I believe that Jane Austen was way ahead of her time in a literary sense when écriture her novels, especially "Sense and Sensibility." After lire the book and seeing the movie a billion times I have had plenty of opportunities to study and analyze (yes, I'm an analyzer) Elinor, Marianne, and their suitors.

In high school British literature, I chose to do a project on "Sense and Sensibility" and the plus i broke the characters down, the plus I began to see the differences between Elinor and Marianne and see how much they are a representation of realism and romanticism. (Both would later become important literary movements in the nineteenth century.) So even though these literary movements had not really developed during Austen's time, I believe the sisters to be early examples of the two. In this article, I will be arguing that Elinor represents rationalism and "sense" while Marianne represents romanticism and "sensibility" and how they teach one another the importance of both. (Note: I will be using citations from the movie so that i dont have to dig through the book ;) and I will often refer to the movie and book as 1 entity. Believe me I do know that they are separate entities, but attempting to identify what comes from the book ou the movie is tedious, and the 1995 screenplay is EXTREMELY close anyway so i am just going to assume that toi know the difference).

Elinor: Sense and Realism
Marianne: Always resignation and acceptance. Always prudence and honor and duty. Elinor. Where is your heart?

Elinor: I think we should both be very foolish to assume that there would not be many obstacles to his marrying a woman of no rank who cannot afford to buy sugar.
Mrs. Dashwood: But Elinor your cœur, coeur must tell you...
Elinor: In such a case it is perhaps better to use one's head.

As demonstrated par her sister and mother, Elinor is much plus inclined to look at a situation rationally and use's her head when it comes to matters of the heart. She thinks about every decision she's going to make before she acts upon it, and hides her emotions from her family. While Marianne cries freely throughout the movie and book we see Elinor cry only a handful of instances: When Marianne plays "My Father's Favorite", when she believes Marianne is about to die, and when she finds out that Edward is unmarried. (There are indeed other points where she does indeed come very close to it, but holds herself together). Elinor rationalizes that she must stay calm and collected for her mother and sisters, who are all much plus emotional. Elinor sees herself as "the rock" of the family and does not back down from this role through the entirety of the movie/book.

Realism not only involves rationality and pragmatism, but it also emphasizes objectivity and the avoidance of subjectivity. Elinor too, demonstrates this with her "seeming" inability to look at a situation from an emotional point of view ou with feeling. When Marianne asks Elinor how she feels about Edward she merely responds:
Elinor: I can not attempt to deny that...I think very highly of him...that I...greatly esteem him.
And later, when the news of Edward's engagement is discovered:
Elinor: After all that is...bewitching... in the idea of one's happiness resting upon one person...it is not always possible. We must accept. Edward will marry Lucy, and toi and I will go home.

While many people may see this as Elinor being shallow, I think it is Elinor's attempt at protecting herself. par attempting to blockade her emotion, she is able to keep herself strong and calm on the outside and prevents her from not only montrer weakness but feeling weakness and therefore pain. However, as is proven par Jane Austen's amazing écriture and Emma Thompson's brilliant acting, this does not work for Elinor and only leads to periodic breakdowns.

Marianne: Sensibility and Romanticism
Marianne: To l’amour is to burn to be on fire! Like Juliet ou Guinevere ou Eloise.
Mrs. Dashwood: They made rather pathetic ends dear.
Marianne: Pathetic? To die for love? How can toi say so? What could be plus glorious?

Elinor: Marianne does not approve of hiding her emotions. In fact, her romantic prejudices have the unfortunate tendency to set propriety at naught.

Marianne is almost the exact opposite of Elinor in every way. Where Elinor listens to her head, Marianne listens to her heart. Marianne is often spontaneous, discloses her emotions to everyone, and studies a situation subjectively. Unlike Elinor's almost stoic exterior, Marianne is often seen laughing ou crying. And crying she does quite a bit of: When she finds out that Willoughby is leaving for London, when he writes to her to tell her that he is engaged to Miss Grey, when she finds out that Edward is engaged to Lucy, and numerous other times in between (that may not have been demonstrated in the films but are in the book). Marianne has no trouble visiting Willoughby's estate with no escort, driving around town with him par herself, and reads and references literature and poésie constantly, namely Shakespeare's 116th sonnet. link

Marianne's subjective attitudes often get her into trouble in that she is so carefree with Willoughby and so short with Brandon that everyone is sure of her regards, which leads to gossip and embarassment for the family that Marianne seems unaware of (but i will come back to this later).

While Marianne's behavior is seen par many as childish and rash, I think that Marianne chooses to be this way for the exact opposite reason as Elinor. Marianne chooses to reveal all of her emotions so that she can share her pain with her mother and sisters, and so that she can relieve herself of some of the burden par allowing other people to help her up. Marianne's tactic does not work as we also see, and her display of emotion eventually leads her to becoming sick with grief which is equally bad.

What seems to be the solution here is for both sisters to adopt some of their sister's traits; unfortunately it will take heartache and near death for either of them to realize it.

Elinor: toi have no confidence in me?
Marianne: This reproach from you. toi who confide in no-one.
Elinor: I have nothing to tell.
Marianne: Nor I. Neither of us have anything to tell. I because I conceal nothing and toi because toi communicate nothing.

Edward and Elinor: Prudence ou Passion?
Marianne: I feel I know him already. Had I plus shallow feelings I could perhaps conceal them as toi do.
Mrs. Dashwood: Marianne that is not fair!
Marianne: I'm sorry...
Elinor: Don't trouble yourself Marianne.
Marianne: I do NOT understand her Mama.

Elinor: I have endured her exultations again and again whilst knowing myself to be divided from Edward forever. Believe me, Marianne, had I not been bound to silence I could have provided proof enough of a broken heart, even for you!

Fanny's brother Edward comes to stay with the Dashwood's and turns out to be everything his sister is not: kind, timid, gentle, shy, and awkward. Edward shows Elinor and her family kindness and generosity and Elinor soon falls for him. But when Edward and Elinor leave one another and no formal declaration of affection is declared, Elinor closes herself off and refuses to let her sister see how she really feels, let alone anyone else. But when Lucy shows up and tells Elinor in confidence about her engagement to Edward, Elinor is sure that she is the only one that had any feelings to begin with.

The problem is that Elinor's realistic look on life clouds her romantic judgments. She falls for Edward, but instead of revealing her feelings for him, she studies the situation: Edward is to inherit and Elinor has no money, he is expected to marry well and she feels that she has no chance. So, she keeps quiet.

In fact, when Edward comes to visit the Dashwood women Elinor is not only upset about his engagement to Lucy but fears revealing her feelings. So, she remains indifferent, which he interprets as coldness and it confuses him. Only at the very end, when Elinor completely breaks down, is Edward able to see how she feels which gives him the confidence to propose. Therefore, par observing prudence, Elinor almost ruins her chances. par withholding her feelings, Edward is forced to believe that she thinks only of him as a friend.

In fact, Edward is led to believe that Elinor is actually in l’amour with Brandon because she is so open and direct with him. But Elinor grows close to Brandon because they have something in common: both have been shut out of the lives of the person they love. Elinor is plus willing to share her feelings, so Edward misconstrues them. This crucial mistake almost makes her lose her chance at happiness.


Marianne, Willoughby, and Colonel Brandon: The Treacherous Triangle
Marianne: l’amour is not l’amour that alters when it alteration finds...or bends with the remover to remove. Oh no! It is an ever fixed mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken. Willoughby....Willoughby...Willoughby...
Elinor: Though neither one has informed me of their understanding, I have no doubt of their mutual affection.
Brandon: To your sister I wish all imagineable happiness. To Mr. Willoughby, that he may endeavor to deserve her.

While Elinor is technically the main character of Sense and Sensibility, the majority of the book is taken up par Marianne and her 2 lovers. We are first introduced to Colonel Brandon, a kind and gentle man in his thirties who immediately falls in l’amour with Marianne. She, however, deems him "too old" and pays him little attention. Why? My interpretation is that he doesnt fit her idea of the romantic lover. He's not adventurous, rash, ou romantic like she expects her true l’amour to be when he comes, and doesnt see that realistically Brandon is the better match. Willoughby, however, fits the exact type of man she wanted: he sweeps her off her feet (literally), shares her interest in literature and nature, and is willing to be adventurous and fun. However, Marianne does not take the time to truly learn about Willougbhy. Elinor, the plus rational of the 2, seems to sense something about Willoughby that she doesnt quite find right, especially when Willoughby pokes fun at Brandon.

When Willoughby dumps Marianne, she becomes grief-stricken and cries her eyes out for days, eats little, and wears herself away slowly until she catches a small cold, and is too weak to fight it off. This time however, Brandon is there. He is the one that goes after her when shes in the rain and carries her back, he's the one waiting around worried about her, and he's the one that fetches her mother. Marianne finally acknowledges him and she slowly grows to l’amour him as he helps her during her recovery.

Marianne's romantic sensibilities almost led to her death. She made herself so vulnerable, so dependent on her l’amour for Willoughby that when she was gone she almost "died for love." And it wasn't quite as glorious a situation as she may have imagined it in her mind. If Marianne had used prudence in her relationship, she may have saved herself from near death. Using caution, she may have been able to save herself and save from the family from embarassment. Using objectivity, she may have taken Brandon's affections into account and decided he was the better choice. Using reason, she would have seen that destroying her life over a man could have had dire reprucussions.

My point? To prove what I think Jane Austen was attempting to prove: that Elinor and Marianne needed to learn to use both sense AND sensibility in order to get their happily ever afters. When Elinor exposes her true feelings, she makes herself vulnerable to Edward who sees how she feels and is able to tell her how he feels. Marianne is able to learn to control her emotions and in turn, learn to act prudently and use rationality. She selects Brandon to be her husband and learns to l’amour him as much as Willoughby.

Both girls learn that a combination of romanticism and realism can also cope with pain. Sharing emotion and tears with close family and Friends can be a relief, but too much emotion can expose weaknesses that people can take advantage of. With these lessons under their belt, the girls were able to live the rest of their lives in happiness and peace.

*Authors note:* I am neither an expert in literature nor psychology so this is an opinion piece and not meant to be factual.