Off The Bookshelf: Sense and Sensibility

Back in January, I finally returned to my Off The Bookshelf segment with a review of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. So today, I’d like to continue my reviews by writing about the other Austen novel I read last year. Since I’ve definitely been enjoying reading her literature, there was really only one novel could I review next: Sense and Sensibility!

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

Summary

Sense and Sensibility was Austen’s debut novel, first published in London in 1811. The story follows sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood as they adjust to their new life with their widowed mother and younger sister, who have all been left impoverished after Mr. Dashwood’s death. Over the course of the narrative, the sisters experience love, romance, and heartbreak, and eventually come to realize that they must learn to master the delicate balance between sense and sensibility in order to achieve happiness.

Review

Though I wouldn’t say I liked it as much as Pride and Prejudice, I enjoyed Sense and Sensibility for Austen’s realistic take on romance and manners, seasoned with all her classic humor and wit. Much like in the author’s more popular novel, the main characters of this story are faced with the challenge of finding love in a world where their low income and social status put them at a severe disadvantage. What really sets this novel apart from its successor, however, is the comparison it draws between the tempers of Elinor and Marianne, who each occupy one extreme of the romance-realism spectrum.

Movie poster for Sense and Sensibility (1995)

As the title suggests, the most prominent theme in Sense and Sensibility is the contrast between good sense and overt sensitivity (known as sensibility back then). As the eldest Dashwood sister, Elinor has the best judgment in her family and is highly skilled at exercising good sense and composure. Her younger sister Marianne, on the other hand, has no control over her emotions and no desire to keep her overly sensitive demeanor in check, favoring romantic idealism over etiquette. This contrast between their personalities makes for several interesting situations throughout the story, but in the end both sisters learn the same valuable lesson: too much sense or sensibility only leads to unhappiness. Only after Elinor learns to open her heart to sensibility and Marianne learns to temper her spontaneity with sense do they both achieve their happy endings.

Another major theme in the book is the role of money and social standing in romance. Though her novels all have happy endings, Jane Austen was never one to tell an idealistic love story; in her view, even the truest love isn’t immune to the real-world obstacle of low income. In the most notable example, Marianne and Willoughby seem like a perfect match: they’re both romantic and outspoken about their opinions on art and love, and spend so much time together that everyone assumes they’re engaged before they even say a word. Unfortunately, being one of the author’s well-known “hero caricatures”, the charming Willoughby couldn’t be anything less than a scoundrel, and sure enough, his expensive tastes coupled with Marianne’s poverty lead him to jilt her for a wealthy young lady he doesn’t love. Funnily enough, the same obstacle of wealth turns out to be a saving grace for Edward Ferrars, who for most of the story finds himself honor-bound to a loveless engagement only to be saved at the end from said commitment by his disinheritance from his mother, leaving him free to give his heart to Elinor after his conniving fiancé abandons him. From beginning to end, wherever there are love and romance, the shadow of money looms in the background.

Overall, Sense and Sensibility is an enjoyable read that shows less-than-idealistic romance in a humorous light, as well as an interesting dynamic of character development between two polar opposite sisters. Just as Marianne learns from Elinor that excessive emotion can destroy one’s life, Elinor learns from Marianne that excessive repression of emotion leads to intense suffering and risk of abandonment. Still, in true Austen fashion, both sisters achieve their happy endings by the story’s conclusion, finding comfortable lives with gentlemen who can provide them with all the security and emotional fulfillment they desire. In this way, from her very first novel, the author reveals that despite all the realistic obstacles in its way, romance can still thrive in a world plagued with social barriers, a hope not yet forgotten in the modern age.

Inspiration

Much like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility offers a glimpse into the romantic and realistic elements of past life that have survived into the present. The novel also teaches a valuable lesson on the importance of both practicing good sense and being willingly sensitive, albeit a somewhat imbalanced one that favors sense. We shouldn’t give our emotions total control over our happiness, but we also shouldn’t be afraid to feel vulnerable in the pursuit of love. There are plenty of opportunities in life to be both sensible and sensitive; it’s all a matter of exercising the right judgment.

Though her novels often highlight the limitations placed on women in the society of her day, Jane Austen clearly had a way of demonstrating the strength that women have always had to succeed within their means. Because of that, I know I can always turn to one of her novels for inspiration on writing heroines with real personalities, issues, and aspirations. Whether you seek inspiration for historical fiction, realistic characters, or contrasting themes in human behavior, Sense and Sensibility is an excellent novel that warrants a place beside Pride and Prejudice on any Austen fan’s bookshelf.

I Don’t Know How You Do It

I don’t know how you managed
To put up with me so long,
To endure my moody outbursts
As you taught me right from wrong.

I don’t know how you always
Knew exactly what to say
To help me through my problems
‘Til we made them go away.

I don’t know how you managed
To support me all those years,
To encourage all my dreams
And protect me from my fears.

But I’m thankful that you did it,
For without you there for me,
I could never be the person
That I always hoped to be.

So I thank you for your patience
To stick with me to the end,
And I thank you for your wisdom
As a mentor and a friend.

I thank you for your kindness,
A true blessing from above.
But most of all, I thank you
For your never-ending love.

To be an awesome parent
Is the most challenging task,
Yet you’re still the greatest mother
For whom anyone could ask.

I don’t know how you do it,
But I’m really glad you do.
Happy Mother’s Day to you, Mom!
Love, your daughter who loves you!


Happy Mother’s Day to my awesome mom! Thank you for all the love and support you’ve given me my whole life! I love you!

My 5 Favorite Fictional Mothers

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and to mark the occasion, I thought it would be fun to share a list of some favorite moms in fiction! Mothers are undeniably among the most important figures in family dynamics, so it’s no surprise that fictional mothers also play a highly influential role in the lives of other characters in a story. There are so many famous mothers in literature, television, and film that it was hard to narrow this list down, but at last I managed to put together a post on the memorable moms in my favorite stories. They each have different strengths and weaknesses, but in the end, they’re all loving and dedicated parents!

So to celebrate the upcoming holiday, here is a list of my five favorite mothers in fiction. Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day!

1) Molly Weasley (The Harry Potter series)

NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH! – Molly Weasley to Bellatrix Lestrange, whose Killing Curse had just narrowly missed Ginny

Molly Weasley, Ron’s mother in the Harry Potter series, may well be one of my favorite moms in all of literature. Not only has she raised seven children (and done a fine job of it too), but her maternal instincts are so strong that she extends her nurturing love to her youngest son’s best friends. Molly makes perfectly clear to Harry and Hermione that they’re always welcome in her home, and within moments of their first meeting, she quickly becomes to Harry the mother figure he never had growing up. Mrs. Weasley is proof that whether a witch or a Muggle, a mother will do anything for her children: while she runs a tight household and never hesitates to keep her mischievous sons in check, she is so fiercely protective of her children that she willingly steps between them and Death itself (namely Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange) to keep them safe. The ideal mix of loving parent and badass witch, Molly Weasley is truly everyone’s favorite magical mom!

2) Margaret “Marmee” March (Little Women)

Don’t you feel that it is pleasanter to help one another, to have daily duties which make leisure sweet when it comes, and to bear and forbear, that home may be comfortable and lovely to us all? – Mrs. March to her daughters after their week-long “experiment” in being idle

While Little Women centers on the various stories of four sisters growing up in 19th-century New England, it’s made clear in the beginning of the book that they all share a common aspiration: to live up to the example of their mother. Among women in classic literature, Mrs. March (known as “Marmee” by her daughters) is often held up as the image of the perfect mother: patient, compassionate, and highly principled. She works hard to support her family while her husband is at war, she cheerfully contributes to charity and the war effort, and she always has time to console her daughters no matter how busy she is. Yet Marmee does even more for her children by raising them all to be the best people they can possibly be, ensuring they’re all well educated and independent thinkers, encouraging them to marry for love instead of money, and always being there to offer them advice while still allowing them to learn from their own mistakes. With such a strong and loving mother to guide them, it’s no wonder the March sisters aspire to be such fine “little women”!

3) Queen Elinor of DunBroch (Brave)

Oh, my brave wee lass, I’m here. I’ll always be right here. – Elinor to a frightened young Merida

I’ve mentioned before that I often watch Brave and see my own relationship with my mother in Princess Merida’s relationship with hers. From the beginning of the film, Queen Elinor is determined to teach her daughter every possible lesson on proper princess behavior, from etiquette to diplomacy to compassion. Though at first it seems that her words never stick due to Merida’s strong will and stubbornness, it becomes clear toward the end of the story that no matter how many times they’ve butted heads over the years, Elinor’s wisdom did make an impression on her daughter after all. Merida mostly takes after her father on the outside, but it’s her mother’s lessons that help her calm the other royal families and ultimately get her through her trial. Elinor in turn also learns much about Merida throughout their adventure, enough to eventually shed her uptight persona and allow her daughter the freedom she’s always wanted to live her own life. A mother and daughter may not always see eye to eye, but the love between them is still one of the strongest bonds in the world!

4) Lady Cora Crawley (Downton Abbey)

You are being tested. And you know what they say, my darling: being tested only makes you stronger. – Cora to Edith after the latter was left at the altar

The Dowager Countess may be one of my favorite characters overall in Julian Fellowes’ popular period drama, but as far as mothers go, Lady Grantham probably sets the best example in Downton Abbey. Cora Crawley is the mother of three daughters, each with her own personality and aspirations, yet she always seems to know how best to handle each one—a difficult task given how the two elder sisters are always at each other’s throats. Generally sweet and willing to believe the best of anyone, Her Ladyship also proves to be a strong and highly capable woman: during World War I, she agrees to make Downton a convalescent home for recovering soldiers and works full-time to assist in running it, an experience that prepares her for her eventual position as President of Downton Hospital at the end of the series. She is quicker to embrace change than the rest of her family and is kind even to her servants, earning her immense respect among the staff of Downton. Overall, Cora is a loving motherly figure and, even as an American heiress and aristocrat in early 20th-century England, sets an exceptional example of a modern woman for her daughters!

5) Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)

When you have five daughters, Lizzie, tell me what else will occupy your thoughts, and then perhaps you will understand. – Mrs. Bennet to Elizabeth on why she thinks of nothing but marrying off her daughters

Yes, I know she’s not the best mother, or even a good mother on many counts, but given all the times she made me laugh, there was no way I could leave Mrs. Bennet off this list. Throughout Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth’s father and younger sisters are embarrassing enough, but her mother proves by far the most humiliating of all. Foolish, noisy, and downright vulgar, Mrs. Bennet’s actions are solely driven by her desperation to marry her five daughters off to fine gentlemen, which often has the adverse effect of driving away the very suitors she tries to attract. Still, this simple woman provides much of the comedy in Jane Austen’s beloved novel, and for all the grief she gives her eldest daughters, she still manages to get what she wants in the end, gaining two wealthy sons-in-law and happy marriages for the most deserving of her children. She may go about it the wrong way, but readers can’t deny that her intentions, however misguided, are always good, even if just for a few laughs!

Who are your favorite fictional mothers? What other mothers in fiction would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my mom and all the other amazing mothers out there! Thank you for all your love, patience, and support! Happy Mother’s Day!

To Love Someone Forever

To love someone intensely is to feel
Complete beside the person you adore.
When life gives you a love so pure and real,
You live each day to feel it more and more.

To love someone with all your heart and soul
Is finding one with whom to share your life,
So when your trials start to take their toll,
You’ll find peace with your husband or your wife.

To love someone forever is to know
The joy of having someone on your side.
No matter what you do or where you go,
You’ll always be together for the ride.

All that I’ve learned of love, you two taught me.
I love you! Happy Anniversary!

Love and Friendship: 5 Types of “Friends First” Romance

This week marks a special occasion for two of the most important people in my life, the couple who taught me everything I know about love, especially the value of romance born from friendship. Thinking about their love has inspired me to write about the different levels of “friends first” romance and my favorite fictional couples who started as friends. There are many types of romance I admire, but love based on friendship is by far my favorite!

So to celebrate the occasion, here is a list of five types of romance based on friendship, with my favorite examples of fictional couples for each. Enjoy!

1) Coming-of-Age Romance – Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (Harry Potter)

Being an avid fan of the Harry Potter books, Hermione and Ron are one of my favorite examples of a Childhood Friend Romance couple. Though they don’t like each other very much when they first meet, they quickly become close friends as the series progresses, and even more than that by the time they reach young adulthood. Through all their arguments and disagreements, Ron and Hermione clearly harbor some complicated romantic feelings for each other in the second half of the saga, so when they finally get together in the last book, it’s nothing short of epic. A magical love story indeed!

2) Reunited Childhood Friends – Simba and Nala (The Lion King)

If you grew up with Disney movies like I did, you no doubt have fond memories of watching (and probably singing along to) The Lion King. Though the central theme of the story is Simba’s coming of age, his romance with Nala deserves special mention as a classic example of how best friends can turn out to be soulmates as well. After being separated as children, these two lions are reunited in adulthood by chance and, in true Disney fashion, quickly fall in love by rekindling the affection they’ve always had for one another. Nala does whatever she can to push Simba in the right direction, while Simba is ready to defend Nala and the rest of their pride after gaining the sense to return home. From their adventures as cubs to the final battle for Pride Rock, these best friends prove they’ll always have each other’s back, so after they reclaim their home at the end of the story, you know the Pride Lands will be ruled by the best king and queen ever!

3) Lifelong Love – Carl and Ellie Fredricksen (Up)

On the other hand, sometimes childhood friends end up staying together their whole lives, and the best of these friendships turn into a romance for the ages. Such is the case of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen from Pixar’s 2009 film Up, who’s four-minute montage of their marriage tells one of the greatest love stories ever seen in a Disney movie. From exploring old abandoned houses as children to sharing a loving home into old age, these two adventurers at heart were clearly meant to be together for life. Seriously, just try to watch the beginning of this film without tearing up! Sweetest romance ever!

4) Crossing Paths – Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran (Forrest Gump)

The childhood friends of the famous 1994 film, Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran are a classic example of a pair of soulmates whom fate continuously throws into and out of each other’s lives. After growing up together in 1950s Alabama, they end up going their separate ways after college, from which point Forrest’s story mentions several reunions between them up to the present day. Despite living so far apart from her for much of his life, it’s made abundantly clear by the end of the story that Forrest never stopped loving Jenny since they were kids, and that deep down she always knew he was the right man for her. It may not be the happiest of romances, but Forrest and Jenny had a beautiful love story nonetheless!

5) On Again, Off Again – Ross Geller and Rachel Green (Friends)

Every fan of Friends remembers the on-again-off-again rollercoaster that was Ross and Rachel’s relationship. Having grown up on the same street, these two friends have known each other since childhood, though at the time they were really friends by extension through Monica. After their reunion as adults in the first season, it becomes apparent that the crush Ross developed on Rachel in high school never burned out, which leads to ten years of one of the most complicated friendships ever. Although they suffered many breakups and makeups throughout the series (“We were on a break!”), Ross and Rachel’s unwavering love would inevitably lead them back to each other in the end, solidifying their status as one of television’s favorite couples. Best friends for life!

Who are your favorite “friends first” couples? What other examples of “friends first” romance would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my parents, the happiest couple I know. Thank you for teaching me everything I know about true love! Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! I love you!

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