This final stretch of Sense and Sensibility, in my view, is a bit of an anticlimax. So far, Jane Austen has been torturing the reader – and even more so, her protagonists Elinor and Marianne – with the agonies of difficult and seemingly impossible love affairs. As Yvann over at Reading Fuelled by Tea wrote last week, perhaps even for a bit too long. But it was engaging, you know, with this bitter-sweet pang disappointed loves of literary characters provoke in a reader. You feel for them, and you just want to know how it continues.
It being an Austen, you do expect some sort of happy end. But in this final part of the story, it seemed like she was a bit too eager to resolve everything and make everyone happy. She doesn’t seem to have it in her to (wo)man up and leave at least one character out of luck or kilter with a happy ending. Marianne falls seriously ill and as a result finally seems to grow up, leaving her childishness largely behind. Vile Willoughby, as we resolved to call him last week, is redeemed to largest possible degree. While he misbehaved considerably (tsk, tsk), really It Was Not His Fault, Poor Guy. We are finally rewarded with the marriage of Edinor/Eliward, and Colonel Brandon eventually even gets his Marianne. Having grown up, discussions of flannel undershirts are no longer a problem for her. Even Edward’s mother softens a little.
Maybe I’m being a bit harsh here. You could reasonably argue that neither Lucy Steele nor her new Ferrars conquest, nor John Dashwood and his wife become much more likable. The elder Mrs Ferrars remains profoundly shallow and stupid. But they are all minor characters. All the important ones we are ‘supposed to’ like or perhaps even wanted to like initially (Willoughby) get their share of redemption and happiness.
For my liking, this dénouement is too happy – although this makes me sound like a 15-year-old Emo – and too fast. [Speaking of Emos, does anyone else think that if Sense and Sensibility were set in our times, Marianne might just be an Emo during the first two parts of the novel? I’m quite taken with the idea. In part III, she would then decide to grow her dark hair out and buy new clothes.]
I realise that this was what Jane Austen’s contemporaries demanded. In fact, I think a lot of readers still demand this kind of all-round happy ending today. Nevertheless, I came away slightly disappointed by her need to fix everything.
Even so, I enjoyed the book. If I feel like it, I might just do a quick round-up of my overall impressions and favourite quotes later today or tomorrow. It was fun to do the readalong (thank you, wonderful hosts) and read everyone’s thoughts on the book each week, even if I didn’t have enough time to indulge in all the other fun shenanigans of Advent with Austen (like the movie sessions!).