Sense and Sensibility

Its that time again, so pull up your popcorn and let’s talk Books-to-Movies.  This month was Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen’s first published work, originally printed in 1811 under the name of “A Lady”, the novel revolves around two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.  With the death of their father, the Dashwood’s are forced to move out of their family home and the well-to-do lifestyle they enjoyed into a much smaller home without the luxuries they are used to.  In the novel, both Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne are portrayed as emotional almost dramatic women with Elinor being the only real level head in the household. I love Jane Austen’s portrayal of the relationship between sisters, how they can love each other and yet drive each other nuts at the same time.

Elinor is my favorite character, she is pragmatic in the face of the change of circumstances and calmly does what needs to be done to take care of her family.  I think she understands better than the rest of the Dashwoods how careful they need to be about their reputations because of their precarious financial position.

I grew up watching the 1995 film version of the novel and while I love Emma Thompson as Elinor I have to admit I prefer the 2008 BBC version.  Which do you prefer?  There are so many things about the 2008 version I love I almost don’t know where to start (notice I said almost, it is rare for me to be at a loss for words especially about what I love).

First, my favorite scene is when Edward is talking to Elinor after the news of his secret engagement to Lucy Steele is found out.  I love how there is an entire room between Edward and Elinor but from the camera angles you feel as if they are almost touching. I think it must be hard as an actor/actress to display sexual attraction to another in a historical film while not touching each other, Edward and Elinor achieve it with this one scene.

Now the the big question is Willoughby: do you love him or hate him?  Dominic Cooper is perfect as Willoughby, being charming while at the same time so incredibly selfish.  He is exactly how I have always pictured Lord Byron, the poet. Lord Byron has figured in several historical novels I have previously read and has been described as brooding, poetic, with all the ladies falling for him.  Do you feel for Willoughby, having to marry for money when he clearly loves Marianne or do you dislike him for refusing to sacrifice for love? I definitely wouldn’t mind being carried through the rain by him though.

Finally, my biggest issue with the story is Edward’s disinheritance because of his engagement to Lucy but his brother Robert is not disinherited when he marries Lucy. I watched the movies (both versions) before I read the book and the reason I originally read the book was because I didn’t understand how Edward could be disinherited and Robert not for the same action.  Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t explain it any better than the movie does, it just happens. Do you think this matters? Did the unfairness bother you?

2 Replies to “Sense and Sensibility”

  1. I had the same response about why one gets disinherited but not the other; that’s how I found this website, looking for explanations. Thanks for saving me the time of reading the novel. The discrepancy really bothers me, and I assumed it was just a function of hollywood editing out important details. Perhaps there’s something about society of the time that would have made this plausible to Austen’s contemporaries.

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