Published in 1811, “Sense and Sensibility” is a novel about two sisters and the opposite methods with which they deal with love. Originally written by Jane Austen as an epistolary novel (written in the form of letters) it was titled “Elinor and Marianne”. Whenever Austen decided to actually send it to a publisher, she changed the title to “Sense and Sensibility”. The first publication was under a pseudonym, “By a Lady”, then after the success of “Pride and Prejudice”, the second publication of “Sense and Sensibility” was also anonymous, “By the Author of Pride and Prejudice”.
Set in the late 1790’s, we find a man on his deathbed. He was a kind man, but did not plan well for the care of the wife and daughters he leaves behind. Mr. Dashwood, had inherited a large estate from his uncle, but only survived his uncle by a year. On his deathbed, Mr. Dashwood entrusts his grown son, from his first marriage, with the responsibility of his stepmother and three half sisters. But, the son is easily kowtowed by his wife, neglecting his father’s wishes.
Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters are given a cottage in the country by a relative of hers. The cottage is much reduced from the life they had grown accustomed to, but the women manage. After a whirlwind romance by one of the sisters, and a quiet, unproductive romance by the other sister, the girls spend time in London. There the more emotional sister gets her heart broken and the more sensible sister gets her heart broken even deeper. The ups and downs of this story is what has made it one of the most beloved in classical literature.
Upon the death of his sister, the owner of the beautiful estate, Norland Park, was lonely. He asked the future inheritor of the estate to bring his family and move in early. For ten years Mr. Henry Dashwood, his wife and three daughters, entertained and cared for the park and their aging uncle. From time to time, the son of Mr. Dashwood, John, would bring his young wife and small son for visits. He was a respectable young man, and the old uncle was quite taken with the little boy. Mr. John Dashwood had been left a fairly large bequest from his mother, Mr. Henry’s first wife, and had also married well. His wife had brought a large dowry, so, since John was in line to inherit, Norland Park, Mr. Dashwood was not at all concerned with his son, but, he hoped to save for his second wife and daughters. Unfortunately, he only survived the death of his uncle by a year. Since he was not able to acquire anything to leave for his them, the women only had the small amount left by the uncle.
As Mr. Dashwood lay dying he called his son in to speak to him. After getting his son’s assurance he would take care of his stepmother and half sisters, Mr. Dashwood died. The women were devastated. Mrs. Dashwood and her daughter, Marianne fed into each others grief. They were despondent, shutting themselves off from the world and bemoaning the cruel hand of fate. This left the oldest daughter, Elinor to care for the home, and their youngest sister, Margaret. So, when Fanny Dashwood arrived, it was Elinor who had to welcome her.
The wife of Mr. John Dashwood, Fanny was a self-centered, class conscience woman. She was now the mistress of Norland Park and quickly moved the women into the guest rooms. Quickly made to feel unwelcome in their home of last the 10 years, they were forced to begin to look for a new home. Finding one was difficult. Mrs. Dashwood was accustomed to a higher cost of living than they could afford now. Always practical, Elinor spent much of her time trying to reign in her mother’s extravagance. Having heard her stepson’s words to his father, Mrs Dashwood expected help form him, but, Mr. John Dashwood was going to disappoint them. After talking it over with his wife, Fanny, his generosity had dropped down to helping them move, and sporadic gifts of fish and game.
While looking for suitable accommodations they women continued to reside as guests of Norland Park. During this time, the oldest brother of Fanny Dashwood, Edward Ferrars, came for a visit. Although shy and not terribly handsome, Edward was kind. With more exposure, he overcame his shyness and became a favorite of Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters, especially Elinor. Edward and Elinor’s personalities meshed from the beginning. Elinor’s sensible nature took to Edward’s reserved one. They became close friends, spending a lot of time together. Mrs. Dashwood noticed and approved, not for any mercenary goal, but for the goal of her daughter’s happiness. Since she was more romantic in nature than her sister, Marianne couldn’t see her Elinor’s attraction to a man of such a quiet nature, but, she was willing to be happy for her.
Although Elinor assured her sister there was no promise of marriage between the two of them, her mother and Marianne still saw romance. Unfortunately, so did Fanny, and she did not like it. Fanny warned Mrs. Dashwood her mother would not approve of the match. Edward was designed for a more advantageous marriage. While fuming over the callousness of Fanny, Mrs. Dashwood received a letter from a cousin Devonshire. Sir John was a man of property who had heard of his cousin’s circumstances and wanted to offer a cottage on his property. It was small, but might suit the women. Elinor approved due to the much lower cost, and Mrs. Dashwood wanted to get away from her stepson’s wife. After several months under the same roof , Mrs. Dashwood had reached her breaking point.
Arrangements were made, (without the need of John Dashwood’s assistance) and the Dashwood women set off for Devonshire and Barton Cottage. Mrs. Dashwood had asked Edward to visit them whenever he could, feeling this was the least step she could take in promoting the relationship of Elinor and Edward. Having sent the only two retainers Elinor thought they could afford, the cottage was not quite as gloomy as it could have been. It was very much smaller than they were accustomed to, but the women set right to work and soon had it kitted up into a cozy home. Marianne’s pianoforte was place in its best spot and Elinor’s drawings were hung on the walls.
Upon their arrival they were met with a gift of vegetables from the garden of Sir John Middleton, and shortly thereafter, the man himself. Sir John was a gregarious man of about 40. His kindness often brought a variety of people to his home, and he was excited to include the lovely Dashwood women to the number. He brought a note from his wife, Lady Middleton, a more proper and sedate person than her husband, she welcomed them to Barton cottage and will visit as soon as she is sure to not be an inconvenience. Sir John insisted on the ladies joining his family for dinner the next night, and would hardly leave without assurances.
Only about a mile down the road, Barton Park was a lovely estate. The Dashwoods found Lady Middleton to be a bit too reserved, but when conversations veered towards her four young children, she was more animated. At dinner they were also made acquainted with Lady Middleton’s mother, Mrs. Jennings, and Colonel Brandon, a long time friend and neighbor. The ladies found Mrs. Jennings to be loud and teasing. Her manner was sometimes uncouth, but she was never deliberately cruel. She was usually happy and as gregarious as Sir John. On the other hand, Colonel Brandon was quiet and thoughtful. A tall man of about 35, his military bearing still held true. All of the Dashwood women would have had more respect of him, if not for the teasing Mrs. Jennings indulged herself in. After dinner, Marianne was prevailed upon to play a song on the pianoforte of the Middletons. Colonel Brandon listened to the music so intently that Mrs. Jennings decided it must be an indication of the love he felt for Marianne. This so enraged Marianne that she decided to dislike Mrs. Jennings and Col. Brandon, both.
On a sunny day, Marianne and Margaret take a walk to view the countryside. They are especially curious about a lovely estate over the hill, Allenham. They know it is owned by a partial reclusive aged woman, so visiting is out of the question, but they still like to take peeks at it from the top of the hill separating them. Unfortunately, it began to rain, so the two young women start back down hill at a run. Marianne slipped, turning her ankle. She was rescued by a handsome young man. It was obvious he had been out hunting, and when they questioned him, he explained his name was Willoughby and he was visiting his aunt who owns Allenham. After determining Marianne’s injury prevents her from walking, he scooped her up and carried her down the hill to her home. After depositing her on the sofa he introduced himself to Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor. Then he made his departure and promised to stop in the next day to check on Marianne.
Marianne was enraptured. She saw him as her knight rescuer. When the ladies questioned Sir John, he said he didn’t know anything bad about him. Also, he knew Willoughby had a good hunting dog and liked to dance. The first didn’t interest the ladies, but, that he liked to dance, showed the mark of a fine gentleman. Willoughby and Marianne grew close as the days progressed. He only had eyes for her, and she for him.
Although, Elinor could sense Col. Brandon was not pleased with the situation, she also knew he would only want Marianne to be happy. Willoughby, on the other hand is often cutting to Col. Brandon. He too often remarked that he found the colonel to be boring, and found ways to spew criticisms on him. When Willoughby said anything against the colonel around Elinor, she would disagree. Elinor sometimes found Willoughby to be rash and thoughtless, for all his charm and handsome continence. But, Marianne saw no faults in Willoughby. She was completely in love. By all accounts Willoughby appeared to be just as in love, so Elinor could not understand what was taking so long to announce their engagement. Especially after the incident at Allenham.
Sir John made plans to take a group of them to a beautiful estate a few miles away owned by Col. Brandon’s brother-in-law. Since the day started out with lovely weather, it seemed to be a wonderful idea. But, at the last minute, Col. Brandon received a message requiring immediate attention. The outing had to be called off indefinitely. Although, disappointed, the party consoled themselves with rides around the countryside in carriages. Willoughby, after berating Col. Brandon to Marianne and Elinor took off on a solo run with Marianne in his carriage. Being alone with him for the day was improper enough, but when it was discovered the two stopped into his aunt’s house without the woman’s knowledge, Elinor was shocked. She censured her sister on the improprieties, but, when dealing with Willoughby, Marianne was deaf. As also, was their mother. Mrs. Dashwood could see nothing but goodness and gentlemanly behavior in Willoughby. She was sure he and Marianne would soon marry, so all would be well. Once again, it was only Elinor who was practical.
Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood was often puzzled by Elinor’s demeanor. They couldn’t understand why Elinor wasn’t wasting away with longing for her lost love, Edward, or at least wondering what was keeping him. But, the ever pragmatic Elinor had not received an absolute proposal from Edward, so she had not pinned her all her hopes on him, although, she did like him. Unfortunately, Margaret had let slip to Mrs. Jennings the fact of Edward. During dinner one evening Mrs. Jennings was teasing the girls about lost loves in Norland. Margaret said their was someone for Elinor and his last name began with “F”. Although mortified, it was made worse when Marianne validated it with a correction of Margaret’s peskiness.
Marianne and Willoughby’s relationship continues to progress, until one afternoon. Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood come home, expecting to hear of the long awaited proposal, but instead they see Willoughby distressed by the fireplace and Marianne dashing up stairs in tears. He informs them he must go to London on business and doesn’t expect to return this year. After he leaves, Mrs. Dashwood goes up in tears, also. With all the women except Elinor weeping, she was left to wonder at the outcome. Are they engaged, or not?
Mrs. Dashwood is sure they are secretly engaged but won’t ask Marianne. She feels it would show a lack of trust. Elinor will just have to keep wondering. Although she expected him back any day, Marianne fed into the drama of absent love. She hardly slept or ate. She moped around the house crying sporadically over songs, books, anything that reminded her of Willoughby.
About a week after Willoughby’s departure, Marianne thought her ideas were correct. She saw a rider approach while she and Elinor were out for a walk. But, it is Edward. Although sad it wasn’t Willoughby, Marianne was happy to see Edward. She hoped to see the passion of love between Elinor and Edward. Although, their relationship seemed more friend like than lover like, Marianne kept her romantic eyes on his every move. She was sure the ring he wore was made from Elinor’s hair. Despite the fact that Elinor could not remember a time he would have had access to her hair in order to make a ring, she still hoped it was true. Edward’s manner was changed at first. He seemed a bit less cordial, but, as the visit progressed he became warmer and happier. During his stay at Barton Cottage, the Millton’s insisted on having them to dinner. This gave Mrs. Jennings time to discover his last name, Ferrars, and drop a few teasing remarks about the mysterious “Mr. F” who was Elinor’s admirer.
Taking a few days to settle somewhat into the comfort he always felt around the Dashwood women, Edward took the time to catch up on their lives and to learn about Willoughby. He asked Marianne if her solid abhorrence to second loves was still in effect. Marianne said that at 17 all her opinions were fixed. Elinor wanted to know how Marianne explained their own father’s love for their mother, his second wife.
After about a week, Edward was on his way. He didn’t actually have a destination in mind, since he couldn’t pursue a career of his choosing. Edward’s family wanted him to be something grand and respectable,but he just wanted to work at something simple and quiet. He preferred the church and the peaceful life of a minister, but his family and friends were all against it. So, Edward was left to wander from place to place despondentally. Marianne was expecting Elinor to at least weep at Edward’s leaving, but to her surprise, Elinor was fine. She just went back to her regular day to day activities.
Life went on as usual until a visit from the sister of Lady Middleton, Charlotte Palmer, and her husband. The two were complete opposites. Mrs. Palmer was young, pretty and vivacious, while her husband was stoic and bored. She found his sense of humor to be droll, when he was actually sarcastic and hurtful. He found her to be silly and told her often. On their first visit to be introduced to the Dashwood’s, Mr. Palmer rudely took up a newspaper to read and ignored them all. Since Mr. Palmer was running for a seat in Parliament, the two are on their way soon.
The next visitors are two girls Mrs. Jennings came across who are distantly related to her. Anne and Lucy Steele are lovely young ladies, although younger, Lucy is the prettiest of the two. When Elinor and Marianne make their acquaintance they are not impressed. The Steele sisters annoyingly fawn over Lady Middleton’s children. They intentionally ingratiated themselves into Barton Park. But, worse, the sisters seemed lacking in an education. Anne’s conversations always revolved around men and Lucy conversations were even more empty. But, the Steele sisters seemed to adore the Dashwood sisters. Lucy, especially, tried to get closer to Elinor. Whenever Lucy hears Sir John teasing Elinor about Edward, Elinor finds out why Lucy made such an effort to insinuate herself into Elinor’s life. When Lucy gets Elinor alone, she shrewdly lets her know of a long engagement Lucy has had with Edward. Although her heart is broken, Elinor listened to the story of how Lucy and Edward met while he was attending school with her uncle in Longstaple. While a young student at her uncle’s school, Edward had been taken in by her charm and proposed four years ago. As proof, Lucy proffered a small locket with his picture, some letters, and the identity of the hair in his ring. It was her own, even though, Edward said it was his sister’s when Marianne asked him about it.
Elinor was devastated, but, Lucy was not to know. Elinor managed to hold in her anguish until she was alone. Since Lucy swore Elinor to secrecy, she was relieved to not have to tell her mother and sisters. They would have also been hurt by his apparent duplicity. With reflection, Elinor came to the conclusion that Edward was probably infatuated with Lucy when he proposed, and then was stuck when he realized what a mistake he had made attaching himself to such a silly girl with no wealth. Lucy told Elinor they would have to wait until he inherited his mother’s wealth. Lucy is convinced if they declare their engagement, Mrs. Ferrars will disinherit Edward and leave her wealth to her younger son, Robert.
Using every opportunity to flaunt her relationship with Edward, Lucy spent as much time as she could with Elinor. But,seeing Elinor as competition, Lucy was not completely pleased when Elinor and Marianne accepted Mrs. Jennings’ offer to go to London with her for a visit. In her usual affable way, Mrs. Jennings asked the Dashwood girls to accompany her. She promised to find them husbands since her own two girls were married, and she would like to have the company. Assuming since Marianne rarely had anything good to say about Mrs. Jennings, she would be against it, Elinor at first declined the offer. But, to her surprise, Marianne wanted to go. Elinor suspected Marianne must know where Willoughby was staying and planned to meet up with him. Their brother and his wife were expected to be in London at the time, so Elinor was rightly worried she would run into Edward, and wasn’t sure how she would handle it with her new information. So, Elinor was apprehensive, especially since Anne and Lucy would also be in London and they would be traveling in the same circles. Marianne practically ignored Mrs. Jennings on the long trip, leaving all the conversation and good manners to Elinor, as usual. When they arrived in London the first thing Marianne did was send a letter. She wouldn’t tell Elinor anything about it. Marianne felt Elinor was deliberately keeping her feelings about Edward from her. If Elinor would keep her romance a secret, so would Marianne. Still unsure of the engagement between Marianne and Willoughby, Elinor waited to see the results. Would he come rushing to Marianne?
But, instead of Willoughby, it’s Colonel Brandon. Marianne sulks from the room, but Elinor is glad to see him. She, once again, is left to prove they do have good manners, even if Marianne forgets to show them at times. He informed Elinor the Palmers were in town, too. They all meet up at a ball a few days later hosted by Sir John. Marianne was desolated when she discovered Willoughby didn’t attend, especially after she learned he was invited, but declined.
A few days later the girls must attend a small gathering with Mrs. Jennings. She hopes it will cheer Marianne up. But, while there Marianne spots Willoughby with a small group, including a young woman who seems quite chummy. He tries to avoid them, but finally must come over to stop Marianne from making a spectacle of herself trying to get his attention. He is coldly cordial to them, then walks away. Marianne is ravaged. She must be taken away immediately. Luckily, Mrs. Jennings is such a kind woman that she immediately orders the coach and leaves the party with the girls.
The next day Marianne finally receives a note from Willoughby. Having thought someone must have given him a disparaging report on herself, she had written him again when they returned the night before to understand the meaning of his manner. His note was accompanied by the notes she had written to him, and the lock of hair she had given him. In his note he said he hoped she had not gotten the wrong impression of his intentions. He was engaged to Sophia Grey, and would be married soon. Whenever the word spreads throughout town, Mrs. Jennings finally understands the tears Marianne keeps shedding. Her kind heart tries a variety of ways to help Marianne feel better, including a small dinner to cheer her. But, Marianne leaves the table early and Elinor stays behind to carry on the civilities. Elinor learns that Willoughby went through his own fortune and married Miss Grey for her wealth.
The next day, Colonel Brandon visited to check on Marianne after he heard the rumor of Willoughby’s engagement. While alone with Elinor, he finally revealed his story. He had been in love with a ward of his father’s when they were young. But, his father wanted her to marry Brandon’s older brother, so she did. Heartbroken, Brandon enlisted and left with his regiment for the East Indies. Their marriage was not at all happy. After his father died, Brandon’s brother became abusive to his wife, and she became attached to another man. They divorced and she disappeared, not resurfacing until many years later.
On leave from the military, Colonel Brandon came home and began his search for his sister-in-law and true love, Eliza. When he found her, she was dying in a ‘sponging house’ (a place where debtors were held, just short of prison). The man she had left with had abandoned her and taken all her money with him. Even her meager allowance was made over to someone else. Colonel Brandon took her home with him to care for and discovered she had an illegitimate daughter as the result of the first affair. On her deathbed, she begged him to care for her little girl, and he agreed. Not having a home of his own, Brandon provided for the girl financially and put her in school.
Upon the death of his brother, Colonel Brandon inherited all the family property and had her visit him quite often at Delaford when she wasn’t in the home of a respectable woman, with the care of about 4 or 5 other young women, he had arranged to care for his ward. This way she would have the woman’s influence men thought young women needed. One of the girls had to go to Bath to care for her ailing father. Brandon knew him to be a respectable man and saw no harm in his ward accompanying her friend. Soon, though, he received word the girl was missing. After searching for he for months she was finally found. The note delivered to him on the day of the aborted trip to the country back in October was to tell him where she was.
Brandon found her with child, and the father was Willoughby. Little did Willoughby know, when he complained about missing their day trip to the country, that Brandon was leaving to care for the girl he had impregnated. Brandon took care of her and set her and her child up in a residence. Having learned of Marianne’s supposed engagement to Willoughby, Brandon had hope he would be reformed. But, obviously, he was not. Now Willoughby had broken another girl’s heart. Honor insisted they meet on the dueling field, but since neither man was injured the results weren’t advertised.
When Elinor shares the story with Marianne, she is saddened by the loss of the Willoughby she had thought him to be. His character was irretrievable. Of course, Marianne wants to return home, but a letter from their mother stops them. She, also, is heartbroken over Willoughby’s actions, but advises the girls to stay in London a bit longer. She has received word their brother and his family will be arriving in London and it would be good to spend some time with him. Little does she know, her stepson’s wife has other ideas.
When Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood take up residence in London, he stops in to visit with his sisters. He advises Elinor to marry Colonel Brandon. When she tells him she has no intention of doing such a thing, he tells her Edward is to marry the wealthy Miss Morton, if his mother can get him to agree, that is. He also wants her to get closer to the wealthy Mrs. Jennings, and then goes on to point out Marianne’s loss of beauty and therefore he loss of prospects for a wealthy husband. Instead of inviting her husband’s sisters to stay with them, Fanny Dashwood hosted a dinner party, inviting Mrs. Jennings, the Middletons and Colonel Brandon. Since Lucy and Anne Steele were staying with the Middletons, they were also invited. Mrs. Dashwood took to Lady Middleton immediately, and liked everyone else based on their wealth. Her mother, though, who was also there was outright rude to Elinor. Mrs. Ferrars had heard of Edward’s interest in Elinor, and wanted to let her sentiments known. Of course, she didn’t have any idea his actual fiancee was there, so she was nice to Lucy. This gave Lucy new hope of a wedding sooner than originally anticipated. Especially when Mrs. Dashwood asked her and Anne to stay with them.
At another gathering, an acquaintance assumed Fanny would be asking Elinor and Marianne to stay with her. Thinking quickly, Fanny said that she would, but she had already asked the less fortunate Steele sisters to stay with her. She liked their ingratiating attitude. Especially when they fawned over her little boy.
Believing Mrs. Dashwood and her mother truly likes Lucy, Anne lets it slip about Edward and Lucy’s engagement. Fanny went into hysterics and threw the girls out. Mrs. Ferrars insisted Edward disclaim his relationship with Lucy or she would disinherit him. When he declined, he was sent away. Edward told Lucy of his reduced circumstance and gave her a chance to end their engagement, but she kept hanging on. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, after all. When news of the the events reached Mrs. Jennings, she came right away to tell Elinor. Now that the engagement was common news, Elinor felt safe to tell Marianne. At first she was devastated that Elinor kept it from her. Marianne thought maybe Elinor’s love wasn’t that strong. But, Elinor soon disabused her of that notion. Marianne marveled at Elinor’s strength and vowed to emulate her as much as possible. Desiring to leave for home as soon as possible, the sisters arrange to travel part way with the Palmers, who are leaving soon. But, before they leave, Colonel Brandon stops in to ask Elinor to relay to Edward his offer of the rectory at Delaford. It wouldn’t be a huge wage, but it would be a start. She is overjoyed by his generosity, but a bit uncomfortable being the person to offer it.
As she is writing a letter to Edward, he shows up. He is grateful for the offer, but secretly thinks Brandon is courting Elinor. Just before the sisters leave for home, Elinor pays a visit to her brother to say good by. She discovers Edwards inheritance was turned over to his coxcomb of a brother, Robert.
Soon, the sisters leave with Mrs. Jennings, the Palmers and Colonel Brandon. They will spend a few days at the Palmer’s estate before continuing on to Barton. While there Marianne takes long melancholy walks and gets caught in the rain. From that she catches a violent cold that gets much worse. The doctor suggests they contact her mother. The colonel leaves to retrieve her. While he is gone, Marianne begins to make a recovery. Expecting the carriage she hears pulling up to be her mother and Colonel Brandon, Elinor is surprised to see Willoughby. He had heard of Marianne’s possible demise and came as quickly as possible. When Elinor tells him Marianne will be fine, he tells her the story of his disreputable actions. He had fallen in love, as much as he could with Marianne. Even though, he had gone through his money through wasted means, he planned to be with Marianne after inheriting his aunt’s estate. But, the day he left was when his aunt found out about Colonel Brandon’s ward, and their baby. She was furious. The only way she would allow him to stay was if he married the girl. When he refused, he had to leave. Since he had Miss Grey and all her money on the string, he left to marry her. He accepted his style of living needed a substantial income, since he had no intention of changing it, a wealthy wife was his best option. He explained that he didn’t know the girl was pregnant and thought he had left her information on contacting him. Also, the cold letter of breakup he sent to Marianne was dictated to him by his fiancee.
Having given the story to Elinor, Willoughby begged her forgiveness and asked her to tell Marianne when she thought it best. Elinor said she pitied and forgave him. Soon after he left, Colonel Brandon returned with their mother. They were overjoyed to hear of Marianne’s return to health. After a few days they finally returned to Barton. Mrs. Dashwood relayed to Elinor that Colonel Brandon had declared his love for Marianne on that harrowing journey from Barton. They all hoped Marianne would be able to return his affection some day. When Marianne’s health was restored, she was more calm than before. Less the flighty romantic. When Elinor tells Marianne that Willoughby did love her, just couldn’t resolve himself to a life without wealth, Marianne was glad to have some of his character restored, and know she was not a complete fool for love. Soon, she was leaning more toward the kindness and strength of Colonel Brandon. During this time, news arrived of Lucy Steele’s marriage to Mr. Ferrars. Of course, they were all saddened, especially Elinor, but she had been expecting it.
A few days later, they were all surprised by the arrival of Edward. He informed them that Lucy had married his brother, Robert, after breaking their engagement. Now, he was finally free to ask the woman he truly loved to marry him, Elinor. She accepted. Realizing Edward was going to marry Elinor, Col. Brandon invested more money into the vicarage, and soon thereafter Elinor and Edward moved in. Marianne married Brandon and the sisters lived near each other. Mrs. Farrars forgave Edward enough to give him the same she had given his sister on her marriage, which was a lot more than Elinor expected, and helped them out immensely. Mrs. Dashwood and Margaret continued to live at Barton Cottage, where Margaret became the favorite of Sir John’s parties and Mrs. Jennings’ teasings.
Elinor Dashwood – the eldest daughter of the Dashwood household. She was 19 years old at the beginning of the novel. She was the more sensible sister. Whenever she fell in love with Edward Farrars she kept a level head. She never gave an emotional outburst until the very end of the book. Throughout the book, her advice was sound. She was never frivolous nor flighty. She kept her emotions in check even when her heart was broken.
Marianne Dashwood – the middle Dashwood daughter. Marianne is 17 at the beginning of the book and very pretty. She was the more sensitive sister. She wore her emotions on her sleeve, and was proud of it. Whenever she fell in love with Willoughby, she didn’t care who knows it. She fawned over him, was visibly devoted. When he ended their relationship, she became ill. A very dramatic girl, she was usually the center of everyone’s attention. Marianne was very romantic and had no patience for any one who’s opinions differed from her own. She especially believed that true love only came once in a life time. Luckily, by the end of the novel she had grown more stable and adult. She is the most changed of all the characters.
Edward Farrars – brother-in-law to Elinor’s brother. As a young man he became enraptured with a young girl and proposed. Later he regretted it, but was too honorable to end the relationship. He didn’t get along with his family. His mother was very controlling, and determined he choose a profession that will bring credit to their family. Something she can brag about to her peers. Unfortunately for her, Edward wanted to be a clergyman. He didn’t want to be a frivolous gentleman who spends too much money and looks down his nose at everyone. When he met Elinor, he was attracted to her steadfast, even tempered ways, but, couldn’t act on his feelings because he was engaged. Throughout the book he was unsettled and unhappy. But, after his mother disowned him, he was finally able to live life the way he wanted, especially when Lucy broke their engagement and he could finally be with Elinor.
John Willoughby – handsome, charming, and shallow. He wooed Marianne showing her the devotion of a man desperately in love, but when his aunt threatened to disown him and not leave him her estate, he left Marianne without a backward glance. Although he did care about her, he cared about money more. He impregnated the ward of Colonel Brandon and refused to marry her. He abandoned her. After proposing to a wealthy girl in London, he married her, gained her wealth and bemoaned the loss of Marianne. Not a happy marriage.
Colonel Brandon – his story is the shortest in telling, yet the most interesting. As a young man he had fallen in love with his father’s ward, a pretty young woman with a wealthy dowry. But, whenever they tried to elope, they discovered his father wanted her to marry Brandon’s older brother. They were forcefully returned and she was mistreated until she agreed to the marriage. After marrying the brother, their lives were terrible. He didn’t love her and probably didn’t like women at all. Finally she left her husband for another man. From there her life fell into depravity, and she gave birth to a little girl, then died from disease after losing all her money.
At the same time Colonel Brandon had joined the army to get away from being forced to watch the woman he loved with his brother. Whenever he came home he discovered she had been unhappy and had left his brother, who had divorced her. Brandon spent years trying to locate her and didn’t find her until she was on her deathbed. He took her out of the poorhouse and attained the best care for her he could afford. Unfortunately she died, but before she did, she asked Brandon to take care of her little girl. He raised the girl with stability and love, but, the girl met Willoughby. He absconded with her, seduced her, impregnated her and abandoned her. When Brandon found her, she was close to delivery. He set her up with a house and took care of the girl and her baby.
Throughout the book, he was in love with Marianne. Although, he was older than she, he saw the same traits that drew him to his first love. Though he found her enchanting, he knew she would not return his love. Because he was truly in love with Marianne, he just wanted her to be happy. If that meant being married to a cad like Willoughby, then Brandon would help her. When Willoughby broke her hear, Brandon was worried about her. He spent more time around the sisters to ensure Marianne was safe. He accompanied the girls on the trip home and was there to fetch their mother when Marianne became ill on the trip.
Brandon’s patience was finally rewarded. After all the yearning, at long last, he got the girl. He and Marianne were married.