Sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood have very different attitudes toward love. Elinor has a more mature view, unwilling to allow such feelings to dictate her behaviour, and generally keeping them to herself.
In contrast, Marianne gives more importance to her feelings. She believes two people should not get married if they do not love one another.
The Dashwood sisters live happily with their parents and younger sister in Norland, England until the death of their father Henry forces Mrs Dashwood and her daughters to move to Barton Park.
Struggling to feed the family at a time in history when it was considered inappropriate for “respectable” women to work outside the home, Mrs. Dashwood is keen to find wealthy husbands for Elinor and Marianne. There is a practical need for the daughters to get married, but the possibility of romance is not entirely out of the picture.
Will the Dashwood sisters marry for love or security?
Published in the early years of the 19th century, Sense and Sensibility depicts English attitudes toward marriage in that era. Austen’s original title for the novel was “Elinor and Marianne,” but she later changed it, with the “Sense” of the title referring to Elinor, and the “Sensibility” to Marianne.
In Austen’s time, wealth — not love — was still considered by many to be the most desirable quality in a marriage partner. And it wasn’t just a case of women looking for wealthy men; there were plenty of men on the lookout for rich women to tie the knot with.
Several types of marriage are described in Sense and Sensibility. Each is shown as offering a different path in life, leading to potential happiness or sadness. What matters, Austen tells us, is that we should be cautious in making decisions and willing to accept the outcome.
Perhaps the most crucial lesson to be learned from this story is that marriage is neither business nor child’s play, but one of the most important decisions a person will ever make – and one that should be treated very seriously indeed.