Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sense and Sensibility (Novel)

Sense and Sensibility (Novel) Release date: 1811. Author: Jane Austen. Publisher: CreateSpace (2010). ISBN: 9781451539400.

Plot summary: Nineteen-year-old Elinor Dashwood and her younger sister, sixteen-year-old Marianne, must move with their mother and sister, thirteen-year-old Margaret, after the death of their father. Although Mr. Dashwood made his son, John, half-brother to the Dashwood women, promise to take care of the ladies, John’s cruel and stingy wife, Fanny, refuses. Before they are turned out of the family estate, the Dashwoods are visited by Fanny’s brother, Edward Ferrars. Elinor and Edward immediately form an attachment which is, unfortunately, cut short when the Dashwood women move to a cottage at Barton Park, the estate of Mrs. Dashwood’s cousin, Sir John Middleton, in Devonshire. There, the women are introduced to Colonel Brandon who Sir John and his vivacious mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings, believe would make a good match for Elinor. Still remembering her affections for Edward, however, Elinor is not interested, and Brandon is attracted to Marianne. Marianne is put off by the age difference between her and the Colonel, Brandon is 35, and eventually falls for the dashing John Willoughby whom she happens to meet one day in the countryside. Not everything is as it seems for the Dashwoods, however: Willoughby inexplicably disappears to London with little explanation and Elinor discovers that her beloved Edward is actually engaged to someone else. Are the Dashwoods doomed to a life of perpetual disappointment and neglect?

Critical evaluation: Jane Austen’s classic tales have appealed to readers of all ages for centuries, and Sense and Sensibility is no different. What is not often thought of, however, when discussing Austen’s novels is that they are, in fact, generally about teenage women. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are both teenagers who deal with common teenage problems: love, disappointment, rejection and loss. Readers will be able to relate to the relationship between the two sisters: Elinor is calm, reserved and modest. Marianne is exuberant and very forthcoming with her feelings and emotions. This is a common distinction between siblings still, almost 200 years later. Austen also does a wonderful job of portraying the unique qualities of her time. Etiquette and decorum are major considerations for the Dashwood sisters, as are their social standing. Many modern teens will be able to identify with the fact that Elinor and Marianne do not have the income for fancy clothes, coaches, or even their own house. They instead rely on their intelligence and personalities in their relationships. Perhaps the relevance of Austen’s stories in the 21st century are the reason they have seen a resurgence in recent years (i.e. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters [2009]). Teens over the past two centuries have enjoyed this wonderful story, as they undoubtedly will for years to come.

Reader's annotation: After their father’s death, nineteen-year-old Elinor Dashwood and her sixteen-year-old sister, Marianne, must move with their mother and younger sister from their lavish home to a small country cottage. Will they be able to find love in their new lives?    
About the author: Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 in Steventon, England to Reverend George Austen and his wife Cassandra. Austen was the seventh child, but only the second daughter in her family. Her and her older sister, Cassandra (named after their mother), were very close as a result of being the only two girls in the family. Austen was also very close with older brother, Henry, who later served as her literary agent. In 1783, Austen and her sister were sent to boarding school where they were educated in foreign language, music and art. Upon returning from school, Jane furthered her own education through reading works from her father’s large book collection. In 1787, Austen began writing stories and poems in small notebooks. Jane would often read aloud her compositions to the rest of her family for their amusement. Although it was expected that young women would marry, Austen never did. She did, however, fall in love with family friend, Tom Lefroy, whom she was unable to marry because the match was thought impractical. Over the following years, Austen continued to work on her stories, even after her family relocated to Bath, England. In 1811, Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published with much success. Her second work, Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813. After publishing several more successful titles, Jane died in 1817 of illness. Through her novels, Austen stands out as an intelligent, head-strong woman from an era when women were expected to be meek. (
Genre: Fiction/Historical

Curriculum ties:
Romantic era
Famous authors

Booktalking ideas:
Sibling relationships
Social aspects of being a teenager in Austen’s era vs. modern-day
Roles of women throughout history
Love and deception

Reading level/Interest Age:
Age 13 and up.

Challenge issues:

Reasons for inclusion:
Considered a classic work of literature.  

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