sense & sensibility (edited by J.V Starfield)


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notes on Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility"

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sense & sensibility (edited by J.V Starfield)

  1. 1. Jane Austen’sNarrative:Layers ofCommunicationSENSE & SENSIBILITY (1811 & 1813)Lecture 4: Narrative Innovations1
  2. 2. Austen introduces several innovations intothe Novel Form:She creates unprecedented access to theinterior life of one of the protagonists (Elinor).She does not use the Letter form to do this.2The author chooses thePoint(s) of View from whichthe story is told.
  3. 3. The narrative techniques that nineteenth-century authorsuse to relate their novels develop and change:Which Point of View is used in S & S ?There is an unnamed third-person narrator, a story-tellingdevice the author constructs to represent the characters,description and dialogue, plot, action and setting.Is this the only narrative point of view Austen uses?Third-person(Omniscient)Narrator: e.g.Jude theObscureFirst-Person(Unreliable)Narrator: e.g.The Catcher inthe Rye3
  5. 5. 5―[…] we identify, and identify with Elinor rather thanMarianne as the heroine of Sense and Sensibility because wesee much more of the action from Elinor‘s point of view,because we have more access to her private thoughts andbecause there is much greater consonance between thenarrator‘s language and the language of Elinor‘sconsciousness.‖– David Lodge, After Bakhtin: Essays on fiction andcriticism, 1990: 126–127.
  7. 7. 7A Combination of Dialogue (Mimesis) and Third-PersonNarration (Diegesis) from Vol. II, Chapter IX―Good heavens!‖ cried Elinor, ―could it be—couldWilloughby!‖—―The first news that reached me of her,‖ he continued, ―came in aletter from herself, last October. It was forwarded to me fromDelaford, and I received it on the very morning of our intendedparty to Whitwell; and this was the reason of my leavingBarton so suddenly, which I am sure must at the time haveappeared strange to every body, and which I believe gaveoffence to some. Little did Mr. Willoughby imagine, I suppose,when his looks censured me for incivility in breaking up theparty, that I was called away to the relief of one whom he hadmade poor and miserable; but had he known it, what would ithave availed?
  8. 8. 8Would he have been less gay or less happy in the smiles of yoursister? No, he had already done that, which no man who can feelfor another would do. He had left the girl whose youth andinnocence he had seduced, in a situation of the utmost distress,with no creditable home, no help, no friends, ignorant of hisaddress! He had left her, promising to return; he neither returned,nor wrote, nor relieved her.‖―This is beyond every thing!‖ exclaimed Elinor.―His character is now before you; expensive, dissipated, and worsethan both. Knowing all this, as I have now known it manyweeks, guess what I must have felt on seeing your sister as fondof him as ever, and on being assured that she was to marry him:guess what I must have felt for all your sakes.
  9. 9. 9When I came to you last week and found you alone, I camedetermined to know the truth; though irresolute what to do whenit was known. My behaviour must have seemed strange to youthen; but now you will comprehend it. To suffer you all to be sodeceived; to see your sister—but what could I do? I had no hopeof interfering with success; and sometimes I thought your sister‘sinfluence might yet reclaim him. But now, after suchdishonourable usage, who can tell what were his designs on her.Whatever they may have been, however, she may now, andhereafter doubtless will turn with gratitude towards her owncondition, when she compares it with that of my poor Eliza,when she considers the wretched and hopeless situation of thispoor girl, and pictures her to herself, with an affection for him sostrong, still as strong as her own, and with a mind tormented byself-reproach, which must attend her through life.
  10. 10. 10Surely this comparison must have its use with her. She will feelher own sufferings to be nothing. […] Use your owndiscretion, however, in communicating to her what I have toldyou. You must know best what will be its effect; but had I notseriously, and from my heart believed it might be of service,might lessen her regrets, I would not have suffered myself totrouble you with this account of my family afflictions, with arecital which may seem to have been intended to raise myselfat the expense of others.‖Elinor‘s thanks followed this speech with grateful earnestness;attended too with the assurance of her expecting materialadvantage to Marianne, from the communication of what hadpassed.
  11. 11. 11NARRATION OF MARIANNE’S ILLNESSIn Vol. III, chps. VII & VIII, the novel‘s first climax occurswhen Marianne nearly dies.Although it is she who is so ill, this episode is narrated fromElinor’s point of view, which is focalised.Is this:Because Marianne is feverish, delirious and confused?Because the narrator wishes to show Elinor‘s sense andmaturity as she takes adult decisions while caring for heryounger sister?Does the narrator want to show how Elinor‘s calmnessmay, in turn, have a calming effect on Marianne?
  12. 12. 12But the day did not close so auspiciously as it began.— Towardsthe evening Marianne became ill again, growing more heavy,restless, and uncomfortable than before. Her sister, however, stillsanguine [hopeful], was willing to attribute the change to nothingmore than the fatigue [tiredness] of having set up [sat up] to haveher bed made; and carefully administering the cordials [medicines]prescribed, saw her, with satisfaction, sink at last into a slumber,from which she expected the most beneficial effects. Her sleep,though not so quiet as Elinor wished to see it, lasted a considerabletime; and anxious to observe the result of it herself, she resolved tosit with her during the whole of it. Mrs. Jennings, knowing nothingof any change in the patient, went unusually early to bed; […], andElinor remained alone with Marianne.From whose point of view is the underlined sentence narrated?At what stage does the point of view shift to Elinor?
  13. 13. 13During the passage, Elinor initially takes care of her sister(giving her ―cordials‖ – prescribed medicines).The phrase ―with satisfaction‖ suggests that she is pleasedwith Marianne‘s progress.M. seems much better, so why does Elinor not leave her andgo to her own room to rest?The sentence ―Her sleep, though not so quiet as Elinorwished to see it […]‖ shows how carefully Elinor isobserving her.If Elinor were to speak her thoughts to Mrs. J, she might say―I am anxious to see the effect that this rest has on Marianne.‖Elinor‘s preference for keeping her thoughts to herselfshows her maturity and good sense.Who is the one character in whom she confides?
  14. 14. 14Elinor perceived with alarm that she was not quite herself, and, whileattempting to soothe her, eagerly felt her pulse. […] To consult withColonel Brandon on the best means of effecting the latter, was athought which immediately followed the resolution of itsperformance, […].It was no time for hesitation. Her fears and her difficulties wereimmediately before him. Her fears, he had no courage, no confidenceto attempt the removal of:—he listened to them in silentdespondence;—but her difficulties were instantly obviated, for with areadiness that seemed to speak the occasion, and the service pre-arranged in his mind, he offered himself as the messenger who shouldfetch Mrs. Dashwood. Elinor made no resistance that was not easilyovercome. She thanked him with brief, though fervent gratitude, andwhile he went to hurry off his servant with a message to Mr. Harris[the apothecary], and an order for post-horses [horses from local Inn]directly, she wrote a few lines to her mother. Where is Elinor‘s point of view focalised? How is reported speech used in Parag. 2?
  15. 15. 15The comfort of such a friend at that moment as Colonel Brandon—orsuch a companion for her mother,—how gratefully was it felt!—acompanion whose judgment would guide, whose attendance mustrelieve, and whose friendship might soothe her!—as far as the shockof such a summons could be lessened to her, his presence, hismanners, his assistance, would lessen it.In this paragraph, Elinor‘s feelings are again focalised.The narrator use dashes to convey how one feeling afteranother moves through Elinor‘s mind.Which words in this passage carry Elinor‘s emotions?How is repetition used in the passage to convey herfeelings?
  16. 16. Focalisation adds another layer to the narrative:The third-person narrator conveys what a character thinks andfeels: mostly Elinor, but also Brandon, Edward & MarianneIndeed, the narrator seems to angle the story through Elinor‘spoint of view.Does this make her Elinor more important than Marianne?Does this give more importance to ―sense‖, which Elinorembodies, than to ―sensibility‖? 16
  17. 17. 17How Austen narrates a character’s inner thoughts:The narrator can include letters from one character toanother. Letters may:1. Communicate the inner thoughts, unspoken emotions anddesires of those who write them in the first person.2. Be very formal and deny those feelings (Willoughby).3. May mask the true intentions of the letter writer (Lucy)The third-person narrator may focalise a character (tell thestory from this character’s point of view):1. This provides access to the character‘s thoughts andfeelings.2. This allows access to the largely silent (taciturn)characters‘ motivation and also observations of others.
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  20. 20. Irony is often be part of the point of view Austen‘s narratoruses. Irony exposes misrepresentation or concealment of thetruth.What is said differs from what is intended; reality differsfrom the appearance. There are three types of Irony in S & S:VerbalIrony:Affects the waythe narrator orthe charactersuse words.Dramatic Irony:Affects therelationshipbetween Reader,Author and one ormore characters.Structural IronyThe Speaker isplaced in Ironicsituations that mayundercut his or herearlier views.20
  21. 21. 21Verbal Irony: ―is a statement in which the meaning thata speaker implies differs sharply from the meaning that isexpressed.‖ (Abrams 2009: 165).Structural Irony: ―depends on the ironic intention ofthe author, which is shared by the reader but not is notthe intention of the fictional speaker‖ (Abrams 2009:185). A character may hold an opinion at one time, butlater circumstances force him/her to re-think it.Dramatic Irony: ―involves a situation in a … narrativein which the … reader shares with the author knowledgeof present or future circumstances of which a character isignorant‖ (Abrams 2009: 143).
  22. 22. Austen uses these three types of Irony to expose andundercutthe simplistic codes of conduct andthe literary and cultural stereotypes of the periodAusten uses Irony to make readers stand back from:a statement uttered or emotion expressedand re-evaluate it;particularly exaggerated emotions, such asMarianne, Willoughby, Lucy and Fanny express.Thus, Irony involves a reversal of the existing order: the waycharacters understand their world and the relations of power.22
  23. 23. 23VERBAL IRONY: “Engage” may mean several things:―Keep busy‖, as when Lucy and Elinor keep busy fixinglittle Annamaria‘s basket while discussing Edward:―Lucy made room for her with ready attention, and the two fair rivalswere thus seated side by side at the same table, and, with the utmostharmony, engaged in forwarding the same work.‖ (104)Lucy‘s ―four years‘ engagement‖ (105) to Edward impliesthey have an understanding of future married.―Four years‖ tells us that they met as very young people and– as Edward‘s attraction to Elinor suggests – his feelings forLucy may belong in the past. But do they?Why does Lucy keep begging Elinor for advice? Does Lucyperhaps know what Edward feels for Elinor? (107).
  24. 24. 24An engagement may just mean an appointment, such asthose Mrs Jennings has to fulfill in the evenings (118).“Engagement”: Marianne is thought to be betrothed toWilloughby. Even Brandon thinks so: ―‗to your sister I wishall imaginable happiness; to Willoughby that he mayendeavour to deserve her‖ (123). Elinor is unsure, butMarianne is extremely secretive.After Willoughby coldly dismisses M. at the party, any ideaof a romantic tie between Marianne & Willoughby is indoubt:―That some kind of engagement had subsisted between Willoughby andMarianne she could not doubt, and that Willoughby was weary of it,seemed equally clear; for however Marianne might still feed her ownwishes, she could not attribute such behaviour to mistake ormisapprehension of any kind.‖ (126)
  25. 25. 25Verbal Irony soon becomes Structural irony:Who know what about whom?Lucy knows that Elinor and Edward have feelings for eachother but does not want to acknowledge this publicly.Edward thinks his engagement to Lucy is still secret.Elinor knows about the engagement (but only Lucy knowsshe knows) and wants to protect Marianne from the distressof thinking that Edward has broken her (Elinor‘s) trust.In Vol. II, xiii, just before Edward enters an awkward meetingbetween Elinor and Lucy, Elinor wonders whether Mrs. F.would make life difficult for anyone Edward married.Who will Edward eventually marry?Structural Irony: it is Elinor.
  26. 26. 26Elinor‘s curiosity to see Mrs. Ferrars was satisfied.— She had found inher every thing that could tend to make a farther connection betweenthe families, undesirable.—She had seen enough of her pride, hermeanness, and her determined prejudice against herself, tocomprehend all the difficulties that must have perplexed theengagement, and retarded the marriage, of Edward and herself, had hebeen otherwise free;—and she had seen almost enough to be thankfulfor her own sake, that one greater obstacle preserved her fromsuffering under any other of Mrs. Ferrars‘s creation, preserved herfrom all dependence upon her caprice, or any solicitude for her goodopinion. Or at least, if she did not bring herself quite to rejoice inEdward‘s being fettered to Lucy, she determined, that had Lucy beenmore amiable, she ought to have rejoiced. […]. p. 168.Of whose “engagement” is Elinor thinking?Does Lucy think she has met with Mrs. Ferrars’s approval?Will Lucy keep to her engagement with Edward?
  27. 27. 27DRAMATIC IRONY:When Elinor meets Robert Ferrars she recognises he is―exactly the coxcomb she had heard him described to be by Lucy‖(176, 106).The narrator shows Robert to be a complete contrast to hisbrother, Edward (this is a novel of contrasts!).After Lucy and Edward‘s secret has been exposed, Elinorvisits her brother in Harley Street and meets Robert there.John leaves Elinor ―to improve her acquaintance withRobert.‖This is Dramatic Irony as the reader already knows thatshe thinks he is a very shallow, conceited and vain man.
  28. 28. 28The irony becomes Structural when Robert categoricallymocks and insults Lucy.Robert is intensely amused at the idea of his brotherbecoming a clergyman and living on very little money.The narrator focalises Elinor in her reaction to Robert:Elinor, while she waited in silence and immovable gravity, theconclusion of such folly, could not restrain her eyes from beingfixed on him with a look that spoke all the contempt it excited. Itwas a look, however, very well bestowed, for it relieved her ownfeelings, and gave no intelligence to him. He was recalled from witto wisdom, not by any reproof of hers, but by his own sensibility.Robert is still very ―diverted‖ (amused) and shows acomplete lack of empathy with his brother and disdain for ayoung woman who has very little money.
  29. 29. 29―Have you ever seen the lady?‖―Yes; once, while she was staying in this house, I happened to drop infor ten minutes; and I saw quite enough of her. The merest awkwardcountry girl, without style, or elegance, and almost without beauty.—I remember her perfectly. Just the kind of girl I should suppose likelyto captivate poor Edward.‖The Structural Irony really becomes apparent in Vol. III, xii,when Edward visits the Dashwoods at Barton and theybelieve he has married Lucy.He is perplexed and finally says (254):"Perhaps you mean—my brother—you mean Mrs.—Mrs. ROBERTFerrars.""Mrs. Robert Ferrars!"—was repeated by Marianne and her mother in anaccent of the utmost amazement;—and though Elinor could not speak,even her eyes were fixed on him with the same impatient wonder.
  30. 30. 30Mrs Jennings is vital to the Marriage Plot, giving rise toseveral structural ironies:1. Mrs J. guesseswhom Elinor is in lovewith, and gets Margaretto admit “his namebegins with an F” (47).2. Mrs J. sees Brandonloves Marianne (29, 38, 53)& follows her indiscretionswith Willoughby (51, 73).4. In London, Mrs J. thinksElinor & Brandon are in love.Author and reader know thetruth (E. & B. are discussingB’s gift of the living ofDelaford to Edward.)3. Mrs J advances themarriage plot by invitingE & M to London:“and if I don‟t get one ofyou at least well marriedbefore I have done withyou, it shall not be myfault” (109).
  31. 31. Ironically, both girls do marry. Hasthis been Mrs Jennings‟ doing?Do they marry fashionably wealthyyoung men? Ironically, NO.Do they end up living in London?Ironically, NO.Are they “well married”? If “well means“happy”, then (ironically), YES. 31
  32. 32. 32From Ang Lee‘s film of Sense and Sensibility: MrsJennings and Elinor. Elinor‘s changing perception ofMrs Jennings shows how she matures during thisnovel of development.
  33. 33. Ironically, Elinor at first finds Mrs J annoying and, perhaps, notin the same social class as the Dashwoods.―‗My objection is this; though I think very well of Mrs Jennings‘heart, she is not a woman whose society can afford us pleasure, orwhose protection will give us consequence‘‖ (111).It is a structural irony that Elinor will learn to appreciate Mrs J‘svery fine qualities: true generosity, sincerity and kindness afterWilloughby betrays Marianne, who becomes emotionallydistressed and ill, in vol.III.At Cleveland, the girls‘ hostess, Charlotte Palmer flees with herbaby on hearing that M. is ill. The narrator comments, approvingly:―Mrs J, however, with a kindness of heart which made E. reallylove her, declared her resolution of not stirring from Cleveland aslong as M. remained ill and of endeavouring …to supply to her theplace of her mother…‖ (217).33
  34. 34. THE NOVEL OF DEVELOPMENT, REVISITEDIn the novel of development, the (female) hero‘s strength ofcharacter is tested: Elinor’s greatest trial occurs when Marianneis desperately ill. After 8 pm, E. expecting their mother, rushesdownstairs. Ironically, the new arrival is Willoughby.This climactic encounter tests her powers of self-control (in Vol.1, the narrator states that E‘s ―feelings were strong; but sheknew how to govern them‖ (p.8).Willoughby‘s sudden abandonment of Marianne confirmed forElinor that his motives were not honourable.The narrator treats this confrontational scene (a climacticmoment) by making her the focaliser that gives access toElinor‘s thoughts and feelings.34