Alright, I understand. We’re not supposed to like Marianne. Jane Austen, as ever, was making a point when she created that insufferable brat. Anybody who storms around the place declaring heavily emphasised poetry and crashes out deeply romantic and tortured piano sonatas deserves to be caught in a few rain storms and tumble down a few hills.
Elinor isn’t supposed to get away without criticism either; she’s her sister’s polar opposite, cool and calm in a crisis. Too cool and calm – what real woman could have tolerated Lucy Steele’s simpering confidences about the man she loves? Elinor is too self-sacrificing; her happiness is an afterthought, the result of the venal action of a money-obsessed social climber, not because of any action on her part. For all of Marianne’s teenage dramatics, she at least tried to be a bit proactive when it came to her love life.
However, whenever I re-read it, or listen to the audio version, or watch the Emma Thompson film, I do so side with poor Elinor, the sole voice of reason in an overcrowded cottage filled with pre-, post- and actual menstrual hormones. There’s a scene in the film where Marianne is crying -again- because Willoughby has turned out to be less than trustworthy. The mother starts crying because her hopes for her middle daughter haves been dashed. The younger daughter starts to cry because everyone else is crying. Elinor is left alone in the hallway, clutching a cup of tea. Does she cry too? No, she’s too sensible. She sits on the stairs and drinks the tea, probably wondering if there’s any chance of a biscuit.
I think that I am one of nature’s Elinors. I too am usually wondering if there’s a chance of a biscuit.
I just cannot bear Marianne’s story arc in this book. After being disgraced in London when discovering Willoughby has ditched her for a £50000 dowry, Marianne goes on an insane walk in the countryside and gets caught in the rain which brings about a life-threatening fever.
Can this woman not just catch a simple cold? Not that being wet brings on a cold, of course, but artistic license and all that.
Once she has recovered from the fever, she finally notices the well-off middle aged man who has been inappropriately lusting over her since the Dashwoods moved into Devon. She decides, in what is in no way a snap decision brought on by a traumatic incident, that she needs to have more sense and less sensibility in her life so she marries Colonel Brandon, a man she has never expressed a positive opinion about before.
We’re supposed to see this marriage as her becoming more rational and sensible – Brandon is a catch, after all, if your taste runs to strangely affluent ex-soldiers. I can’t help but see it as yet another Marianne snap decision, an action she hasn’t fully thought through. Being Mrs Brandon gets you out of the crowded cottage but it does resign her to a middle age caring for an old, invalid husband. Has she truly come to care for him, or is this her clutching at straws?
Has Marianne actually started to act with sense? I’m not completely convinced. I think this act of “sense” is just an over abundance of sensibility in disguise.
I dislike the teenage hysterics of Marianne. If she were around today I’d hate to read her Tumblr. It would be mostly quotes from poems she hasn’t read all the way through with a few arty black and white shots of naked male torsos. I pity her, but as an innate Elinor I just cannot understand her depth of emotion. Willoughby was a lying arsehole? Move on! Don’t go on cross-country hikes to check out his house, especially when it’s raining. It’s the modern equivalent of stalking his social media feeds.
Trust me- that house will still be there once the rain has stopped, Marianne. Delete him from your contacts.
She just does stupid, irritating things that annoy me. She doesn’t think. She just does whatever she feels like and hopes it isn’t a complete disaster.
I really think that this book needs just to be called Sense, showing that thinking rationally gets you what you want better than having hysterics.
Pass me another biscuit, please.