Saturday, April 26, 2008

A review of the Complete Jane Austen from First Things

Sensible Jane

By Amanda Shaw


Enter Prince Charming: the dashing Mr. Willoughby, who literally sweeps Marianne off her feet and initiates a flowery, fanciful courtship. Elinor gently reproves, but what does she know of real romance? It is not until the gentleman’s abrupt departure, however, that the elder sister starts to sound more rational than restrictive. Common sense should be balanced with emotional sensibility, Austen seems to be saying. The over-romantic woman loses the man, and the over-cautious woman never catches him to begin with.

We need, in short, a balance between Marianne and Elinor.
But then she continues by praising the wisdom and restraint of Elinor. Is Elinor over-cautious? No. She is doing what the customs dictated at the time, and she cannot be "aggressive" in pursuing Edward Ferrars. Does the author of this review have a divided view of Elinor? If Elinor is a model of moral virtue, why would one need a balance between Marianne and Elinor?

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