Sense and Sensibility Readalong Vol. 1

13 Aug

I joined another readalong….  (What is wrong with me?)  Oh well.  It’s been awhile since I reread Sense and Sensibility, so I thought I would give it a go.  As I prepared for the readalong, I went to my handy shelf where i keep all my Austen and Austen-related books and stopped.  S&S was nowhere to be found.  Where was it?  What forgotten placed had it wandered too?  I was at a loss.  The other five novels were sitting on the shelf.  My P&P&Zombies series was sitting on the shelf.  I even had my P&P graphic novel sitting on the shelf.  But where was S&S?  After searching high and low, I gave up.  It must have been placed somewhere for the move and didn’t make it.  Or maybe it’s stuck in some random box in the garage.  Either way I didn’t have access to it.  But thankfully I was making a trip to Half Price Books to sell some things.  They always have copies.  I looked through the five different editions on the shelf and picked this one.  Mainly because it was among the cheapest, but still in good condition.  Everything was once again right in the universe.  I ran home and dove into Austen’s world, just in time to finish for the readalong update post.

Discussion One: Sense & Sensibility: Volume One

 Do you think, had his (John Dashwood) wife been of a more genial nature, that Dashwood would have gone ahead and settled his original thought of three thousand pounds on his sisters? I definitely think Fanny pushed him to reconsider.  She played the kid card and made him feel guilty from “taking away” from Harry’s fortune.  I agree that John lacks the malice that it would take to consciously cheat his sisters.  I believe that truly does not know the meaning of money in that time.  He’s convinced that 500 pounds a year is sufficient yet gives in to his wife’s whining about them taking the crockery and such.  His character is overall very weak which leads to his reconsideration of his sisters.  He is one of my least favorite characters in the novel because he is so weak.  I even like Fanny more because she has a strong will (even if it leans toward the evil side).
And is it just me? Or don’t you sometimes wonder if perhaps Colonel Brandon and Elinor could so easily make a match of it? As I reread the book, I definitely picked up on this “thing” between Colonel Brandon and Elinor.  They have a conversation about Marianne (this is right after her meeting Willoughby) in which they both acknowledge her silly nature.  I like to think that if they didn’t end up married to one another, they could be great friends.  In a dream world, Brandon would have married Elinor (I detest Edward so maybe that colors my view) and Marianne would have married Willoughby (and he would have lived up to her view of him) and the marriages would have been happy.  But that’s not how Austen wrote it…
What do you think of Willoughby? Especially his attitude toward Marianne? Willoughby is probably my favorite of Austen’s cads.  Underneath the casual nature, the flirting, the (for that time) ungentlemanly like behavior, I think he was a good guy.  I think he really did love Marianne, but his previous life choices disrupted his dream.  I think he did the honorable thing by leaving Barton Cottage.  He was persuaded by others to seek a more endowed bride and he let that pressure get to him.  In my dream world, he lived to regret his behavior towards Marianne, but wished her happiness with Brandon.  (Now if you want to take nasty behavior, I put up John Tilney from Northanger Abbey or Mr. Elliott from Persuasion.)
Does anyone know why Austen chooses not to give such descriptions? Do you think she was thinking of the universality of her characters? Allowing for anyone to put themselves easily in their shoes?  I like that Austen doesn’t give us overly descriptive paragraphs about the characters’ looks.  A little mystery works for me.  It always my imagination to run wild with images.  The looks are not central to the plot so why should they be focused on?  In the case of S&S, I have a slight problem.  I saw the Emma Thompson movie years ago before reading the book.  Hence, the images of the characters take on those from the movie.  Which is okay.  I don’t have a big issue with that.  Just my experience.
What do you all think of the Palmers? Especially Mrs Palmer? Can it be she is so in love with him that she does not see this? Or that she does not understand because she herself is of such a cheerful nature? The Palmers are my comic relief in S&S.  I don’t know if Austen intended it, but they make me laugh.  I can just imagine Mrs. droning on and on about some inane little thing while Mr. sits there and reads the newspaper.  I secretly think he listens to every word she says, but after so many years of marriage, it’s become a game to see if he can use sarcasm to throw her off her train of thought.  I specifically like Hugh Laurie portrayal of Mr. in the Emma Thompson version.

How do you think Austen represents marriage so far in Volume one? The Middletons and Palmers seem very odd matches. I think at the core of it, Jane Austen was very conflicted by the idea of marriage.  On the one hand, most marriage in the books (Middletons, Palmers, Bennetts, Elliotts, Bertrams, etc.) seem to be based on things like status and money.  They have no regard for personality matches or love.  The two people were paired together by parents who thought it would be a “prudent” marriage.  In some cases, like the Bennetts, they seem to have fallen into a routine.  They don’t seem to hate one another, but have accepted their position.  The Middletons, at least on the part of Lady Middleton, seem to bristle at concept of together.  With all these marriage based on things other than love, I find Austen to be the most romantic of writers, in that all her heroines despite obstacles marry for love.  So Austen doesn’t like the reality of marriage in her time, but loves the idea of marriage?

What do you think of the Steeles and they way the fawn over Lady Middleton? The Steeles were raised to be social climbers.  That is their purpose.  They fawn over Lady Middleton because they think she will accept them into her circle and help boost their social standing.  Classic stereotypical characters much like Isabelle Tilney in Northanger Abbey.  They are focused on the material in life.  And if someone has that material, they want to make friends to get access to that material.  They care more about what’s on the outside that the strength of one’s character.  These are the type of Austen characters that I detest the most.

Which character (that is not a Dashwood) do you take to the most so far? My favorite character is definitely Colonel Brandon.  I love that we just get snippets of him here and there.  And most of it is third person.  He’s this enigmatic character that we want to know more about.  We know that he’s a good person, no one can deny that, but there’s a mystery, a past pain that haunts him.  I have this urge to fix him…. but I’ll leave that up to Marianne.
Wow… that was a lot of writing for Volume 1.  Now I think it’s time to publish this post and go check out what everyone else in the readalong is saying.  Ta ta for now!

1 Comment

Posted by on August 13, 2011 in Book Reviews


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One response to “Sense and Sensibility Readalong Vol. 1

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