Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Re-reading S&S

I’ve decided that, starting now, when I re-read a Jane Austen novel I’ll write a post in which I can ramble on about my thoughts: things that have particularly caught my attention this time around, etc. And quotes. Preferably ones I haven't already gone over in the past, but I’m sure it’s possible that a few of those could wheedle their way in.

Now, I already read Emma a second time for school last year, so I’ll have to hit that one on the third re-read. But I have just finished reading Sense and Sensibility for the second time. I realized that my reading list this year did not have one single thing by Jane Austen, and that is unheard of. So I fixed that. And now I am going to start talking about it—quite unsystematically: you are forewarned. (It is also assumed that if you read this post you already know the story. If you don't, you can read my original post about it.)

The first several chapters of the book seem to rush events along (much faster, say, than the movies do), and I’ve noticed that you can’t really get to know Edward Ferrars until much later in the book. All you know is that Elinor thinks very highly of him, greatly esteems him, likes him, etc. and that Marianne does not quite approve of him as a lover, but you learn by and by that she has a very high regard for him despite his not being animated by Cowper.

I noticed this last time too—if there could be only one heroine in S&S, it would be Elinor. The narrative always stays with her, and you get much more of her thoughts than Marianne’s. You know a lot of Marianne just because they’re sisters, it would seem. (Although the same doesn’t hold true for poor Margaret—you know hardly anything of her. But at least she is there. At LEAST she is THERE, people who made the 1971 and 1981 mini-series…) Then I wondered, is Jane Bennet just as much of a Jane Austen heroine as Marianne Dashwood? I did not like this idea one whit. It was dreadful. I love Marianne and want desperately for her to be one of the heroines. Jane… no, Miss Bennet just can’t be one of the heroines. She’s the older sister of the heroine, and that’s that. But then I remembered that first version, the epistolary novel started by Miss Austen when she was around twenty, was called Elinor and Marianne and that soothed me a great deal. If she called it that, it is obviously about both of them. Still, it does focus more on Elinor than Marianne.

My favorite quote of the novel, and at least in the top three of my favorite Jane Austen quotes in general, is Marianne’s—
“[T]he more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!”
It has always suited my own sentiments so well, it may as well be something I wrote myself… but delightful that it’s not, because it’s so marvelous to express exactly what you mean by quoting Jane Austen. (I was thinking the other day, wouldn’t it be terribly amusing to be in a Jane Austen Quote Bee, or competition of some sort? I would probably fail and be kicking myself for ages afterwards at not being able to pull the right quote to the front of my head in time, but I think it would be great fun.)

Another thing this time around—Marianne might be a lot less like me than I thought she was before. I think that the movies change her quite a bit…and really, you don’t get as much of a chance to get to know her as you do Elinor. (Um, sorry if I seem to be repeating myself.) I can’t really explain how she’s unlike me—that’s a lot harder than explaining how she is—but there were times where I’d be thinking “Really, Marianne? You should not have said that. No, no, don’t do that, silly girl!” ...you know what I mean. Well, maybe you don’t. But anyways.

And then there were other times that feel like “Hahaha, that is me, right there…” At the end of chapter five, for instance. I can see myself doing this.
“Dear, dear Norland!” said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there; “when shall I cease to regret you!—when learn to feel at home elsewhere!—Oh! happy house, could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence perhaps I may view you no more!”
Of course, not quite in that language and all, but… ;-)

And then there are those conversations she’s in that just make me laugh.
    “Aye, aye, I see how it will be,” said Sir John, “I see how it will be. You will be setting your cap at him now, and never think of poor Brandon.”
    “That is an expression, Sir John,” said Marianne, warmly, “which I particularly dislike. I abhor every common-place phrase by which wit is intended; and ‘setting one’s cap at a man,’ or ‘making a conquest,’ are the most odious of all. Their tendency is gross and illiberal; and if their construction could ever be deemed clever, time has long ago destroyed all its ingenuity.”
    Sir John did not much understand this reproof; but he laughed as heartily as if he did, and then replied,
    “Ay, you will make conquests enough, I dare say, one way or other. Poor Brandon! he is quite smitten already, and he is very well worth setting your cap at,”—I can just see Marianne’s face there—“I can tell you, in spite all this tumbling about and spraining of ankles.”

And the delightful Elinor-and-Marianne-ness.

    “I do not attempt to deny,” said [Elinor], “that I think very highly of him—that I greatly esteem him, that I like him.”
    Marianne here burst forth with indignation:
    “Esteem him! Like him! Cold-hearted Elinor! Oh! worse than cold-hearted! Ashamed of being otherwise. Use those words again, and I will leave the room this moment.”
    Elinor could not help laughing. “Excuse me,” said she; “and be assured that I meant no offence to you, by speaking, in so quiet a way, of my own feelings.”

    “But how is your acquaintance to be long supported, under such extraordinary dispatch of every subject for discourse? You will soon have exhausted each favourite topic. Another meeting will suffice to explain his sentiments on picturesque beauty, and second marriages, and then you can have nothing further to ask.”
    “Elinor,” cried Marianne, “is that fair? is that just? are my ideas so scanty? But I see what you mean. I have been too much at my ease, to happy, too frank. I have erred against every common-place notion of decorum; I have been open and sincere where I ought to have been reserved, spiritless, dull and deceitful—had I talked only of the weather and the roads, and had I spoken only once in ten minutes, this reproach would have been spared.”

    “And how does dear, dear Norland look?” cried Marianne.
    “Dear, dear Norland,” said Elinor, “probably looks much as it always does at this time of year. The woods and walks thickly covered with dead leaves.”
    “Oh,” cried Marianne, “with what transporting sensation have I formerly seen them fall! How I have delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they, the season, the air altogether inspired! Now there is no one to regard them. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off, and driven as much as possible from the sight.”
    “It is not every one,” said Elinor, “who has your passion for dead leaves.”

Margaret, as I said, is a great deal ignored. When she has any part in the story is usually because she is divulging something about her sisters’ romances. My favorite has to be this… it’s dreadful, but funny:
    “Oh! pray Miss Margaret, let us know all about it,” said Mrs. Jennings. “What is the gentleman’s name?”
     “I must not tell, ma’am. But I know very well what it is; and I know where he is too.”
    “Yes, yes, we can all guess where he is; at his own house at Norland to be sure. He is the curate of the parish I dare say.”
    “No, that he is not. He is of no profession at all.”
    “Margaret,” said Marianne with great warmth, “you know that all this is an invention of your own, and that there is no such person in existence.”
    “Well, then, he is lately dead, Marianne, for I am sure there was such a man once, and his name begins with an F.”

Edward Ferrars. I like him. He is NOT boring. No indeed. I sometimes get annoyed with him when he acts mope-ish, but at least he had a reason. And he has a sense of humor. People who think he is boring have only to understand one thing: Edward Ferrars is not Hugh Grant.
Do you know, my favorite Edward moments are, interestingly enough, when he is conversing with Marianne.
    “It is a beautiful country,” [Edward] replied; “but these bottoms must be dirty in winter.”
    “How can you think of dirt, with such objects before you?”
    “Because,” replied he, smiling, “among the rest of the objects before me, I see a very dirty lane.”
    “How strange!” said Marianne to herself as she walked on.

And then the general favorite of Edward’s defenders…
    “And yet two thousand a-year is a very moderate income,” said Marianne. “A family cannot well be maintained on a smaller. I am sure I am not extravagant in my demands. A proper establishment of servants, a carriage, perhaps two, and hunters, cannot be supported on less." ...
    “Hunters!” repeated Edward, “but why must you have hunters?” (It is a certain breed of horses.) “Every body does not hunt.”
    Marianne coloured as she replied, “But most people do.”
Then, another evening after Edward hears about Willoughby, he brings the conversation back up—
    “I have been guessing. Shall I tell you my guess?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Shall I tell you?”
    “Certainly.”
    “Well then; I guess that Mr. Willoughby hunts.”

Now for something I rarely touch when discussing anything to do with Jane Austen—Things That Annoyed Me.
One is Elinor, after Willoughby comes to “apologize.” She is WAY too sympathetic. It Drives Me Nuts. And get this:
But her promise of relating it to her sister was invariably painful. She dreaded the performance of it, dreaded what its effect on Marianne might be; doubted whether after such an explanation she could ever be happy with another; and for a moment wished Willoughby a widower.
Really? Really, Elinor? EERRMMM. How could you even THINK such a thing? After Willoughby’s horrible past, that thought should never have crossed your mind. It is your duty to detest the fellow. DO IT.

And then the thing that disturbed me. I hate to admit that anything Jane Austen could disturb me, but so it is.
Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her own conduct, her most favourite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as seventeen, and with no sentiments superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily give her hand to another!”
No. No, no, no. That simply cannot mean that Marianne was not in love with Colonel Brandon when she married him. It CAN’T mean that. It just means… um… that she didn’t feel the head-over-heels-in-love, burning passion she always imagined? Which, of course, passes away. That she loved Col. Brandon more maturely. That must be it.

It must be.

This bit soothed me a little—“Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.”
But it still says “in time”… bah. I prefer to draw my own conclusions, since a great deal of their relationship is left up to the imagination anyhow.

Moving on. Actually, I haven’t much more to say. Except that I've recently enjoyed listening to some songs from the S&S Musical. I rather thought I would disapprove of any Jane Austen musical, but I did enjoy several of the songs, and have come to the conclusion that that one seems to be an interesting interpretation. Not a representation, of course. Just for people who already know the story, and preferably have read the book. My favorite song was in the spot where Marianne is ill, sung by Elinor. It was so delightfully heart-wrenching. Heehee.

I’m done rambling now, so I’ll just finish this off with a quote.

“[T]hough a very few hours spent in the hard labor of incessant talking will dispatch more subjects than can really be in common between to rational creatures, yet with lovers it is different. Between THEM no subject is finished, no communication is even made, till it has been made at least twenty times over.”

6 comments:

Jessica said...

I left a long comment, and blogger messed up and I think it disappeared. :-(

Miss Dashwood said...

I never thought I'd say this, m'dear, but I heartily agree-- Edward Ferrars is not Hugh Grant. The End.

(And, um, neither is Edward Dan Stevens. *ducks* Dan Stevens came really really close and is definitely my favorite Edward, but the REAL Edward is the one you'll find in the pages of the book, the end again.)

I liked all your quotes muchly. Especially the guessing one. And the dead leaves one. I read somewhere that Elinor wasn't much of a JA heroine tootuz she had no sense of humor. ERMMMMMMMMM. She does TOO have a sense of humor. Quite a good one, too.

"Delightfully heart-wrenching"--indubitably! "Can't you see how deeply you'd be missed?" (I like how she kinda sobs that line. Sniffle.)

Oh, and I completely agree about Marianne's marriage to the Colonel. Of course she was in love with him. Maybe it wasn't the wild passionate head-over-ears type, but she was definitely in love with him. It was more mature, that was all. And when it says "in time"-- well, it doesn't say how MUCH time. Heehee. I like to think it was right before he proposed. :D

Melody said...

Jessica,
Oh, no! It isn't showing up. How sad! Blogger destroying any comment is bad enough, but a LONG comment... that is very uncivil.

Millie,
Ha! I came close to saying almost the same exact thing in the post (about Dan Stevens). Beep beep. Besides, there's no need to duck from ME when you say that! I always approve of the real character only being found in the book. Anyway, I was just saying that people who think Edward is boring probably picture Hugh Grant. :P

What?!? Woooow. Elinor DOES SO have a sense of humor. A delightful one. In fact, that's one thing I like better about her than Marianne.

Oh. I know. I love how her voice breaks right there. It made me start crying the first few times I listened to it. :D

Ah, you are such a comfort, my dear. Your coinciding thoughts are expressed so nicely. ;) That is what I like to think too. Heehee.

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

Talking over things you noticed is a great idea m'dear!

Yeah, it's harder to see why Elinor is attached to Edward at first, we really only hear what she likes about him and then they leave Norland. :(

I know! it's one thing to not say much about Margaret but to exclude her entirely??? Margaret is one of my favorite S&S characters, especially in the films!

“[T]he more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!”
Takes on Elinor voice: Oh m'dear Marianne! (would Elinor roll her eyes, she just might.) I mean I understand the sentiment but don't completely despair! (I think we've had this conversation before...) ;)

'Elinor and Marianne' - you're right, the story must have originally focused quite closely on both of them. I wonder if maybe JA had the girls split up (like Marianne at Barton and Elinor at Norland or in London) so that they were writing to each other? If that's true then Elinor would have had to tell Marianne all about Lucy Steele from the beginning. And then when Marianne goes to London the girls would write to their mother. Or maybe it featured Elinor and Marianne both at Barton writing to friends. Hmm...

Ooooh! ooooh!!! A Jane Austen Quote Bee would be most delightful! But I suppose we'd be judged on quoting the lines word for word (like in a Bible Verse Bee) and I think I might loose that after a while. What about a blogging event or post or even just a chat where we could only talk in Jane Austen quotes?!? That would be quite fun! :)

Perhaps you've grown a bit more sensible in your "old age" (ha, just kidding, but like Marianne does at the end of the book) and perhaps you've changed or grown wiser since first reading S&S?

Supper, must dash. Bee back later! :)

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

"Edward Ferrars is not Hugh Grant." So true! I do think Hugh Grant was quite funny as Edward, especially when he visits Elinor in London on both occasions he does the scenes well. But overall I prefer Dan Stevens Edward because he captures a different side of Edward that is more open, very kind and definitely has a quirky sense of humor. :)

Love the Edward scenes where he's teasing Marianne! His sense of humor is a bit more intelligent and more carefully crafted, a bit dry even. It suits his personality.

"...and for a moment wished Willoughby a widower." I don't remember that part. Hmm...maybe put it down as a lapse of judgement because Elinor is very tired after having cared for her sister so tirelessly?

Yes, Jane Austen does seem a little mean to Marianne in some ways, seems to be teasing her character but saying that she did the complete opposite of what her "favourite maxims" had been. It doesn't seem that for Marianne it was "only the deepest love (will persuade me into matrimony)". But perhaps even if she accepted Colonel Brandon without being completely "in love" with him, "her whole heart became...devoted" while they were engaged. And it certainly doesn't say the time frame. And I like to think that she was even more "...devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby" instead of being just "as much devoted". :)

Re-reading those two quotes the wording of "strong esteem and lively friendship" reminds me of the early conversation between Elinor and Marianne of "...I think very highly of him—that I greatly esteem him, that I like him.”

I'm glad you've enjoyed listening to the S&S Musical songs! Most of the wording of the songs fits pretty well with the books, that's why I like them. Yes, I love that song too!

Love quotes and lovely post m'dear Marianne!

~Your Elinor :)

Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

I usually don't reread books, but one day I may reread Jane Austen's books.

Definitely Elinor would be the heroine if there could only be one heroine. So much of Marianne's behavior is secretive (like how we find out later that she was never engaged to Willoughby, but up to that point we were lead to believe they are), which wouldn't fit well if she was the main heroine. With Elinor, we know what she is thinking (there are pages of what she is thinking -- like when she's trying to reason out Lucy and Edward's engagement).

I remember reading Sense and Sensibility and thinking "Wow, Marianne was kind of mean there!" I still liked Marianne and she's up there with my favorite heroines, but the way the she was talking about Colonel Brandon wasn't nice (though she was influenced quite a bit by Willoughby).

I love Elinor's dead leaves quote! Definitely one of my favorite quotes!

I know what you mean about Willoughby's confession. I always wondered why Elinor felt sorry for him at all. In my opinion, he's the author of his unhappiness.

Definitely enjoyed reading your post! I look forward to similar posts in the future!

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