Whenever I think of sisters, my own and in general, I think of Sense and Sensibility. The differences between sisters always have opportunities to clash or contrast each other. And there’s the immeasurable aspect of friendship between sisters. Jane Austen illustrates both of these beautifully in her novels, and Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorites.
Elinor and Marianne are two sisters adjusting to life downsized. In a time where a woman’s chance of security and happiness depended greatly on marriage, losing their father’s estate at his death was a difficult outcome. It’s easy to speak of being bound by society when you think of the time and customs of the setting. As in Austen’s novels, cleverness and goodness win the day. The two very different sisters not only find a happy ending in marriage, but become true friends and confidants towards the end.
I have always loved the interactions between these two sisters. They both have a very different approach to life. Elinor is regarded as the wiser of the two. She’s a model of wisdom and self-control; while those aren’t usually qualities admired in heroines today, she strikes me as a strong woman, able to endure much while remaining steadfast. Her own sufferings and loneliness make her a rounded, relatable character.
Marrianne is led by her feelings. She is passionate, and while both sisters may feel things deeply, Marrianne is the one who leaves little of her feelings to be guessed by others. Her lively, ready spirit are both endearing and endangering, and she grows up through pain of a different kind from her sisters’. Elinor is the hero of the story, whose sufferings win her a happy ending; Marianne is the tragic figure by whose growth and the love of others receives her happy ending. Elinor is perhaps the more admirable of the two, but Marrianne is the one with the more obvious character arc. I love that they both learn how to be each other’s confidants and even how to view life a little more truly.