1. The Dashwood women discuss Edward Ferrars for many pages before the reader actually meets him in a dramatic scene. Why do you think Austen chose to create the whole Elinor/Edward love affair "off stage"?
I didn’t like it! This is why I had such a problem the first two times I read this book. I felt I didn’t really know Edward. I had to go off of what others said about him and not see him for my own. Even a limited (and often prejudiced—for good or bad) view of Darcy and Capt. Wentworth and dear Tilney and Mr. Knightley is better than not to actually see him! And then when I really got to see him, he was not at his best. The most happy I was with him was at the very end. Perhaps Austen left it vague so that we as the reader could imagine our own man—with all of the good, stalwart qualities that are emphasized again and again. Which isn’t bad, but I still had hoped for a little more to go off of when I was younger. Now, having seen a few versions from the movies, I can come up with an Edward that pleases me when I read the book. He does, of course, highly resemble in looks and actions the Edward from the 2008 film version. (Small wonder!)
It is not hard to see why I typically love the movies better for at least this reason—you get to see more of an Edward. Hugh Grant in the ’95 version was not the Edward I would create in my mind, but he was the first one that I saw more put to his character. The Edwards in the 70s and 80s film versions aren’t much to get me interested. And Dan? I mean, Edward? Oh yeah.
2. Elinor and Marianne's younger sister Margaret plays a very minor role in the novel. Why do you think Austen included this character? Does she further any of the plot? Does she shed light on any of the other characters?
I have no clue! The 70s and 80s films probably didn’t either, since they completely took her out. She was a fun addition in both ’95 and 2008. Though she was different in each—and nothing like the book. Why? Because the book barely describes anything about her! I got in mind that she was a mini-Marianne, which made me not want to know her. I love both girls in the ’95 and 2008. Why she’s in the book? Well, I guess if she didn’t exist, Mrs. Dashwood would have joined her daughters in London. Maybe her young age is also supposed to remind you that Mrs. Dashwood is not all that old herself, and that her late husband was probably much older when he married her. (Which foreshadows Colonel Brandon and Marianne.)
3. Before he abandons Marianne, is John Willoughby a likeable character? Does Austen give any indication early on that he is not as he appears?
I don’t really know what I thought of him during my first read. My second and this latest third read were influenced by the fact that I knew his true and full character. Trying to ignore that I knew that, I still thought him too encouraging of Marianne’s excessive emotings—and could I honestly like a man like that? I have major fears and concerns that I am too much like Marianne. I long for a man to help ground me and remove some of the overly sensible sensibilities, not someone to encourage them.
When my friends and I watched 2008 version last week, there was one present who had never read the book or seen any other version. So I wondered how he would think of the characters, not knowing anything about them. I should have known better than to base it on him, for I’ve noticed he is very good at predicting certain characters or actions in plays or movies that I would NEVER have guessed. Within 5 minutes of meeting Willoughby, he did not like him. He must be a great judge of character, no matter how books or films try to hide traits and truths from the audience.
4. A turn of the century review describes Mrs. Jennings as a character it is "equally delightful to have met on paper and not to have met in the flesh." Why is it delightful to spend time reading about a character who would be tedious in person?
Considering I do spend time with tedious people—never in such long amounts, thank goodness!—I guess it is fun in a book because when they annoy me, I can either skip that part or close the book. If anything, I can be grateful that I can make faces or comments to relieve my annoyance or frustration and never worry about hurting that person’s feelings!
5. What did you think of the dueling scene?
2008 film – certainly a fun addition!
3rd reading of book—I can’t believe it’s in there! I thought the movie had just sensationalized. But it’s there. Not in detail, but it is referred to. Awesome!!!
6. "One's happiness must in some measure be always at the mercy of chance," the narrator says at one point. What role does chance play in the fates of the main characters?
Uh. I think this is too deep for my brain right now. (Give me a break! It’s summer reading. The fact that I wake up and remember to shower and dress before going to work is a bonus!) I guess one has to believe in fate. I don’t. My spiritual beliefs have another reason and word for that. I guess here fate is that both girls got to go to London. If they never had, how much less (or more) would Marianne’s reactions have been to Willoughby’s marriage? Mrs. Dashwood would have immediately been there to comfort—and probably commiserate with her over-sensibilities. Would Colonel Brandon ever have shared what he knew? Would Edward have known that Elinor knew of his engagement. Would Colonel Brandon have offered the living? After all, the girls’ being in London caused their Barton acquaintances to meet with their familial acquaintances. Would Lucy and Nancy have been invited to the Dashwoods if the sisters hadn’t been there?
I suppose that could be stretched to—fate that John Dashwood’s wife had a brother such as Edward? Who happened to come to Norland and meet Elinor? Who now could see just how much he did not love Lucy and knew of a better woman? Fate that the Dashwood women ended up in Barton? Where they met Brandon? And Mrs. Jennings? And well, the whole story we know ensuing?
Yes. I could say fate as others know it definitely played a role.
7. Elinor considers Lucy's marriage to Robert Ferrars as "extraordinary and unaccountable," "completely a puzzle." Is it completely a puzzle to you as well?
It is once in a while. But then I think of Lucy’s conniving person—trying to get what’s better. I liked how Edward in the ’95 film refers to the fortune being transferred to his brother, and Lucy’s affections subsequently following. I would not put it beneath her there. I also understood more with the book’s explanation that Lucy kept trying over and over to get in Robert’s good graces, and turned his vanity to her uses.
8. Why doesn't Colonel Brandon fall in love with Elinor?
I wondered that over and over the 1st and 2nd time I read in the books. The movies always did a good job in letting me see that they were just not meant for each other. My 3rd time reading helped me see a good friendship there and seeing when I never did before that they were not meant for each other. Probably helps that I’ve been through my college and YSA years with many male friends and better understanding wonderful, respectful friendships like that.
What I do not get is what he sees in Marianne? Sorry. But she may have been likeable in the movies—particularly the 2008 version. But in the book, I did not like her. Not until the absolute very end. So I have trouble seeing how any man could want her. Or I don’t want to see how any man could. I already put up with that in my life and am unceasingly saying to myself “to each his own” and “don’t compare.”
9. Why does Lucy get to be happier than Willoughby?
Well, she did nothing against her virtue. Maybe Austen was putting forth a moral here. Who knows. And honestly. Lucy may bother and have been vicious—but it was her female jealousy and possession. She relinquished only for her own better interests sure. But I don’t think she is as loathsome as Willoughby. She began as an ignorant and innocent girl who thought herself in love and then had a stranglehold on the relationship that came out of it. But she didn’t try to play with a person’s feelings for her pleasure and amusement all the while knowing she had debauched someone else. Her tormenting Elinor may have been for her pleasure and amusement, but I don’t think it quite compares to Willoughby’s toying with a willing and unsuspecting Marianne.
10. "Wealth has much to do with...happiness," Elinor states at one point. "Elinor, for shame!" says Marianne. "Money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it." What is the relationship between love and money in Sense and Sensibility? Is it different for different characters? Has the relationship between love and money changed in today's world?
I saw that money didn’t bring happiness. Even in poor circumstances people were able to find happiness. And in wealth, some were not happy. I saw that it had to do with the person. I just find it funny as to who said which quote, they ended up the opposite what their sentiments said. Elinor was in a lower income, and yet was very happy. And Marianne had plenty of happiness, with money as a perk! But I know that Elinor said it at the time, knowing how dependent Edward was at the time on having something given to him so he could live on his own—thus his and her happiness could not be complete without some bit of wealth.
11. What do you think this story would have been like if it has been through Marianne’s eyes?
Oh my. Don’t even go there. There would have been no sense whatsoever. And would there have been readers (including me, gah!) that would have completely agreed with her every feeling and thought and sentiment. Ug. What a nauseating thought.
12. Do you find Marianne's decision to marry Colonel Brandon to be a plausible conclusion? Why or why not?
Well, yes, since the book kept pointing to her as a reward for his constancy, etc. I didn’t quite like the wording, but it seemed okay. He was the more mature, romantic, sensible man who could have high estimation in her mind once she received her own maturity. The ’95 film did better in showing this. The 2008 film did a great job with that.
13. Although it ends with the marriages of the two main female characters, some readers have claimed that of all of Austen's novels, Sense and Sensibility has the saddest ending. Do you agree with this statement?
I guess. For those who were all for Willoughby, they might be sad. Or wanting Edward and Elinor to have more wealth than what they ended with. Or that the evil or awful people (namely Willoughby and Lucy) were not entirely punished or unhappy at the end. I didn’t find it all that sad though. And the movies certainly don’t give that off.
Just some comments that didn’t fit in with the questions:
-the 70s film version is painful to watch. An interesting look to see what others thought. But. Wow. Not one I ever want to watch again.
-the 80s version. Not awful. Just that feel that all those BBC movies in the 80s and early 90s had. The obvious indoor vs. outdoor scenes. The extremely plain and often too old characters. Yeah. If I’m going to envision it, I like to envision it a little more glamorous. Because that’s how I like it.
-I really liked hearing the interview and commentary during the 2008 version. Opened up a lot more of what the film-people chose to do.
-The Austen bio I read as I read this (the 3rd time) book helped me enjoy and understand it much better.
-I don’t really dislike the book any more. I like it a lot more. But I have to acknowledge that the film versions (particularly ’95 and 2008) help me know, appreciate, and like the book than I would on its own. ‘Cause I still had a couple of beefs with the book. But they were personal and I would never attribute them to Austen. Of course.