Mr. and Mrs. Dashwood and their three daughters live at Norland Park, an estate in Sussex. Unfortunately, Mr. Dashwood's wife and daughters are left with very little when he dies and the estate goes to his son, John Dashwood. John and his wife Fanny have a great deal of money, yet refuse to help his half-sisters and their mother.
Elinor, one of the Dashwood girls, is entirely sensible and prudent, her sister, Marianne, is very emotional and never moderate. Margaret, the youngest sister, is young and good-natured. Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters stay at Norland for a few months, mostly because of the promising friendship developing between Elinor and Edward Ferrars, Fanny's shy, but very kind, brother. Elinor likes Edward, but is not convinced her feelings are mutual, Fanny is especially displeased by their apparent regard, as Edward's mother wants him to marry.
A relative of Mrs. Dashwood's, Sir John Middleton, offers them a cottage at Barton Park in Devonshire, the family must accept and are sad at leaving their home and having to separate Edward and Elinor. They find Barton Cottage and the countryside around it charming, and Sir John Middleton a very kind and obliging host. His wife, Lady Middleton, is cold and passionless; still, they accept frequent invitations to dinners and parties at Barton Park.
The Dashwoods meet Mrs. Jennings, Sir John's mother-in-law, a merry, somewhat vulgar older woman, and Colonel Brandon, a gentleman and a bachelor. The Colonel is soon taken with Marianne, but Marianne objects to Mrs. Jennings attempts to get them together, and to the "advanced" age (35) and serious demeanor of the Colonel.
Marianne falls and twists her ankle while walking, she is lucky enough to be found and carried home by a dashing man named Willoughby. Marianne and Willoughby have a similar romantic temperament, and Marianne is much pleased to find that Willoughby has a passion for art, poetry, and music. Willoughby and Marianne's attachment develops steadily, though Elinor believes that they should be more restrained in showing their regard publicly.
One pleasant day, the Middletons, the Dashwoods, and Willoughby are supposed to go on a picnic with the Colonel, but their plans are ditched when Colonel Brandon is forced to leave because of distressing news. Willoughby becomes an even more attentive guest at the cottage, spending a great deal more time there than Allenham with his aunt. Willoughby openly confesses his affections for Marianne and for all of them, and hopes they will always think of him as fondly as he does of them, this leaves Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor convinced that if Marianne and Willoughby are not engaged, they soon will be.
One morning, Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor, and Margaret leave the couple, hoping for a proposal when they return, they find Marianne crying, and Willoughby saying that he must immediately go to London. Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor are completely unsettled by this hasty departure, and Elinor fears that they might have had a falling-out. Marianne is torn up by Willoughby's departure, and Elinor begins to question whether Willoughby's intentions were honorable. But, whether Willoughby and Marianne are engaged remains a mystery, as Marianne will not speak of it.
Edward comes to visit them at Barton, and is welcomed very warmly as their guest. It is soon apparent that Edward is unhappy, and doesn't show as much affection for Elinor. When they spot a ring he is wearing, with a lock of hair suspiciously similar to Elinor's, even Elinor is baffled. Edward finally forces himself to leave, still seeming distressed.
Sir John and Mrs. Jennings soon introduce Mrs. Jennings' other daughter, Mrs. Palmer, and her husband to the family. Mrs. Palmer says that people in town believe that Willoughby and Marianne will soon be married, which puzzles Elinor, as she knows of no such arrangements herself. Elinor and Marianne meet the Middletons' new guests, the Miss Steeles, apparently cousins. They find Miss Steele to be nothing remarkable, while Lucy is very pretty but not much better company. However, the Miss Steeles instantly gain Lady Middleton's admiration by paying endless attention to her obnoxious children.
Elinor, unfortunately, becomes the preferred companion of Lucy. Lucy inquires of Mrs. Ferrars, which prompts Elinor to ask about her acquaintance with the Ferrars family. Lucy then reveals that she is secretly engaged to Edward. It turns out that Edward and Lucy knew each other while Edward studied with Lucy's uncle, Mr. Pratt, and have been engaged for some years. Although Elinor is first angry about Edward's secrecy, she soon sees that marrying Lucy will be punishment enough, as she is unpolished, manipulative, and jealous of Edward's high regard for Elinor.
The Miss Steeles end up staying at Barton Park for two months. Mrs. Jennings invites Marianne and Elinor to spend the winter with her in London. Marianne is determined to go to see Willoughby, and Elinor decides she must go too, because Marianne needs Elinor's polite guidance. They accept the invitation, and leave in January. Once in town, they find Mrs. Jennings' house comfortable and their company less than ideal; still, they try their best to enjoy it all.
Marianne anxiously awaits Willoughby's arrival, while Elinor finds her greatest enjoyment in Colonel Brandon's daily visits. Elinor is much disturbed when Colonel Brandon tells her that the engagement between Marianne and Willoughby is widely known throughout town. At a party, Elinor and Marianne see Willoughby. Marianne approaches him, although he avoids Marianne, and his behavior is insulting.
Marianne angrily writes Willoughby, and receives a reply in which he denies having loved Marianne, and says he hopes he didn't lead her on. Marianne is deeply grieved at being deceived and dumped so coldly. Elinor feels only anger at Willoughby's unpardonable behavior. Marianne then reveals that she and Willoughby were never engaged, and Elinor observes that Marianne should have been more prudent in her affections. Apparently, Willoughby is to marry the wealthy Lady Grey due to his constant need for money.
Colonel Brandon calls after hearing the news, and offers up his knowledge of Willoughby's character to Elinor. Colonel Brandon was once in love with a ward to his family, Eliza, who became a fallen woman and had an illegitimate daughter. Colonel Brandon placed the daughter, Miss Williams, in care after her mother's death. The Colonel learned on the day of the Delaford picnic that she had become pregnant, and was abandoned by Willoughby. Elinor is shocked, though the Colonel sincerely hopes that this will help Marianne feel better about losing Willoughby, since he was not of solid character.
The story convinces Marianne of Willoughby's guilt, though it does not ease her mind. Out of sympathy, Marianne also stops avoiding the Colonel's company and becomes more civil to him. Willoughby is soon married, which Marianne is grieved to hear; then, again unfortunately, the Miss Steeles come to stay with the Middletons.
John and Fanny Dashwood arrive, and are introduced to Mrs. Jennings, and to Sir John and Lady Middleton, deeming them worthy company. John reveals to Elinor that Edward is soon to be married to Miss Morton, an orphan with a great deal of money left to her, as like the plans of his mother. At a dinner party given by John and Fanny for their new acquaintance, Mrs Ferrars is present, along with the entire Barton party. Mrs. Ferrars turns out to be sallow, unpleasant, and uncivil. She slights Elinor, which hurts Marianne deeply, as she is Edward's mother.
The Miss Steeles are invited to stay with John and Fanny. But, Mrs. Jennings soon informs them that Miss Steele told Fanny of Lucy and Edward's engagement, and that the Ferrars family threw the Steele girls out in a rage. Marianne is much grieved to hear of the engagement, and cannot believe that Elinor has also kept her knowledge of it a secret for so long. Edward is to be disinherited if he chooses to marry Lucy. Unfortunately, Edward is too honorable to reject Lucy, even if he no longer loves her. Financial obstacles to their marriage remain; he must find a position in the church that pays enough to allow them to marry. Much to Elinor's chagrin, the Colonel, although he barely knows Edward, generously offers the small parish at Delaford to him. Elinor is to convey the offer to Edward, though she regrets that it might help the marriage.
Edward is surprised at the generous offer, since he hardly knows the Colonel. Edward decides to accept the position. 5They say goodbye as Elinor is going to leave town soon. Much to Elinor's surprise, Robert Ferrars, Edward's selfish, vain, and rather dim brother, is now to marry Miss Morton he has also received Edward's inheritance and money, and doesn't care about Edward's grim situation.
It is April, and the Dashwood girls, the Palmers, and Mrs. Jennings, and Colonel Brandon set out for Cleveland, the Palmer's estate. Marianne is still feeling grief over Willoughby, she soon becomes ill after her walks in the rain, and gets a serious fever. The Palmers leave with her child. Mrs. Jennings, though, helps Elinor nurse Marianne, and insists that Colonel Brandon stays, since he is anxious about Marianne's health. Colonel Brandon soon sets off to get Mrs. Dashwood from Barton when Marianne's illness worsens. At last, Marianne's state improves, right in time for her mother and the Colonel's arrival but Willoughby makes an unexpected visit.
Elinor is horrified at seeing him; he has come to inquire after Marianne's health and to explain his past actions. Willoughby says he led Marianne on at first out of vanity. He finally began to love her as well, and would have proposed to her, if not for the money.
By saying that he also has no regard for his wife, and still loves Marianne, he attempts to gain Elinor’s compassion. Elinor's opinion of him is somewhat improved in being assured of his regard for Marianne. Willoughby leaves sobbing over the fact that Marianne is lost to him forever.
Mrs. Dashwood finally arrives, and Elinor assures her that Marianne is out of danger; both Mrs. Dashwood and the Colonel are relieved. Mrs. Dashwood tells Elinor that the Colonel had confessed his love for Marianne during the journey from Barton. Mrs. Dashwood wishes the Colonel and Marianne to be married. Elinor wishes the Colonel well in securing Marianne's affections, but is more pessimistic regarding Marianne's ability to accept the Colonel after disliking him for so long.
Marianne makes a quick recovery, thanking Colonel Brandon for his help and acting friendly toward him. Marianne finally seems calm and happy as they leave for Barton, which Elinor believes to signal Marianne's recovery from Willoughby. She is also far maturer, keeping herself busy and refusing to let herself languish in her grief.
When Marianne decides to talk about Willoughby, Elinor takes the opportunity to tell her what Willoughby had said at Cleveland, and Marianne takes this very well. Marianne also laments her selfishness toward Elinor, and her lack of civility toward most of their acquaintance. Marianne finally says that she could not have been happy with Willoughby, after hearing of his cruelty toward Miss Williams, and no longer regrets him.
The family is stunned when one of their servants returns with news that Edward is married to Lucy, as he just saw them in the village. Elinor knows now that Edward is lost to her forever. Mrs. Dashwood sees how upset Elinor is, and realizes that Elinor felt more for Edward than she ever revealed. One afternoon, Elinor is convinced that the Colonel has arrived at the cottage, but is surprised to find that it is Edward instead. Their meeting is awkward at best, he soon informs them that it is his brother who has been married to Lucy, and not him. Elinor immediately runs from the room, crying out of joy. Edward then senses Elinor's regard for him, and proposes to her that afternoon. Elinor accepts and he gains Mrs. Dashwood's consent to the match.
Edward admits that any regard he had for Lucy was formed out of idleness and lack of knowledge he came to regret the engagement soon after it was formed. After leaving London, Edward received a letter from Lucy saying that she had married his brother Robert, and has not seen her since thus, he was honorably relieved of the engagement. After receiving the letter, he set out for Barton immediately to see Elinor. Edward will still accept the position at Delaford, although he and Elinor again will not have enough money to live on comfortably. The Colonel visits Barton, and he and Edward become good friends.
Edward then becomes reconciled with his family, although he does not regain his inheritance from Robert. His mother even gives her consent for his marriage to Elinor, however much she is displeased by it she gives them ten thousand pounds, the interest of which will allow them to live comfortably. Edward and Elinor are married at Barton that fall.
Mrs. Dashwood and her two remaining daughters spend most of their time at Delaford, both to be near Elinor, and out of the hope that Marianne might accept the Colonel. In the two years that have passed, Marianne has become maturer and more grounded and she does finally change her mind about the Colonel, and accepts his offer of marriage. The Colonel becomes far more cheerful, and soon Marianne grows to love him as much as she ever loved Willoughby. Mrs. Dashwood remains at Barton with Margaret, now fifteen, much to the delight of Sir John, who retains their company. And Elinor and Marianne both live together at Delaford, and remain good friends with each other and each other's husbands.
Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 at Steventon, England. She was the seventh child of the rector of the parish at Steventon, and lived with her family until they moved to Bath when her father retired in 1801.
Her father, Reverend George Austen, was from Kent and attended the Tunbridge School before studying at Oxford and receiving a living as a rector at Steventon. Her mother, Cassandra Leigh Austen, was the daughter of a patrician family. Among her siblings she had but one sister, Cassandra, with whom she kept in close contact her entire life. Her brothers entered a variety of professions: several joined the clergy, one was a banker, while several more spent time in the military. Although her family was neither noble nor wealthy, Rev. Austen had a particular interest in education, even for his daughters. Although her novels focus on courtship and marriage, Jane Austen remained single her entire life. She died in Winchester on July 8, 1817.
Money/Inheritance: Laws surrounding inheritance are what put the Dashwood women in limbo at the beginning of the novel; and their lack of money, compounded with their inability to work, means that they cannot ease their situation, except through marrying well. Money also dictates the eligibility of Elinor and Marianne, as women with larger dowries are of course seen as better prospects for marriage.
Gender: There are very definite gender limitations involved in the society Austen describes; women cannot own property, are expected to stay in the home, marry, and be polite and good company. Men can decide whether or not to pursue a career if they have enough money, and have more latitude within society in regards to their behavior and life choices. Gender dictates acceptable roles and behavior, and even in the world of the novel, there is little room to deviate.
Expectations vs. reality: This is an especially important theme with regard to Marianne and her mother, whose romantic characters lead them to expect greater drama or trauma than actually appears. But reality always tends to subvert expectations, whether in life or in art, as accidents and unexpected twists and turns happen to everyone.
Marriage: For Marianne and Elinor, marriage is not a choice, but a necessity; and their need to marry expediently and well is a pressing concern in the novel, as they look for suitors. Young men may choose more freely when and whom they marry, and Colonel Brandon is even 35 and still unmarried; but even for women who have money, marriage is necessary to secure their social positions and ensure financial stability for the future.
Discretion: Of the utmost importance in polite society, where it is not to one's advantage to let people know all that you think and feel. Marianne's lack of discretion leads to a great deal of gossip and a very public snubbing by Willoughby; lack of discretion in many others indicates poor manners and a lack of refinement.
Appearance vs. reality: Pertains to character especially, as many characters in the novel present themselves as one thing, and end up being another. Willoughby is the prime example of this, as he seems romantic, open, and genuine, but ends up exposing himself as vain, idle, and cruel. Also pertains to Lucy Steele, who ends up conniving, despite her innocent appearance.
Expectation and disappointment: Throughout the novel, many characters develop expectations based on sparse evidence or faulty perceptions; this, of course, leads to disappointment as reality proves very different. Joyful expectations are often dashed by harsher turns of events, as Marianne is extremely disappointed by her expectation of being married to Willoughby, and is pushed away.
Secrecy: Usually an indication of wrongdoing on someone's part, as is especially evident in Willoughby; his sudden unwillingness to share information with Marianne and the Dashwoods indicates mistakes made on his part. On the other hand, as with Edward, secrecy can be a sign of discretion, though when his secret is revealed it is damaging as Willoughby's is.
Judgment: In interactions with other people, judgment is always at work; a person must determine who a person really is and what they want, in order to avoid those who could potentially be hurtful. These judgments can be flighty and unjust, as Marianne's appraisals of most of her acquaintance are, or blinded by kindness, as Mrs. Jennings' judgment of Lucy Steele is.
Jealousy: Relates mostly to Lucy Steele, and is the prime determinant of her behavior toward Elinor. Willoughby also becomes jealous of Colonel Brandon marrying Marianne, and other, petty jealousies become evident in characters. Indicates insecurity, or poor character.
Self-sacrifice and selfishness: Elinor especially is a model of self-sacrifice, deciding to go to London for her sister's happiness, and trying her best to be civil to everyone to make up for Marianne's uncivil behavior. Marianne is the opposite, caring only for herself and her feelings; she needs Elinor's help and goodwill to get by, but needs to learn how to be giving toward others in order to become her own, independent person.
Hypocrisy: A vast number of characters in the novel embody this trait to varying degrees; John and Fanny, Lady Middleton, the Steele girls, Mrs. Ferrars, and Robert, among others, tend toward hypocritical displays of self-serving flattery, vanity, and professing opinions they do not believe in for self-gain or to get ahead with others. Unfortunately, none of these characters is taught any better in the course of the novel, as hypocrisy is an unavoidable part of human nature, and almost a part of polite society as well.
Moderation: Marianne must learn moderation of her emotions if she is to become independent of Elinor and become an adult; her trials serve to teach her about her excesses, and luckily, she does come to improve herself and become a much better, more caring person toward others.
Henry Dashwood: Husband of Mrs. Dashwood, and father of Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret; also has a son, John, from a previous marriage. He dies at the beginning of the novel, leaving his wife and daughters little money and his son his estate.
John Dashwood: Mr. Dashwood's only son, he is selfish and miserly and mostly unpleasant to his half-sisters. Married to Fanny Dashwood, who is even more selfish and mean-spirited than he.
Mrs. Dashwood: Mother of Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, she has a romantic temperament and is very close to her daughters She hopes to see them all married off well, yet is not the voice of reason that perhaps she should be.
Elinor Dashwood: At 19, she is the oldest of the Dashwood girls, she has a great deal of common sense and is bet out of her family at dealing with people. She is a dramatic foil to her sister, Marianne, in that she tempers her emotions and judgments with good sense and discretion. Prefers to keep her troubles secret, as she is always trying to make sure that her mother and sisters are untroubled by her private woes.
Marianne Dashwood: Two years younger than Elinor, she is thoroughly youthful, impetuous, and thoroughly immersed in romantic ideals. She lacks the sense and discretion of Elinor, preferring to express exactly what she feels and hold nothing back. Elinor often has to apologize on her sister's behalf, as Marianne makes few attempts to be polite or mask her feelings of contempt for those people she dislikes.
Margaret Dashwood: The youngest Dashwood girl, she is thirteen; she tries to imitate Marianne's romantic sentiments, but is not nearly as extreme. She is included in most social invitations that the Dashwoods are invited to, though she is neither a child nor an adult, which is perhaps an awkward position for her.
Edward Ferrars: Fanny Dashwood's brother, he is shy, kind, and retiring, preferring a quiet life to the distinction that his mother and sister wish for him. He and Elinor become attached early in the novel, since both are sensible and good-hearted. However, he also gives Elinor mixed signals and his thoughts and feelings are very hard to read.
Sir John Middleton: The owner of Barton Park, the Dashwoods landlord and neighbor. He is very kind and loves company, almost to the point of being intrusive; although the Dashwood girls don't care for his good-natured jibes and his insistence that they always come to Barton Cottage, he looks after them and makes sure that they are comfortable at Barton.
Lady Middleton: Sir John's wife; she is very vain and proper, meaning that she is elegant, but also uninteresting and cold. She takes joy in her children, who are badly behaved and obnoxious even; she does not share Sir John's love for company, and finds that most people are not to her liking.
Mrs. Jennings: Lady Middleton's mother and Sir John's mother-in-law; she makes endless jokes about potential suitors for Marianne and Elinor, and her manners, though jolly, are also vulgar and sometimes irritating. She has far more in common with her son-in-law than with her daughter, as they both love company and shows of humor.
Colonel Brandon: One of Sir John's oldest friends, he is 35 and a former military officer who was stationed in India. His countenance is rather stern and grim, hiding his good heart; Elinor finds him good company, though Marianne considers him too dour and not nearly romantic enough to be suitable company.
John Willoughby: A dashing, roguish young man, he embodies all the dashing, romantic qualities that Marianne prizes. He also loves art and literature just as she does, and has a manner that is almost too open and bold for his own good. He proves to be reckless and more deceptive than anyone could have imagined.
Miss Williams: Colonel Brandon's adopted daughter, child of a woman he was once in love with. She does not appear in the novel, but her seduction and abandonment by Willoughby figures heavily in the plot.
Mrs. Smith: Also does not appear; she is Willoughby's aunt, on whom he is financially dependent, and orders him away to London without her support when she finds out about Miss Williams.
Mrs. Palmer: Mrs. Jennings' other daughter, she is foolishly good-spirited and empty-headed as well. She ignores the rudeness and insults that her husband so frequently offers up, deceiving herself that he is good-natured and means well.
Mr. Palmer: Very bitter man, who usually makes cutting, sarcastic remarks at the expense of his wife and of others. He is very unpleasant to be around, and drives away most people, despite his wife's frequent apologies.
Miss Steele: A distant cousin of Mrs. Jennings, she and her sister become guests at Barton Cottage for a number of months Miss Steele is foolish, flippant, and very ignorant, and gains the approval of Lady Middleton through shameless flattery and pandering to her children.
Lucy Steele: Somewhat smarter than her sister, Lucy is still silly, unpolished, and judged by the Dashwood girls to be unremarkably average company. She also proves to be opportunistic, wrangling her way into the Ferrars family despite being poor and not well connected.
Robert Ferrars: Edward's brother, a vain, conceited man who is much beloved of his mother. He manages to profit from Edward's integrity and his refusal to dump Lucy, and then rewards his brother by deceiving him, and keeping Edward's inheritance. He does Edward a good turn, however, by taking the dreadful Lucy off his hands.
Miss Grey: Willoughby's chosen wife; he does not love her, but she has a great deal of money, which is why he chooses her over Marianne.
Miss Morton: The unfortunate girl who is supposed to marry Edward, then Robert, and ends up with neither; she is also wealthy and of good family, although she must find a husband after the Ferrars shuffle.
Mrs. Ferrars: Edward, Fanny, and Robert's mother, she is a bad tempered, vain woman who embodies all the foibles demonstrated in Fanny and Robert's characters. Determined that her sons should marry well, she ends up disowning Edward, then embracing Robert for marrying or threatening to marry Lucy Steele.
Dr. Harris: Helps during Marianne's illness at Cleveland, prescribing medicines and treatments that eventually make her better.
Sense and Sensibility (novel), 1811.
Pride and Prejudice (novel), 1813.
Mansfield Park (novel), 1814.
Emma (novel), 1816.
Northanger Abbey (novel), 1818.
Persuasion (novel), 1818.
Lady Susan (novel), 1871.
The Watsons (unfinished novel), 1871.
Love & Friendship, and Other Early Works (juvenilia), 1922.
Sanditon. Fragment of a Novel (unfinished novel), 1925.
Jane Austen's Letters to her Sister Cassandra and Others, edited by R. W. Chapman, 1932.
Volume the First (juvenilia), 1933.
Volume the Second (juvenilia), 1951.
Jane Austen's Lady Susan: A Facsimile of the Manuscript in the Pierpont Morgan Library, Garland, 1989.
Catharine and Other Writings, Oxford University Press, 1993.
Jane Austen: The Complete Novels, Oxford University Press, 1994.
Setting and time
The story starts in Norland Park an estate in Sussex then they move to Barton Cottage in Devonshire. When they go after Edward they have to go to London. After that they move to the Palmer’s estate in Cleveland. Then they go back to Barton where Edward and Elinor get married. And the other go to Delaford to be close to her
Narrative point of view
The narrator knows everything and stands above the story
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