Sense and Sensibility Vol. 2 Chapters 7-9

Chapter 7

What a chapter!

Marianne’s despair, Mrs. Jennings kindness. Austen’s cleverness at saving the content of Marianne’s letters till after the revelation of Willoughby’s heartlessness. What an ass! How cold he was. How distancing. Wow.

Very powerful, Marianne’s scream of agony. This is no put on. This is pain from her soul.

They were never engaged! Ah, then it is OK. Willoughby’s trifling is all fine. I know—no one is saying that. But Marianne opened herself up to all sorts of nefariousness, encouraged, in part, by her mother. If only someone had warned her…

Elinor still doesn’t share what happened with Edward, and this permits Marianne to unintentionally wound her. Wow again.

Despite his cruelty, Marianne chooses Willoughby over the world. I don’t know—is this because her pride will be too hurt to believe her taken in by a player? Is she hoping that this isn’t over?

I kind of hate Marianne at the end of this chapter.

Chapter 8

Mrs. Jennings continues to attempt to be kind. I begin to find her annoying again, but she is trying. She does not understand how serious this whole thing is. I’m not sure if that is because she sees it as a crush or if she herself doesn’t take things very seriously so expects others not to as well.

I did not understand why Marianne attempted to engage socially. It doesn’t go well, though I was impressed she made the attempt? Very unMariannelike. I think it was a mistake.

Gossip is so important in this novel. Frequently, people get necessary information from overhearing conversations.  For example, Mrs. Jennings learns about Willoughby’s impending nuptials:

Fifty thousand pounds, my dear. Did you ever see her? a smart, stylish girl they say, but not handsome. I remember her aunt very well, Biddy Henshawe; she married a very wealthy man. But the family are all rich together. Fifty thousand pounds! and by all accounts, it won’t come before it’s wanted; for they say he is all to pieces. No wonder! dashing about with his curricle and hunters! Well, it don’t signify talking; but when a young man, be who he will, comes and makes love to a pretty girl, and promises marriage, he has no business to fly off from his word only because he grows poor, and a richer girl is ready to have him. Why don’t he, in such a case, sell his horses, let his house, turn off his servants, and make a thorough reform at once? I warrant you, Miss Marianne would have been ready to wait till matters came round. But that won’t do now-a-days; nothing in the way of pleasure can ever be given up by the young men of this age.” (emphasis mine)

What has changed in the 21st century? Yes, yes, but in so many ways, in people’s values good and bad, we are so similar.

Willougby and Marianne broke so many social rules, and naturally, the only one that is hurt is the woman.

At the end of the chapter, Mrs. Jennings believes that one good thing that will come of this is that Brandon will get his shot. I like that Brandon is upset at Marianne’s great unhappiness. He does not sport gaiety over Willoughby’s dispensing of Marianne.

Chapter 9

Elinor tells Marianne to express her feelings, to share what is bothering her. This is pretty amazing from Elinor who so often practice restraint.  Note that she feels unable to share her own feelings.

Marianne once again, wears me down by her inability to appreciate anyone but a very small circle of people. Her injustice to Mrs. Jennings, for example is extreme:

“No, no, no, it cannot be,” she cried; “she cannot feel. Her kindness is not sympathy; her good-nature is not tenderness. All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.”

Elinor had not needed this to be assured of the injustice to which her sister was often led in her opinion of others, by the irritable refinement of her own mind, and the too great importance placed by her on the delicacies of a strong sensibility, and the graces of a polished manner. Like half the rest of the world, if more than half there be that are clever and good, Marianne, with excellent abilities and an excellent disposition, was neither reasonable nor candid. She expected from other people the same opinions and feelings as her own, and she judged of their motives by the immediate effect of their actions on herself. Thus a circumstance occurred, while the sisters were together in their own room after breakfast, which sunk the heart of Mrs. Jennings still lower in her estimation; because, through her own weakness, it chanced to prove a source of fresh pain to herself, though Mrs. Jennings was governed in it by an impulse of the utmost goodwill.

I find Marianne wearying and selfish.

And later, when someone knocks at the door and it is discovered to be Col. Brandon, Marianne again lashes out with:

“It is Colonel Brandon!” said she, with vexation. “We are never safe from HIM.”

Of course, mom is cool—after all, she approves of the engagement and finds Willoughby wonderful; and Elinor is good because she puts her own self down in order to help her sister; and Willoughby, well, he’s great too and no doubt was lured by this new woman, or told things by evil people about Marianne.  Hmph.

Still, I think when people think of Austen they think proper, yet twice now she has mentioned illegitimacy, and the whole story about Willoughby as seducer is kind of shocking, but to me, not so much in the subject matter, but in that he appeared so heroic, so handsome, so romantic, and yet he is horrible. And it is clear from the story that many people know this about Willoughby, and yet, he is accepted in society (as was Brandon’s brother). The point is, Austen is not  shy about pointing out how pointedly different men’s lives are from women’s. Men get away with so much and women are destroyed. Oh well.

And such might have been the fate of Marianne (nah—she would have had Elinor and mom, but the sentence from society on her family would have been harsh).

So, while I probably am appearing to be terrible, I kind of want to slap Marianne and say snap out of this.  OK I will reserve judgment to see how she takes the news of Willoughby being a bounder.


No punches are being pulled.

3 thoughts on “Sense and Sensibility Vol. 2 Chapters 7-9”

  1. Chapter 7: Incredibly powerful chapter. Marianne’s deep grief and Elinor’s devoted attending to her was moving. When I learned that M and W were never engaged per se, I thought two things. First, I thought that M had somehow misinterpreted W’s intentions. Being a drama queen who tends not to follow by letter the law of civility, M’s perspective of love can be more fanciful and actual. She is so positive, though, that there was love between them. She was sure of it. So I am wondering if M is lacking in maturity. Second, I thought that regardless of an engagement, it was M who suffered deeply, and W apparently not at all. Regardless of the circumstances (characters’ mindsets, other girlfriends, etc.), in Austen’s time and in her writing, she exposes the truth of women suffering more than men. I did not hate M at the end of this chapter. More, I pitied her enormously and found her incredibly, incredibly unrealistic and unkind (damn the world, damn the family, it’s only Willoughby). However, I read that these words came from intense grief, intense pain. Sometimes, I know, there is little grace in grief. Sometimes, grief can make us say awful things.

    Good point about M and W breaking so many social rules. Their disengagement or whatever we call their now permanent separation from their original relationship is further fed by the fantastic (if not over the top) request by M for W to RETURN HER LETTERS. I loved reading these letters, watching her get more and more ticked off. I loved reading them through Elinor’s eyes. Lots of eyes here on those letters.

    Chapter 8: Lots of compassion goes a long way. Yes to Mrs. Jennings. I like how Austen has developed her, keeping her exactly in the tracks of the gossip-matchmaker so that her pity for Marianne is informed by the who’s-it-and-what’s-it of love. Yes, the gossip (I heard it from so and so who heard it from so and so) is so important in this story. I love it. In addition, Mrs. Jennings’ apologizing to Elinor for her joking behavior shows us some depth of character.

    Chapter 9: BRANDON!! Yes. Are we ever safe from him? The ever-appearing character. Now what does he want? He has some sad eyes going over Marianne’s situation. To this of yours–“Men get away with so much and women are destroyed…”–I couldn’t agree more. I was a bit shocked to learn of Willoughby’s bad behavior. But I just read this chapter and will have to give it more thought. Going outside to enjoy the sunshine. Maybe Brandon will stop by. Ha!

    1. YOu made me laugh with your last line.
      IN fact, I heard a knock at the door and wondered.
      Yeah, I’m being unkind to Marianne. Her grief and despair are genuine. I am not patient enough with people who suck up all the air in the room and refuse to acknowledge that other people have feelings. I think she is to be pitied. I agree with you that she deeply lacks maturity. I think she is really smart. I think her passions are true, and by that, I mean, not put on. I think she is moved by art and music, and she is a romantic in the extreme, but it is heartfelt. In these ways, I admire her. She stands out in her little society where so many people are affected and false. I also truly admire the way in which she is not civil. She will not lie or suck up to people who profoundly do not deserve it. So, I’m torn on her. When I read novels like this, I am so glad I do not have children/teenagers. I don’t think I could take it. So, Marianne is lucky to not have me for her mother or her sister.

      I love your comment about the many eyes on the letters. In one of my all time favorite Sherlock Holmes’ stories “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” a blackmailer’s chief weapon against his victim is the collection of letters. Even at the end of the 19th century, single women did not write to men they weren’t engaged too. This was wrong and could lead to engagements being struck down and suicides and duels. This really was a big deal for Marianne to be writing W. (Also, remember in NA how Catherine’s parents knew the two were writing but pretended to not know. So Austen is actually fine with it when the people are good people who love each other; but in the hands of a Willoughby…sigh.)

  2. Ha! “When I read novels like this, I am so glad I do not have children/teenagers. I don’t think I could take it.” Your honesty is golden.

    Thanks for reminding me about the stringent societal rules that were placed on single women in Austen’s time. I wonder if that’s one of the reasons that women TOOK up the art of writing…because ‘**** you, rule makers that don’t let me write to whomever I please.’

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