I am having a really difficult time finishing Sense and Sensibility. Yes, I am busy. Yes, it is difficult to find a quiet spot in this current life. Yes, it is easier to watch TV; and on and on. But, I think the real reason that I am struggling to finish is that I don't like it that much. Gasp. What? I know, I know, I am supposed to like Jane Austen. I am supposed to love Sense and Elinor and the romance and all that. But, I don't. I don't like how passiveness and suppression is rewarded, while honesty and emotion are punished. But, most of all, I don't like Edward or Colonel Brandon. Sigh.
I know that the girls end up with these two men. And I know that Austen wants us to approve of the matches. But, Edward is so bland. I hate that he picks fights with Marianne over her immature and overly romantic sensibilities. I understand that is done to highlight her flaws, but it makes him appear argumentative and peevish; traits that I am sure that I don't approve of. I am thinking of thes scene when Edward visits the Dashwoods in Devonshire and he and Marianne talk about the countryside. He tells her how to use language to appreciate the countryside. My book was kind enough to have a note explaining that the actual target of his satire is a book by William Gilpin called On Picturesque Beauty in which the book explained how to use the language of the sublime to describe landscapes. This book was so popular that it created cliches like "rugged hills" and "twisted trees" and so on. Austen is using this moment to zing those who have fallen into this linguistic trap. But, the argument is so annoying. I would become overtired of anyone who took the time to tell me how wrong I was all the time. And yes, before you say it, it is in reaction to the fact that Marianne does this to people all the time. She points out their lack of romantic sesibilities as well. But for some reason, her passion seems to make it slightly more bearable.
The other target of Austen ridicule in this text is Mrs. Jennings. I am a little bit sensitive to this one, because, well, I feel a kinship with her. I am fat and jolly, I like to tease, and have been known to play the matchmaker. I don't know when to shutup. I will kick a dead joke long after I should. But, while the Dashwood girls, who let's face it, are kind of boring, cannot stand Mrs. Jenning, I like her. She is kind and merry. She is right about how people feel and forces them to acknowledge their attractions. If we all lived like Elinor we would sit silently and wait and hope that someone would notice us. Which brings me to my main gripe. The value of silence.
If you want to be a good person then talk of nothing but the roads and weather. Don't enjoy your children too much (Mrs. Middleton), or hunting (Mr. Middleton). Don't have a sense of humor (Mrs. Jennings). Don't be passionate about art, music, or love (Marianne). Don't love anything too deeply. Don't feel. And if you do feel anything for goodness sake if you do feel anything don't talk about it!
I think I am just a little frustrated right now. I know how this all ends, and I don't want it to go that way. Marianne is broken by love and only when she is beaten down into a spiritless lump does she get to marry another character who was beaten down by love and is now a spiritless lump. It reminds me of what I hate about Jane Eyre. Jane only gets her man after he has been broken. She can't have him whole and vital. And yes, I am sure there is a point here. I used to believe that Austen was critiquing this world that silenced women, but after taking a Satire class a few semesters ago, now I am not too sure. I am not convinced that this is a critique... I want to be sure that there is a lesson for me here,so that I can go somewhere beyond my frustrated and angry Jane-Austen-seems-to-be-anti-passion-rant (especially because I know this topic comes again in later books, and is treated much more favorably)... but for now. I am having touble getting through to the end. Ah well, and in the words of Nemo's friend Dorrie "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming."
While the Sun Shines
2 years ago