are bored or indifferent or offended by the wealth of her characters and so write them off as mere pawns in a game that Austen is playing, spoofing and satirizing and giving words to the idle class as they go through their lives of love, marriage, gossip, and galore? I am talking out loud so will stop. Who IS this Jane Austen? Now I have to read much more about HER!! Or do you not suggest that? Just keep reading her works?
I understand the unhappiness, the sense of unreality, but though I hate this statement, it is true: it is what it is. At that period in time, there was a landed gentry (I wrote about this during the NA, I think, but maybe that was a fever dream) and there were people who didn’t work, or didn’t work much, or worked a lot in their youth and then retired young. Hey! Just like now. Think the 1% or the 3%. Austen was not of this group. She is writing about those above her.
So, yeah–it’s weird. It bugs me terribly, and always has, that these women from the middle class and above who sat at home and did little. This is why the need for conduct books and such. What was a brilliant and talented woman to do when women weren’t allowed formal education and weren’t allowed to work? I mean, for some women, of course, this was the ideal (and yes, we have people like that today who marry money and then don’t work. I still find that amazing.) In Austen’s day, you might do something crazy like, hey, write novels! Hawthorne writes about the “scribbling women”. At the time of Austen and for the next 50 years or so (I’m making that number up but I’m sort of close) women writers outsold men. Eventually, we will have a whole subgenre of literature, sensation fiction, that has some notable male writers, but women ruled it. Many of the women writers of the 19th century wrote because they needed to feed families. They were single parents due to widowhood or…and writing could buy food. For people like Austen, it was kind of looked down upon for a woman to write, and certainly to write for money, but it was tolerated. Austen was brilliant–she did do needlepoint, but can you imagine a mind like hers being OK with that being the sole bent of her life?
Note that Marianne plays the piano and sings (and delights in this) and Elinor draws. These were acceptable. Women could learn languages. They could sew. They were supposed to make life better for others. But they couldn’t earn an income unless forced into it by life.
So–in Austen’s case, these were the people that interested her. I, for one, am thrilled. I love her characters. I love Catherine and Tilney. I love Elinor and the Dashwoods. It is weird that no one was working, or working is off screen, but this was the class that fascinated Austen. I’m fine with that.
I have read working class novels of the day. I love Dickens (he’s later than Austen but probably the most famous author of the 19th century who writes working class and impoverished characters)–but I prefer Austen. So, with these classes she can minutely examine relationships which became all the more stressful because these people had little else to do. It is interesting to see how folks spend their time. The Dashwoods like to be solitary. They like long walks, novels, music, drawing. They think education is important. The Middletons have nothing, nothing without society. What does that tell us? How does Willoughby spend his time and his fortune? What about Col. Brandon? What about Edward? The Steeles?
So Austen is showing us there are different ways to be when one has money. There are different means of employing oneself.
I feel as though I could write about this for hours, but I’ve probably bored you enough right now.
Oh, do also keep in mind, and I know you know this, but note that she is satirizing this class as well. It is clear to me anyway, that Austen doesn’t like this separation between men and women; that she thinks women are as smart if not smarter; and that behavior matters. Money does not justify being mean or cruel or petty or idle. Money does not make you a gentleman. Being a Lady doesn’t make you a good mother or a good person, and so on. In her way, Austen is quite radical.
Wow! Perfect! This of what you write will keep me busy reading and thinking about Austen and her era for decades: “So, with these classes she can minutely examine relationships which became all the more stressful because these people had little else to do. It is interesting to see how folks spend their time. The Dashwoods like to be solitary. They like long walks, novels, music, drawing. They think education is important. The Middletons have nothing, nothing without society. What does that tell us? How does Willoughby spend his time and his fortune? What about Col. Brandon? What about Edward? The Steeles?
So Austen is showing us there are different ways to be when one has money. There are different means of employing oneself.”
Where are the novels of the 1% and their stressful relationships due to their having nothing else to do? Really.
As for Austen’s satire, yes–thank you for reminding me; I did love some of her doozy one-liners–I do admit to having less of an ear for satire in prose than satire/tone in poetry. I know it’s an auditory ‘thing’ on my part, but this virtual book club is helping me work on it!!!
I am genuinely thrilled you find what I write to be sometimes interesting. Excellent!
My work here is done.
That’s me attempting to be funny.
There are people who write about the super rich in our time, and I don’t read those books. I don’t like them. Which is odd, but Austen brings something that the novels of the last 20 years don’t for me. I love Jane Austen.
I know you love JA. I am a JA fangirl thanks to you!!!
I just feel like I need to do a study of comparable writers to her in our time…comparable on two counts, and if they intersect like a Venn diagram we are onto something…those who write about the super rich in our time, and those who satirize the super rich. The first would be probably economics and civility disconsidered, and the second would be cut a wide swath. Is there a contemporary day Jane Austen of England? America? The Planet?
I am too tired to post on this well right now. There are people writing like her/in her tradition? With her goal? I personally don’t think anyone is as good or even close, but I have extreme bias. I will come back to this. Love this question/comment.