Title: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Challenges: Reading England 2015
I admit that I did not go into Sense and Sensibility with much enthusiasm. Why? Because: Jane Austen. If reading is exercise for your mind, reading Jane Austen is the Insanity Fitness workout. For me, that is. Beginning Jane Austen is similar to my sporadic impulses to start working out again, knowing it is going to be hard - meaning extremely challenging (and that I am immensely intimidated) and may consider quitting (because I usually do). I should now say: that is how I felt about reading Sense and Sensibility.
|Insanity Workout or Reading Jane Austen|
My concern with reading Austen is my own comprehension skill because her writing demands it. The more one reads demanding works, like this, the better prepared she becomes for other challenging works. As with all things difficult, including physical exercise, it often makes you stronger and better prepared or more familiar. I can say with all confidence that I am so happy to have read and greatly enjoyed Sense and Sensibility. Not only do I want to reread it for better clarity, but also I am less intimidated to read another Austen. I can do this!
Here is another issue I had: I wasn't in the mood to read about young girls fretting over men or getting married, and maybe that is because I am already married; plus I never shared the eager desire to be married when I was single. Also, as a reader, I had to consider that marriage was a major concern for women during Austen's time, when young women today enjoy many more options than marriage alone. (Thank God!)
Unfortunately, I related to Marianne, and it was unsettling. It felt like I stepped outside of my past self and relived the crap I pulled as a young woman, distressed over jerks that broke my heart. I was completely senseless, but full of sensibilities - a person of delicate sensitivity that makes her readily offended or shocked. Yep, that was me. Oh, how I wish my younger self were more like Elinor, who appeared more well-grounded, full of wisdom and sense, and able to maintain better control of her emotions.
If you have not read Sense and Sensibility, it is a story about two sisters of opposite temperaments, in similar circumstances with men, and how they survive differently through each of these relationships and their outcomes. The wonderful part of the story is that misunderstandings are given opportunity for explanation, and issues are forgiven or resolved. And most of all, weaknesses and faults are acknowledged and sort of righted, as best as humanly possible. It all makes for a happy ending.
Austen wrote this story to contrast sense and sensibility and to demonstrate how relying on feelings alone may be harmful to self and relationships. It was common in Austen's time, and still is today, to abandon all reason and logic to follow one's emotions, as a way to discover truth. Having a feeling about something does not make it real or true. Also, focusing solely on one's emotions may cause one to be self-centered. Marianne came to see her behavior as very selfish because it was.
Meanwhile, Austen believed that self-control was a better option than complete exposure of emotions. She established, in the more mature Elinor, how self-restraint might yield better peace of mind and health, healthier relationships and friendships, and a finer reputation. As someone who still struggles with extreme sensibilities, I would personally argue for self-restraint, self-control, and a mature display or expression of feelings or emotions, any day. Strive always to be like Elinor.