Contrast The Narration In Sense And Sensibility English Literature Essay


Both ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘A Room with a View’ follow young women on their journey to happiness, following the trials and tribulations along the way. The novels were published nearly a century apart; however I think they have the same purpose, to entertain the reader, as well as being didactic. ‘Sense and Sensibility’s’ plot revolves around two, seemingly, contrasting sisters, and how they react to their misfortunes and the conventions of society. Jane Austen explores how both ‘sense’ and ‘sensibility’ are needed to create the perfect balance. ‘A Room with a View’ is also a novel of discovery, as the reader follows Lucy Honeychurch’s struggle to recognise the repressed morality of Victorian England, how she finds her happiness as she follows her heart.

When Jane Austen was writing at the end of the eighteenth century although ‘Sense and Sensibility’ wasn’t published until 1811, there were two cultural movements: Classicism and Romanticism, creating a topical debate. There was a trend to admire Romanticism or ‘sensibility’ around the 1790s. Sensibility had the idea of being intuitive, imaginative, and creative, outwardly expressing feelings and rejecting social conventions. Jane Austen mocks these characteristics in her portrayal of Marianne who willingly gives a lock of hair to her lover, and through this representation the reader can sense Jane Austen’s disapproval. ‘Sense and Sensibility’ uses the debate of classical versus romantic, through the personalities of the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, whose names were also the novel’s original name. I gain from early impressions that Elinor portrays ‘sense’, “Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and a coolness of judgement, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother” and Marianne portrays ‘sensibility’, “She was sensible and clever, but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting; she was everything but prudent”. However, by the end of the text we see elements of both characteristics in the two sisters. Elinor and Marianne’s contrasting personalities are particularly displayed through their attitude towards Edward Ferrars. E.M Forster wrote ‘A Room with a View’ in 1908 not long after the Victorian era, and it focuses on many social and political issues of this era. Forster, like Austen creates a social comedy and I believe his characters portray the stereotypes of the era, Lucy portrays the free spirited, impressionable generation, whereas Miss Bartlett is more conservative. He also mocks the different attitudes between Italy and England. Although the novels were written in different periods, critics have described it as Forster’s most Jane Austen like novel due to the aspects of the English lifestyle being satirised in a similar way to Austen.

Both Austen and Forster use a third person, omniscient narrator. Jane Austen’s narrator is one that the reader can rely on to deliver information about actions and characters, although at times Austen will make controversial statements where I am able to disagree, such as her opinions of characters. For the majority of the book Jane Austen writes through Elinor’s thoughts. Elinor Dashwood epitomises ‘sense’ as opposed to ‘sensibility’ and this is reflected by her thoughts. Many people believe that Jane Austen based the character of Elinor on herself and that Elinor’s thoughts and feelings reflect her own, she is a device to employ authorial intrusion, as many of Elinor’s comments seem to reflect Austen’s views, “Sense will always have attractions for me”. Elinor embodies the qualities which Jane Austen approves of, she is stoical and selfless, her stoicism is shown by her thoughts on Marianna and Willoughby, “She only wished they were less openly shewn, and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self command to Marianne”. Certain passages in the novel begin in third person narration, but will then shift into Elinor’s thoughts, “Her resentment of such behaviour, her indignation at having been its dupe, for a short time made her feel only for herself; but other ideas, other considerations soon arose. Had Edward been intentionally deceiving her? Had he feigned a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement of Lucy, an engagement of the heart? No; whatever it might once have been, she could not believe it such at present” this thoughts are Elinor convincing herself however the passage is still written in past tense using third person narration, but is very different from the omniscient narrator.

Also at times, Austen will allow the point of view to shift suddenly. A character will make a comment which Austen will then dismiss with a dry comment of her own. When Marianne is exclaiming her passion for the autumnal beauty at Norland, “How have I delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind!” it is subsequently undermined by Elinor’s remark, “It is not everyone…who has your passion for dead leaves”. The reader is party to Elinor’s thoughts and feelings as she internalises them illustrating ‘sense’, as the other characters are unaware of Elinor’s feeling they see her at times as indifferent and cold-hearted, she is unlike Marianne who shares all her thoughts and feelings with family and friends.

Jane Austen allows the reader to establish a close relationship with Elinor. As the story progresses, I, as a reader identified and empathised with Elinor, realising she is selfless, when the Dashwoods are offered a cottage, although Elinor doesn’t want to move she believes it is best for the family, “though it was not a plan which brought any charm to her fancy…she made no attempt to dissuade her mother from sending her letter or acquiescence”. However some readers may see Elinor as weak and not identify with the character that is not able to express their feelings. As a 21st century reader, I believe it is more difficult to relate with Elinor as the conventions in the time are very contrasting, issues which would have been important to them, only seem trivial to a 21st century reader, for example the way in which relationships are conducted, Jane Austen believed that the rules of society should overrule an individuals feeling, however as a modern reader my view would differ. Jane Austen also uses the narrator to mock society, she ironically expresses her views on the frivolity of society, “the newspapers announced to the world, that the lady of Thomas Palmer, Esq., was safely delivered of a son and heir; a very interesting and satisfactory paragraph, at least to all those intimate connections who knew it before.” This comment is very blunt and expresses Jane Austen’s dislike.

Similarly, in ‘A Room with a View’ as well as using an omniscient, third person narrator Forster writes passages probing the characters thoughts and exposing their feelings. His purpose in doing this is to allow the reader several points of view and as a way of allowing the characters to develop themselves. Lucy is the protagonist in the novel, and her thoughts are given the most attention; however Forster uses Lucy’s thoughts to mock her naivety. “Lucy, in the midst of her success, found time to wish they did.” Like Austen, this is allowing the reader to form a relationship with the character and see them develop through the book.

In both novels the dialogue plays an important part. In fact described ‘Sense and Sensibility’ as ‘a rather wordy play’, due to the vast amount of dialogue. Jane Austen uses dialogue to allow the characters to introduce themselves to the reader and give them an idea of their personality. At time’s the reader will be able to know who is speaking without being given the name, this is due to the specific traits of each character defined in their speech, Jane Austen’s characters has individual speech patterns which convey aspect of their personality, a good example of this is the character of Anne Steele, she speaks carelessly and ungrammatically, and her dialogue often portrays her shallowness and humour, “Nay, my dear, I’m sure I don’t pretend to say that there an’t. I’m sure there’s a vast many smart beaux in Exeter.” By the language Anne uses the reader evidently forms an ill impression of her, which must be what Jane Austen intended, to ridicule her trivial mind. Jane Austen uses dialogue particularly well in expressing the comic characters in the novel.

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