Title: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Jane Austen’s tale of the family Dashwood, and their prospects after husband and father, Henry, dies is a commentary on the class system in England.
Austen really does not like the way in which the society she lives in sets expectations for each other, most especially, the young, unmarried women.
While first published in 1811, Austen’s themes resonate across two centuries. Women are held to impossible standards, and always found wanting. Austen’s main theme is that of sense vs. “sensitivity.”
Is it better to be sensible and logical where emotions, and love, are concerned? Better to not show emotion and to explain hurt by others away by the use of logic? Or is being sensitive to others’ feelings and wearing one’s heart on the sleeve a better approach?
While reading Sense and Sensibility, I kept wondering about “the middle path.” One in which both sisters are allowed to be both logical and show their emotions, rather than this tug of war of trying to measure up to society’s expectations.
Which, of course, is the point. There is no “middle path.” Women must pick a path and stick with it in order to please both those of her class and any potential suitors. Things are better in some ways now, but it’s still difficult for both men and women to live up to the expectations laid upon them by rigid societal mores.
Austen is worth reading, both for her commentary and for her sharp observations into human nature.