Book Review: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: 9780307386878 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

Austen made a highly realistic discussion of women’s issues at that time. She examines the heroines in the patriarchal society at that time. In that society, the value of a person is based on the ownership of property. Since generations of property went to male heirs, they were at a disadvantage from the start and could only be subordinated to men. As a result, these types of characters appear again and again in Austen’s writings: the assertive father; a mother who is obsessed with her social status and does everything possible to marry off her daughter, well-equipped young men, whose cynicism reflects their superior social position, and marriageable daughters, from the elegant headless girl to the sensible or emotional young woman.

How can a heroine achieve personal happiness through marriage in such a stern, demanding and often hostile world? Austen’s admonition was to use reason to control emotion She argues that emotions are often a dangerous guide to female behaviour. If a man of superior condition, but not of unrequited affections, is to be wooed, the consequences are often disastrous. Either because of his personal preference or because of parental disapproval, the man chooses a better match. These views of Austen are most evident in this first novel. The whole beginning of Sense and Sensibility revolved around the question of fortune in Dashwood’s will, and the want of avarice of Mrs. John Dashwood, who had an annual income of ten thousand pounds.

In the process of dividing up the estate, Austen makes no bones about the opposite characteristics of the two Dashwood sisters. Elinor was a very sensible, calm woman who, though only nineteen, was a good mother’s adviser. She was wonderfully kind and affectionate, but she knew how to hold back her feelings. It was a subject which her mother had yet to learn, and which one of her sisters had stubbornly refused to learn. Her sister Marianne’s talent was in many respects equal to her sister’s. She was inordinate in sorrow or joy. All is well but no discretion. That is to say, Marianne allowed her feelings to dominate her actions, while Elinor would not be swayed by such impulses.

Austen’s intention is very clear. She simply changed the original title of Elinor and Marianne to Sense and Sensibility to emphasize her theme. In this book, Austen shows the contrast between the characters of the two sisters. She narrates most of the stories from the perspective of Elinor’s outlook on life, ethics and social society, thus shaping a reasonable mortal. This is her ideal woman. When they learned that Willoughby had made full use of his superior social position, played with Marianne’s earnest love, abandoned the poor girl Eliza, and finally married the rich Miss Gray, Marianne was fully convinced of her folly, and her mother admitted that her admiration of Willoughby had been imprudent. Reason thus prevailed in both sisters. Austen arranged a happy ending for them. The book begins with comedy, and there is a disturbance in the middle. Marian almost becomes a tragedy, which ends in comedy.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

delirium_laurenoliverWhat would happen if love were outlawed? If it were eradicated from society, with all teenagers given a “procedure” which prevented them from feeling strong emotions?

This is the basis around the life Lena lives. Her mom committed suicide after Lena’s father died because she loved him, unlike the other couples who learned to live with one another. Lena’s older sister was also in love and had to be dragged to her procedure. Now, everywhere Lena goes, the story follows her, words of suicide and diseased.

But everyone claims the procedure is the cure. After that, people can live normal lives, go to college, get paired and married, and have the exact number of children the government requires. All the “cureds” are protected from the Invalids, those who are diseased with amor deliria nervosa, by barbed wire fences and guards. Regulators within the city keep everyone in line, at home before curfew and safe from the sympathizers who might pose a threat to their fragile society.

Sounds perfect, right?

Not quite.

All this supposed safety comes with a price. No one can be seen in public expressing any sort of strong feelings. Even parental love, such as between Lena and her mom before the suicide, had to be hidden. No loud music can be played; the only music even allowed is on the government’s list of approved songs. The same goes for books.

Lena had been living a normal life, looking forward to her cure and the chance to forget the pain associated with her mother’s death. She spends every second with her best friend, Hana. Yet at her evaluation, which rates her to be paired with a suitable future husband, something happens. It is quickly covered up with a lie from the government, but knowing the truth changes her view of her life.

And then there’s the boy who was standing on the observation deck throughout the whole thing, laughing…

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. So many things which seemed predictable at first actually took me by surprise. I truly couldn’t put down this book and I finished it in less than two days, though I could have read it faster if I didn’t have an appointment. I recommend this book to anyone, though younger audiences might struggle with some of the content. Plus, like any good book, it also made me cry, but in a good way.

– Leila S., 10th grade

Delirium is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library