'Today we may not all find such terms as 'manners', 'propriety', 'utility', 'decorum', 'sense', 'reason', 'nature', 'taste', 'elegance', 'sensibility', 'improvement', either attractive in themselves, or self-evident in their meaning; yet we cannot but be impressed when we consider what a continuous, concerted, and controlled effort must have been needed to establish them as effective key words of a society for so long.'
Taking one or more of the above 'key words' attempt to define them according to their C18th/early C19th meanings and then discuss these words and the qualities they represent in one or more novels of the period.
Jane Austin's novel 'sense and sensibility' is a narrative that must be examined for its higher message about the conflict between society and humanity's true nature. I will argue that the novel is a tool to show this and that although today we do not value qualities such as sense and propriety, modern society have there own key words which function in the same way.
The characters within Jane Austin are representations of a concept that is presented to the reader. The characters start by representing two juxtaposing states that are raw and unchallenged, throughout the novel both sisters embrace parts of each others character. Elinor represents conformity to the society she is in or sense, “Elinor, this eldest daughter, whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment” judgement is used as a double entendre, meaning to cast thought on a situation but also oppress her personal opinions and judgements to conform with the society.
Marianne represents sensibility, Jane gives the impression of equality between sense and sensibility and the two sisters to show that Jane is not casting judgement and acting out of sense so as not to offend her readers. “Marianne's abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor's.” However Jane's own use of irony throughout the book displays her true judgements about her characters. "She was not a woman of many words; for, unlike people in general, she proportioned them to the number of her ideas." Jane begins with a neutral description and then casts judgement on her characters with her irony. By choosing this form of narration it shows that Jane herself has to abide by conformity for society to accept her novel.
Both definitions of sense and sensibility established at the beginning of the novel are illustrated by other characters such as Willoughby, “in sacrificing general politeness to the enjoyment of undivided attention where his heart was engaged, and in slighting too easily the forms of worldly propriety.” Sense and sensibility are in fact in constant battle with each other as both are opposite. 'slighting worldly propriety' is to function as an individual, it challenges Elinor and society as true or real because it is not what we really want. This is shown as Jane does not illustrate or narrate Willoughby and Marianne's individualistic displays of affection and merely describes there qualities, by not revealing what Willoughby and Marianne are up to the reader is encouraged to individually create there own ideal scene for there own pleasure. This shows humanity's true nature, as 'propriety' and 'sense' are conforming to the world and sensibility is fulfilling individualistic needs or being true to yourself.
This submission of human nature is shown with Jane's clever use of language, “once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not in themselves illaudable.” this does not describe the 'concealment' itself and Jane is harsh with the use of 'illaudable', this reveals Jane's personal social vision as we are led once again to craft this 'free relationship' that appeals to our unique fantasies.
Examining why Jane uses...
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