Sense and Sensibility

Fittingly, the book begins by exposing the great injustice of the English laws of inheritance that leave women helpless unless kindly gentlemen intervene with offers of cottages for rent. The economic question of female/male relationships is never far off page in this book, always nipping at the tea table and tapping at the window. When Mr. Dashwood dies, he leaves the bulk of his estate to his son with clear instructions to take care of his sisters and their mother. The son’s wife persuades him not to settle any amount of money on them, so the three Miss Dashwoods and Mrs. Dashwood trundle off to a cottage on her cousin’s land in Sussex. Naturally, the story involves romance intrigues of the usual Austen sort– lovers who will be cut off without a cent if they don’t marry the person with the biggest fortune, skeletons in closets, the older gent whose constant and enduring love finally breaks through after the ill-fated affair of Willoughby and Marianne. Elinor, the oldest, frets graciously about Edward, especially after she learns of his secret engagement to Lucy. After being cut off by his mother, Edward intends to marry Lucy reluctantly, but Lucy has schemed her way into his brother’s heart, marrying Robert instead (the one with the fortune). Another usual theme for Austen– Edward goes into the church and makes his living on a small parish furnished by Colonel Brandon (the old man who’s in love with Marianne, Elinor’s sister). And of course there’s a major illness and recovery from near death that get everyone’s juices flowing. Austen’s pen and wit never fail to delight and entertain.