Places: Sense and Sensibility

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1811

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Domestic realism

Time of work: Early nineteenth century

Places DiscussedBarton cottage

Barton Sense and Sensibilitycottage. Home of Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters, near Barton Park in Devonshire, three days’ journey from London in southwest England, that is under the control of a distant relative. Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters move into the cottage after her stepson, John Dashwood, marries and his new wife makes it clear that they are no longer welcome in the home that she now manages. The women make the cottage comfortable and are resigned to the social gaucheries of Sir John Middleton and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings, who apparently are to be their main social resources.

The novel’s central romantic entanglements are introduced at the cottage, where the daughters begin receiving gentleman callers who represent prospective husbands. One caller, Edward Ferrars, who gives Elinor hope that her affection for him may be returned, is partial toward the cottage because he prefers the seclusion and quiet of country life to the social bustle of London. Eventually the two older daughters find happiness with the lovers of their choice.

Norland Park

Norland Park. Sussex home of the widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters that is inherited by her stepson, John Dashwood. Mrs. Dashwood fondly remembers it as her former home, Marianne remembers it for its elegance, and Elinor remembers it as the place where she and Edward became fond of each other.

Berkeley Street

Berkeley Street. Exclusive London neighborhood where Elinor and Marianne are the guests of Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton’s mother, for an extended winter visit. At a party there, Marianne is stunned by the appearance of her former lover, Willoughby, and his efforts to snub her.

Cleveland

Cleveland. Somersetshire home of Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, Mrs. Jennings’s other daughter, that serves as a convenient stopover for Elinor and Marianne on their return from London to Barton Cottage. Here, primarily from self-neglect, Marianne contracts an infectious fever, giving Colonel Brandon the chance to serve her by going after her mother. A drunken Willoughby appears, having heard that Marianne is dying, to beg her forgiveness for his marrying for money and to insist that he loves only her. Marianne recovers and comes to appreciate Colonel Brandon’s devotion.

BibliographyButler, Marilyn. Jane Austen and the War of Ideas. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1987. Argues that this “unremittingly didactic” novel intends to oppose Marianne’s idealistic values with the decisive correctness of Elinor’s cautious civility. Asserts that Austen complicates this effort, however, by making Marianne too sympathetic.Fergus, Jan. Jane Austen and the Didactic Novel: “Northanger Abbey,” “Sense and Sensibility,” and “Pride and Prejudice.” Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. Very good on Austen’s style and in situating her early novels in the tradition of eighteenth and early nineteenth century English fiction.Honan, Park. Jane Austen: Her Life. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1987. Considered the standard biography, Honan’s work carefully explains the context of Austen’s novels, including a detailed discussion of the development of Sense and Sensibility through several drafts.Lauber, John. Jane Austen. New York: Twayne, 1993. A good basic discussion of the novel that uses the terms “sense” and “sensibility” to interpret and evaluate the characters’ positive and negative qualities. Describes the novel as Austen’s most passionate and darkly satirical. Contains a useful chronology and a short annotated bibliography.Moler, Kenneth. Jane Austen’s Art of Allusion. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1968. Considers the novel in relation to its literary antecedents, finding that Austen takes the conventional contrast of sense and sensibility and reworks it to show that both sides of the dichotomy have limitations. Asserts that the “sensible” Elinor is as much in need of self-knowledge as Marianne.Mudrick, Marvin. Jane Austen: Irony as Defense and Discovery. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1952. Important early study of Austen’s style and tone. Finds in Sense and Sensibility a youthful parody of romance dissolving uncomfortably into a mature, serious consideration of personal morality. Argues that Marianne is sacrificed to the restrictions of social propriety.Ruoff, Gene W. Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992. Chapters on the historical and cultural context, critical reception of the text, theoretical perspectives, and a detailed interpretation of the novel, including a section on “women’s lives and men’s stories.” A selected bibliography and index make this an especially useful and up-to-date study.Southam, B. C., ed. Jane Austen: “Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice,” and “Mansfield Park,” a Casebook. London: Macmillan, 1976. Collects the most important criticism on Austen’s early novels.Tanner, Tony. Introduction to Sense and Sensibility. Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books, 1969. Tanner offers an important introduction to the novel, as well as valuable notes.Wiltshire, John. Jane Austen and the Body. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Argues that the “bodily condition” of Austen’s heroines is as meaningful as their words and manners. Contrasts Marianne’s “expressive” body (her exuberant health, dramatic illness, and quiet recovery) with Elinor’s “nearly silent” body. Includes a useful bibliography.
Categories: Places