Last week I finished reading my second Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility, and for the second time I was left a little disappointed.
Early on in the book I was very much amused by Austen’s wit and subtlety. I particularly enjoyed the scene in chapter two where Fanny convinces Mr John Dashwood to significantly reduce the amount of financial support he offers his sisters. I could see a great deal of these early characters in the world around me today which I felt made the book both modern and relevant.
This wit was carried throughout the story very effectively, even until the very last pages of the book, where I came to find another of my favourite lines,
After just so proper resistance on the part of Mrs Ferrars, just so violent and steady as to preserve her from that reproach which she always seemed fearful of incurring , the reproach of being too amiable, Edward was admitted to her presence, and pronounced again to be her son.
So what did I find disappointing? Well, for me, large parts of the action were missing. Having read 350+ pages of evenings in the drawing room, ball room antics and sisterly interaction – all of which I enjoyed – the scenes I had been looking forward to, the marriage proposals, were skipped over by authorial narrative,
How soon he had walked himself into the proper resolution, how soon an opportunity of exercising it occurred, in what manner he expressed himself , and how he was received, need not be particularly told.
And so, my pay-off for reading the whole book was sadly lacking. I do appreciate that these missing details are not integral to the book’s message and that their absence makes a clearly thought out point, but selfishly, I couldn’t help desiring those details for my own enjoyment of the story. Of course, this all depends on your purpose for reading the book – entertainment or analysis. And I expect that I am missing something, but I can’t help wondering how different the flesh on the bones of this plot might have been if a Bronte had penned the story. We would certainly have been treated to more insight in to Colonel Brandon and Edward Ferrars, their complexities and their passions. Whilst I appreciate her wit and comments on society, I think that, perhaps for me, Austen is just a little too polite and, dare I say it, too happy ever after.
Please feel free to leave a comment with your own thoughts and interpretations – perhaps you can change my mind?