Sense and Sensibility

By jane austen.

  • Sense and Sensibility Summary

The Dashwood family is introduced; Mr. and Mrs. Dashwood and their three daughters live at Norland Park, an estate in Sussex. Unfortunately, Mr. Dashwood's wife and daughters are left with very little when he dies and the estate goes to his son, John Dashwood . John and his wife Fanny (nee Ferrars) have a great deal of money, yet refuse to help his half-sisters and their mother.

Elinor, one of the Dashwood girls, is entirely sensible and prudent; her sister, Marianne, is very emotional and never moderate. Margaret, the youngest sister, is young and good-natured. Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters stay at Norland for a few months, mostly because of the promising friendship developing between Elinor and Edward Ferrars , Fanny's shy, but very kind, brother. Elinor likes Edward, but is not convinced her feelings are mutual; Fanny is especially displeased by their apparent regard, as Edward's mother wants him to marry very well.

A relative of Mrs. Dashwood's, Sir John Middleton , offers them a cottage at Barton Park in Devonshire; the family must accept, and are sad at leaving their home and having to separate Edward and Elinor. They find Barton Cottage and the countryside around it charming, and Sir John Middleton a very kind and obliging host. His wife, Lady Middleton , is cold and passionless; still, they accept frequent invitations to dinners and parties at Barton Park.

The Dashwoods meet Mrs. Jennings , Sir John's mother-in-law, a merry, somewhat vulgar older woman, and Colonel Brandon , a gentleman and a bachelor. The Colonel is soon taken with Marianne, but Marianne objects to Mrs. Jennings attempts to get them together, and to the "advanced" age (35) and serious demeanor of the Colonel.

Marianne falls and twists her ankle while walking; she is lucky enough to be found and carried home by a dashing man named Willoughby. Marianne and Willoughby have a similar romantic temperament, and Marianne is much pleased to find that Willoughby has a passion for art, poetry, and music. Willoughby and Marianne's attachment develops steadily, though Elinor believes that they should be more restrained in showing their regard publicly.

One pleasant day, the Middletons, the Dashwoods, and Willoughby are supposed to go on a picnic with the Colonel, but their plans are ditched when Colonel Brandon is forced to leave because of distressing news. Willoughby becomes an even more attentive guest at the cottage, spending a great deal more time there than Allenham with his aunt. Willoughby openly confesses his affections for Marianne and for all of them, and hopes they will always think of him as fondly as he does of them; this leaves Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor convinced that if Marianne and Willoughby are not engaged, they soon will be.

One morning, Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor, and Margaret leave the couple, hoping for a proposal; when they return, they find Marianne crying, and Willoughby saying that he must immediately go to London. Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor are completely unsettled by this hasty departure, and Elinor fears that they might have had a falling-out. Marianne is torn up by Willoughby's departure, and Elinor begins to question whether Willoughby's intentions were honorable. But, whether Willoughby and Marianne are engaged remains a mystery, as Marianne will not speak of it.

Edward comes to visit them at Barton, and is welcomed very warmly as their guest. It is soon apparent that Edward is unhappy, and doesn't show as much affection for Elinor; when they spot a ring he is wearing, with a lock of hair suspiciously similar to Elinor's, even Elinor is baffled. Edward finally forces himself to leave, still seeming distressed.

Sir John and Mrs. Jennings soon introduce Mrs. Jennings' other daughter, Mrs. Palmer , and her husband to the family. Mrs. Palmer says that people in town believe that Willoughby and Marianne will soon be married, which puzzles Elinor, as she knows of no such arrangements herself. Elinor and Marianne meet the Middletons' new guests, the Miss Steeles, apparently cousins; they find Miss Steele to be nothing remarkable, while Lucy is very pretty but not much better company. However, the Miss Steeles instantly gain Lady Middleton's admiration by paying endless attention to her obnoxious children.

Elinor, unfortunately, becomes the preferred companion of Lucy. Lucy inquires of Mrs. Ferrars , which prompts Elinor to ask about her acquaintance with the Ferrars family; Lucy then reveals that she is secretly engaged to Edward. It turns out that Edward and Lucy knew each other while Edward studied with Lucy's uncle, Mr. Pratt, and have been engaged for some years. Although Elinor is first angry about Edward's secrecy, she soon sees that marrying Lucy will be punishment enough, as she is unpolished, manipulative, and jealous of Edward's high regard for Elinor.

The Miss Steeles end up staying at Barton Park for two months. Mrs. Jennings invites Marianne and Elinor to spend the winter with her in London. Marianne is determined to go to see Willoughby, and Elinor decides she must go too, because Marianne needs Elinor's polite guidance. They accept the invitation, and leave in January. Once in town, they find Mrs. Jennings' house comfortable, and their company less than ideal; still, they try their best to enjoy it all.

Marianne anxiously awaits Willoughby's arrival, while Elinor finds her greatest enjoyment in Colonel Brandon's daily visits. Elinor is much disturbed when Colonel Brandon tells her that the engagement between Marianne and Willoughby is widely known throughout town. At a party, Elinor and Marianne see Willoughby; Marianne approaches him, although he avoids Marianne, and his behavior is insulting.

Marianne angrily writes Willoughby, and receives a reply in which he denies having loved Marianne, and says he hopes he didn't lead her on. Marianne is deeply grieved at being deceived and dumped so coldly; Elinor feels only anger at Willoughby's unpardonable behavior. Marianne then reveals that she and Willoughby were never engaged, and Elinor observes that Marianne should have been more prudent in her affections. Apparently, Willoughby is to marry the wealthy Lady Grey due to his constant need for money.

Colonel Brandon calls after hearing the news, and offers up his knowledge of Willoughby's character to Elinor. Colonel Brandon was once in love with a ward to his family, Eliza, who became a fallen woman and had an illegitimate daughter. Colonel Brandon placed the daughter, Miss Williams , in care after her mother's death. The Colonel learned on the day of the Delaford picnic that she had become pregnant, and was abandoned by Willoughby. Elinor is shocked, though the Colonel sincerely hopes that this will help Marianne feel better about losing Willoughby, since he was not of solid character.

The story convinces Marianne of Willoughby's guilt, though it does not ease her mind. Out of sympathy, Marianne also stops avoiding the Colonel's company and becomes more civil to him. Willoughby is soon married, which Marianne is grieved to hear; then, again unfortunately, the Miss Steeles come to stay with the Middletons.

John and Fanny Dashwood arrive, and are introduced to Mrs. Jennings, and to Sir John and Lady Middleton, deeming them worthy company. John reveals to Elinor that Edward is soon to be married to Miss Morton , an orphan with a great deal of money left to her, as per the plans of his mother. At a dinner party given by John and Fanny for their new acquaintance, Mrs. Ferrars is present, along with the entire Barton party. Mrs. Ferrars turns out to be sallow, unpleasant, and uncivil; she slights Elinor, which hurts Marianne deeply, as she is Edward's mother.

The Miss Steeles are invited to stay with John and Fanny. But, Mrs. Jennings soon informs them that Miss Steele told Fanny of Lucy and Edward's engagement, and that the Ferrars family threw the Steele girls out in a rage. Marianne is much grieved to hear of the engagement, and cannot believe that Elinor has also kept her knowledge of it a secret for so long. Edward is to be disinherited if he chooses to marry Lucy; unfortunately, Edward is too honorable to reject Lucy, even if he no longer loves her. Financial obstacles to their marriage remain; he must find a position in the church that pays enough to allow them to marry. Much to Elinor's chagrin, the Colonel, although he barely knows Edward, generously offers the small parish at Delaford to him. Elinor is to convey the offer to Edward, though she regrets that it might help the marriage.

Edward is surprised at the generous offer, since he hardly knows the Colonel. Edward decides to accept the position; they say goodbye, as Elinor is to leave town soon. Much to Elinor's surprise, Robert Ferrars , Edward's selfish, vain, and rather dim brother, is now to marry Miss Morton; he has also received Edward's inheritance and money, and doesn't care about Edward's grim situation.

It is April, and the Dashwood girls, the Palmers, and Mrs. Jennings, and Colonel Brandon set out for Cleveland, the Palmer's estate. Marianne is still feeling grief over Willoughby; she soon becomes ill after her walks in the rain, and gets a serious fever. The Palmers leave with her child; Mrs. Jennings, though, helps Elinor nurse Marianne, and insists that Colonel Brandon stay, since he is anxious about Marianne's health. Colonel Brandon soon sets off to get Mrs. Dashwood from Barton when Marianne's illness worsens. At last, Marianne's state improves, right in time for her mother and the Colonel's arrival; but Willoughby makes an unexpected visit.

Elinor is horrified at seeing him; he has come to inquire after Marianne's health and to explain his past actions. Willoughby says he led Marianne on at first out of vanity; he finally began to love her as well, and would have proposed to her, if not for the money.

By saying that he also has no regard for his wife, and still loves Marianne, he attempts to gain Elinor's compassion; Elinor's opinion of him is somewhat improved in being assured of his regard for Marianne. Elinor cannot think him a total blackguard since he has been punished for his mistakes, and tells him so; Willoughby leaves with this assurance, lamenting that Marianne is lost to him forever.

Mrs. Dashwood finally arrives, and Elinor assures her that Marianne is out of danger; both Mrs. Dashwood and the Colonel are relieved. Mrs. Dashwood tells Elinor that the Colonel had confessed his love for Marianne during the journey from Barton; Mrs. Dashwood wishes the Colonel and Marianne to be married. Elinor wishes the Colonel well in securing Marianne's affections, but is more pessimistic regarding Marianne's ability to accept the Colonel after disliking him for so long.

Marianne makes a quick recovery, thanking Colonel Brandon for his help and acting friendly toward him. Marianne finally seems calm and happy as they leave for Barton, which Elinor believes to signal Marianne's recovery from Willoughby. She is also far more mature, keeping herself busy and refusing to let herself languish in her grief.

When Marianne decides to talk about Willoughby, Elinor takes the opportunity to tell her what Willoughby had said at Cleveland, and Marianne takes this very well. Marianne also laments her selfishness toward Elinor, and her lack of civility toward most of their acquaintance. Marianne finally says that she could not have been happy with Willoughby, after hearing of his cruelty toward Miss Williams, and no longer regrets him.

The family is stunned when one of their servants returns with news that Edward is married to Lucy, as he just saw them in the village. Elinor knows now that Edward is lost to her forever. Mrs. Dashwood sees how upset Elinor is, and realizes that Elinor felt more for Edward than she ever revealed. One afternoon, Elinor is convinced that the Colonel has arrived at the cottage, but is surprised to find that it is Edward instead. Their meeting is awkward at best; he soon informs them that it is his brother who has been married to Lucy, and not him. Elinor immediately runs from the room, crying out of joy; Edward then senses Elinor's regard for him, and proposes to her that afternoon. Elinor accepts and he gains Mrs. Dashwood's consent to the match.

Edward admits that any regard he had for Lucy was formed out of idleness and lack of knowledge; he came to regret the engagement soon after it was formed. After leaving London, Edward received a letter from Lucy saying that she had married his brother Robert, and has not seen her since; thus, he was honorably relieved of the engagement. After receiving the letter, he set out for Barton immediately to see Elinor. Edward will still accept the position at Delaford, although he and Elinor again will not have enough money to live on comfortably. The Colonel visits Barton, and he and Edward become good friends.

Edward then becomes reconciled with his family, although he does not regain his inheritance from Robert. His mother even gives her consent for his marriage to Elinor, however much she is displeased by it; she gives them ten thousand pounds, the interest of which will allow them to live comfortably. Edward and Elinor are married at Barton that fall.

Mrs. Dashwood and her two remaining daughters spend most of their time at Delaford, both to be near Elinor, and out of the hope that Marianne might accept the Colonel. In the two years that have passed, Marianne has become more mature and more grounded; and she does finally change her mind about the Colonel, and accepts his offer of marriage. The Colonel becomes far more cheerful, and soon Marianne grows to love him as much as she ever loved Willoughby. Mrs. Dashwood remains at Barton with Margaret, now fifteen, much to the delight of Sir John, who retains their company. And Elinor and Marianne both live together at Delaford, and remain good friends with each other and each other's husbands.

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Sense and Sensibility Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Sense and Sensibility is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Why does Mrs. John Dashwood discourage Mr. John Dashwood from giving his father's widow an annuity?

Mes. John Dashwood objects to the annuity based on the fact that the widow might live on for many years... she simply doesn't want to share the wealth.

What or who makes Marianne forget her homesickness?

Marianne relationship with Willoughby makes her forget about being homesick.

Describe Fanny and How does Fanny impact the Dashwood women’s inheritance in the opening scenes?

Mrs. John Dashwood, or Fanny, is revealed here as a creature even more selfish and uncaring as her husband. The coldness and selfishness of her logic is plainly exposed by Austen, as further ridicule of her greed in this situation. That Fanny...

Study Guide for Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility study guide contains a biography of Jane Austen, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Sense and Sensibility
  • Character List
  • Chapters 1-10 Summary and Analysis

Essays for Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Sense and Sensibility.

  • Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child?: Representations of Mothers in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility
  • Men, Women, and the Willful Misinterpretation of Female Speech
  • Sense and Sensibility - Converge
  • Sense vs. Sensibility: Which is the Victor?
  • "I have suffered NOW": Jane Austen's Repressed Romantic

Lesson Plan for Sense and Sensibility

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to Sense and Sensibility
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • Sense and Sensibility Bibliography

E-Text of Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility E-Text contains the full text of Sense and Sensibility

  • Chapters 1-5
  • Chapters 6-10
  • Chapters 11-15
  • Chapters 16-20
  • Chapters 21-25

Wikipedia Entries for Sense and Sensibility

  • Introduction
  • Plot summary
  • Development of the novel

summary of the book sense and sensibility


Sense and Sensibility

94 pages • 3 hours read

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.

  • Chapters 1-17
  • Chapters 18-34
  • Chapters 35-50
  • Character Analysis
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Summary and Study Guide

Sense and Sensibility (1811) was the first published novel of British writer Jane Austen (1775-1817). Still a widely read author today, Austen published six complete novels and became famous for documenting the interior lives of young women in addition to the social mores of her time. She developed a distinctive form of narrative voice that oscillated between omniscient narration and free indirect discourse , which employs a third-person perspective but closely mirrors the consciousness of individual characters. Sense and Sensibility’s continual presence in the cultural imagination is evident in numerous film and T.V. adaptations of the book, including the award-winning 1995 version directed by Ang Lee and starring and adapted by Emma Thompson.

This study guide references the Penguin Classics Illustrated version for Kindle.

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Plot Summary

In late 18th-century England, the dying Henry Dashwood extracts the promise that his son John, the sole heir of Norland Park, will generously provide for his stepmother and three half-sisters. However, on the entreaties of his wife Fanny, John hoards the estate’s wealth and gives his sisters no more than the scant inheritance indicated in the will. This results in a lowered standard of living for his stepmother and half-sisters, and damages their marriage prospects.

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The sisters bear this change in fortune differently. While Mrs. Dashwood and her second daughter Marianne exacerbate their misery, the sensible eldest daughter Elinor attempts to make the best of the situation. Elinor ensures that the family lives within their means, sacrificing luxuries such as carriages. Mrs. Dashwood delays moving into another property when she observes an attachment between Elinor and Fanny’s brother Edward Ferrars . While Marianne encourages Elinor's romance, Elinor is guarded, feeling that there is something holding Edward back and that she cannot be certain of his feelings towards her. Fanny also observes the attachment, and clearly voices her mother’s wish that Edward will marry a woman of fortune.

Insulted by the accusation that Elinor is trying to trap Edward into a disadvantageous marriage, Mrs. Dashwood removes her daughters to live at Barton Cottage in Devonshire, on the estate of Mrs. Dashwood’s relative, Sir John Middleton. Sir John and his mother-in-law Mrs. Jennings are generous and invite the Dashwood sisters often to their home, Barton Park. There, the Dashwood family meet the Middleton’s friend Colonel Brandon , 35, whom Marianne dismisses as a confirmed bachelor.

Marianne is far more attracted to Mr. Willoughby, a man who rescues her from a fall during one of her walks. The two begin an open courtship and others begin to think they are secretly engaged. One day, however, Willoughby announces that he will leave the county, and is uncertain of when he will return. Marianne is shocked and devastated.

Edward visits the Dashwoods but given his inconsistent behavior, Elinor still cannot be sure of how he feels about her. Later, Elinor meets Lucy Steele at Barton Park, a young woman who confesses that she has been secretly engaged to Edward for four years. This crushes Elinor’s hopes, but she keeps the news from her mother and sister for fear of disappointing them.

Mrs. Jennings invites Elinor and Marianne to spend the winter season with her in London. Marianne eagerly accepts, hoping to see Willoughby there, and Elinor reluctantly accompanies them. In London, Willoughby does not call on them despite Marianne’s multiple letters to him. When they see him at Lady Middleton’s party, he treats Marianne like a stranger. The next day, he delivers a letter apologizing for leading Marianne on and confessing that he has been long engaged to a wealthy Miss Grey. Marianne becomes sick with anxiety and Elinor learns that she and Willoughby were never engaged, leaving Marianne vulnerable to social humiliation. Colonel Brandon visits Elinor. He tells her that the reason for Willoughby’s sudden absence was that he was summoned to take responsibility for seducing and impregnating Colonel Brandon’s ward Eliza Williams. Elinor is moved by the colonel’s tale, as well as by his growing affection for Marianne. However, when she shares the news with her sister, Marianne finds it difficult to give up her idea of Willoughby’s good character.

Meanwhile, Lucy Steele comes to London and gains the affections of Fanny and Mrs. Ferrars who she hopes will be her future sister and mother-in-law. While Lucy brags about her conquest to Elinor, Fanny throws Lucy out of the house when she discovers the truth about her secret engagement to Edward. As Edward feels obliged to honor the terms of his engagement, Mrs. Ferrars cuts him off from his independent living. While Edward intends to eke out a modest income in the church, his fortune will be transferred to his younger brother Robert. Meanwhile, Colonel Brandon hears of Edward’s plight and engages Elinor to deliver the news that the parsonage at Delaford is available.

The Dashwood sisters aim to make their way home via Cleveland, the estate of the Palmers, Mrs. Jennings’ daughter and brother-in-law. After many solitary rambles through the damp grounds, Marianne falls seriously ill. Elinor sits at her bedside while Colonel Brandon summons Mrs. Dashwood. One night, Elinor is surprised to find that Willoughby has come to explain himself and defend his actions. At the end of the interview, Elinor is moved by his enduring love for Marianne, yet still judges his character to be deficient. When Mrs. Dashwood comes to Cleveland and is reassured that Marianne is recovering, she confesses to Elinor her hope that Marianne will marry Colonel Brandon.

Back at Barton Cottage, Elinor is devastated to hear a report of Edward’s marriage to Lucy. However, a visit from Edward reveals that the marriage that has taken place was between his brother Robert and Lucy. Lucy switched her affection between the brothers, as Robert was the wealthier and more like her in temperament. Edward is relieved at being released from his old engagement, as it enables him to enter into a new one with Elinor, the woman who has long replaced Lucy in his affections. The couple get married and settle at Delaford Parsonage. Eventually, on the strong recommendations of her mother and sister, Marianne consents to marry Colonel Brandon.

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summary of the book sense and sensibility

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  • Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen

  • Literature Notes
  • Book Summary
  • Summary and Analysis
  • Chapters 5-6
  • Chapters 7-8
  • Chapters 11-12
  • Chapters 13-14
  • Chapters 16-17
  • Chapters 20-21
  • Chapters 23-24
  • Chapters 25-26
  • Chapters 27-28
  • Chapters 32-33
  • Chapters 35-36
  • Chapters 40-41
  • Chapters 42-43
  • Chapters 45-46
  • Chapters 47-48
  • Character Analysis
  • Elinor Dashwood
  • Marianne Dashwood
  • Edward Ferrars
  • John Willoughby
  • Lucy Steele
  • Colonel Brandon
  • Mrs. Dashwood
  • Mrs. Jennings
  • Lady Middleton
  • Robert Ferrars
  • Sir John Middleton
  • Mrs. Palmer
  • Fanny Dashwood
  • Mrs. Ferrars
  • Anne Steele
  • Jane Austen Biography
  • Critical Essays
  • Background of Sense and Sensibility
  • Plot and Theme in Sense and Sensibility
  • Style in Sense and Sensibility
  • Irony in Sense and Sensibility
  • Critical Reception of Sense and Sensibility
  • Cite this Literature Note

Summary and Analysis Chapter 1

For many years, Henry Dashwood and his family had lived at Norland Park and cared for its owner, Henry's aged uncle. On the old man's death, Henry inherited the estate. He had always expected that he would be free to leave it, in turn, to be shared among his wife and three daughters. John, his son by a previous marriage, was amply provided for. His mother had left him a large estate, and his wife further increased his wealth with a handsome dowry.

However, when the old man's will was read, Henry found to his dismay that he would not be able to dispose of the estate. The uncle had been wooed by John's young son and wished to procure the estate for him by tying it up in favor of "his son and his son's son." This meant that Henry's wife and daughters could inherit only such money as he could save for them, which turned out to be 10,000 pounds.

Henry survived his uncle by only one year. When he was dying, he sent for John and begged him, "with all the strength and urgency which illness could command," to look after his stepmother and stepsisters. Moved by this plea, John promised "to do everything in his power to make them comfortable." One thousand pounds for each daughter would be fair, he decided, and would leave them quite comfortable.

John was "rather cold-hearted, and rather selfish." He had married young and his wife had great influence over him. She was "a strong caricature of himself; more narrow-minded and selfish."

Immediately after Henry's funeral, without notice, Mrs. John Dashwood moved into Norland Park with her small son and her servants. This insensitive behavior was bitterly resented by Mrs. Dashwood, who thought of leaving Norland Park at once. Elinor prudently restrained her.

Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters were a devoted family. Elinor, nineteen, was sufficiently mature and well-balanced "to be the counsellor of her mother," a good-hearted woman who tended to be imprudent. Marianne, though clever and sensible, was extreme in her emotions. She was "generous, amiable, interesting: . . . everything but prudent" and thus much resembled her mother. Margaret, thirteen, was an immature girl who took after Marianne rather than Elinor.

Marianne and her mother "gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow," encouraging each other "in the violence of their affliction." Elinor suffered too, but she managed to "receive her sister-in-law on her arrival, and treat her with proper attention." She prevailed on her mother and Marianne to do likewise.

In this opening chapter, Austen sets the scene with her usual clarity and precision. The reader meets most of the leading characters and is given insight into their personalities and temperaments. It is obvious that this is to be a story of opposing temperaments — Marianne's excessive "sensibility" contrasted to Elinor's calm common sense.

The reader is plunged into a world which is socially and linguistically very different from the world of today. Austen is writing a "comedy of manners," or "domestic comedy." As a novelist, she narrows her outlook to the people of her own class — country gentlemen and their families whose main concern is their social status and the comforts it brings them. Owning property is essential to social status, which explains Henry Dashwood's deep disappointment when he finds that he cannot bequeath Norland Park to his wife and daughters. Also, the meager fortune with which the girls are provided makes their prospects for a good marriage rather dismal.

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Classic novel is rich in romance and humor.

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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Sense and Sensibility, like all of Jane Austen'

Though some of the moral lessons indicated in Sens

The stoic but warmhearted Elinor is one of Austen&

Some of the men in Sense and Sensibility are sport

Characters kiss affectionately, but the only actua

The word "bitch" is used in reference to

Wine is consumed with meals and at social occasion

Parents need to know that Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, is an enjoyable novel of manners, full of romance, humor, and beautifully realized characters. The old-fashioned language might be alienating to modern readers at first, but it's well worth the moderate patience it…

Educational Value

Sense and Sensibility , like all of Jane Austen's novels, offers information about ways of life among the upper classes in late-18th/early 19th-century England, such as methods of transportation and communication, medical practices, forms of entertainment, and social mores and attitudes. This book especially explores gender roles, and the limited prospects of women who could not support themselves.

Positive Messages

Though some of the moral lessons indicated in Sense and Sensibility are outdated by centuries, teens may benefit from the book's warnings not to give too much away emotionally in a romantic relationship before really getting to know the other person. This book also cautions against the evils of gossip; discretion is the better part of valor in many of Austen's most admirable characters.

Positive Role Models

The stoic but warmhearted Elinor is one of Austen's most beloved and admired characters. A woman of her word, she shows discretion, loyalty to her family and friends, intelligence, thoughtfulness, and grace under pressure.

Violence & Scariness

Some of the men in Sense and Sensibility are sportsmen, so it is mentioned that they have guns and hunt.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Characters kiss affectionately, but the only actual sex takes place "off-screen." Viewers learn through Brandon's explanation about two young women who resort to a "life of sin," resulting in each bearing a child out of wedlock.

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The word "bitch" is used in reference to a female dog.

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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine is consumed with meals and at social occasions, and is used medicinally to aid those in emotional or physical distress.

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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, is an enjoyable novel of manners, full of romance, humor, and beautifully realized characters. The old-fashioned language might be alienating to modern readers at first, but it's well worth the moderate patience it may take to become totally engrossed in the plot. Social attitudes of the characters are antiquated, particularly concerning gender roles, but this can make an excellent point of departure for discussion. Sense and Sensibility includes a sad story about two women who become pregnant out of wedlock. Also, characters drink wine and shoot game for sport. This novel has been made into several films, including the Academy Award-winning version starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet and the modern urban interpretation From Prada to Nada .

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What's the story.

Jane Austen's first published novel, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, tells the story of the elder Dashwood sisters, reasonable Elinor and her impulsive sister Marianne. These two young women, with their mother and youngest sister, Margaret, must leave their family estate, Norwood, after their father's death; the property has been left to the girls' half-brother, John. Before the Dashwood women leave Norwood, John and his wife, Fanny, arrive, along with Fanny's brother, Edward Ferrars, who develops a close connection with Elinor. With a very small income left to them, Mother and daughters decamp to a Devonshire cottage owned by a distant cousin, where they become acquainted with the proper Colonel Brandon and charming John Willoughby, among others. The sisters' romantic prospects take numerous twists and turns as the girls navigate a social world where not every landed man they meet is truly a gentleman.

Is It Any Good?

Sense and Sensibility is a richly rewarding story of manners from one of the world's greatest novelists. Full of feeling, humor, and beautifully realized characters, this book is treasured by teens and adults who enjoy a complex romantic page-turner. For two centuries, readers' hearts have broken for naive Marianne and long-suffering Elinor, and the book will surely find devoted readers for centuries to come.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about gender roles in Jane Austen's world. How are the characters' lives limited by then-accepted notions about women's place in society?

Have you seen any of the film versions of this book? How do they differ from the novel?

What does the title Sense and Sensibility mean?

Book Details

  • Author : Jane Austen
  • Genre : Literary Fiction
  • Topics : Book Characters , Brothers and Sisters , Friendship
  • Book type : Fiction
  • Publisher : W. W. Norton & Co.
  • Publication date : January 1, 1811
  • Number of pages : 352
  • Available on : Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated : October 8, 2015

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More on Sense and Sensibility

Introduction see all, summary see all, themes see all.

  • Women and Femininity
  • Society and Class
  • Language and Communication
  • Dreams, Hopes, Plans
  • Competition

Characters See All

  • Elinor Dashwood
  • Marianne Dashwood
  • Edward Ferrars
  • Colonel Brandon
  • Lucy Steele
  • John Willoughby
  • Mrs. Dashwood
  • Fanny Dashwood (née Ferrars)
  • John Dashwood
  • Mrs. Jennings
  • Sir John Middleton
  • Lady Middleton
  • Margaret Dashwood
  • Mrs. Charlotte Palmer
  • Robert Ferrars
  • Miss Anne Steele
  • Mrs. Ferrars

Analysis See All

  • What's Up With the Title?
  • What's Up With the Ending?
  • Writing Style
  • Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
  • Narrator Point of View
  • Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
  • Plot Analysis
  • Three Act Plot Analysis

Quotes See All

  • For Teachers

Sense and Sensibility Summary

In the wake of their father's death, the Dashwood sisters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, are left at the financial mercy of John, half-brother, and his greedy wife. Though their father asked John to take care of the girls and their distraught mother, the women end up getting seriously shafted – they're turned out of their family home, and basically left with a barely-respectable income to live on. 

Left to their own devices, the ladies decide to move away to a cottage owned by a distant cousin in Barton Park, Devonshire. Before they move house, though, Elinor (the more practical sister) tentatively allows herself to fall in love with Edward Ferrars, the gentle brother of the girls' obnoxious sister-in-law. However, both of these young people are on the, shall we say, cautious side of the emotional spectrum, and the romance doesn't go anywhere. The Dashwood girls move away to their new home, leaving Edward behind.

In Devonshire, they find themselves in the company of the aforementioned cousin, Sir John Middleton, and his rather oddball family, comprised of a dully proper wife and a hilariously raucous mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings. Also present is Sir John's good friend, Colonel Brandon, a thirty-something, somewhat stodgy, but good-hearted bachelor, who falls for young Marianne's girlish charms. The Dashwoods try make themselves at home in the cottage, but can't help but miss their childhood home. Marianne (the less-than-practical sister) is particularly blue – that is, until she develops a love interest of her own, a dashing young man named Willoughby. Everyone gets along with the new guy just swimmingly, and the whole family expects that Marianne and Willoughby will announce their engagement any day. Marianne is sure that she's found her soul mate.

Things start to go wrong fairly soon, though. Willoughby leaves rather suddenly for London, for reasons we're not entirely certain of, and doesn't give any indication of when he'll be back. Marianne takes this very hard, as she does everything. The plot continues to thicken with the arrival of an unexpected visitor – Edward Ferrars. He stays with his friends for a week, and all the while, everyone has a great time, even morose Marianne. However, Edward's departure heralds the arrival of another set of visitors, Mrs. Palmer, Lady Middleton's hyperactive sister, and her dour husband, Mr. Palmer. The Palmers just happen to live in the general vicinity of Willoughby's country home, and Marianne is eager for news of him – but there isn't any.

After the Palmers' departure, yet another wave of newcomers washes in… and this time, they're unwelcome ones. Mrs. Jennings invites some unknown relations of hers, Miss Steele and her younger sister, Lucy, to come and stay at Barton Park. To cut a long story short, Lucy Steele admits to Elinor that she's secretly engaged – to Edward Ferrars ! Elinor is shocked and upset, and her hopes for the future all crumble before her eyes.

Both Dashwood sisters are now down in the dumps with regards to romance. At this low point, Mrs. Jennings asks Elinor and Marianne to accompany her to London for an extended trip, and after some squabbling, the girls accept. They embark upon their journey with mixed feelings – Marianne hoping to see Willoughby, and Elinor afraid that she'll run into Edward. Both of these things come to pass, but not in ways that the girls expect.

Willoughby avoids Marianne like the plague, despite many, many letters from her. When they finally meet at a ball (by accident), he evades her once again. Soon thereafter, Marianne receives a rather cold letter of dumpage from Willoughby, and she falls ill with the shock. Colonel Brandon, still carrying a torch for Marianne, is concerned, but also relieved – he finally tells Elinor the horrible truth about Willoughby, which he'd been concealing all along, thinking that Willoughby and Marianne were engaged. It turns out that Willoughby is a real cad; he got Colonel Brandon's adopted daughter pregnant, dumped her, and now is engaged to a super-wealthy socialite instead of Marianne.

Meanwhile, Elinor is forced to endure the company of her unwitting enemy, Lucy Steele, who's also in town. It seems that everyone is around – even the Dashwoods' brother, John, and sister-in-law Fanny (sister of Edward). To make matters even worse, Elinor finds out that Fanny and Edward's mother has decided that Edward must marry an heiress, a certain Miss Morton. It seems like nothing is going right for poor Elinor, but she tries to keep her emotions in check. However, Lucy and Edward's engagement comes to light, much to the dismay of pretty much everyone involved. The Ferrars are all in a fit about it, and Edward is in serious trouble. Distraught, Elinor eventually confesses everything to Marianne – that she's in love with Edward, but she's known for months about the secret engagement. Marianne instantly realizes that she's been too harsh on her sister; she used to berate Elinor for being too logical, but she sees now how much her older sis has been suffering.

It emerges that Edward has been cut out of the family fortune for his disobedient conduct, and that all of the money that was supposed to come his way has been given to his obnoxious younger brother, Robert. The sympathetic Colonel Brandon helps out by offering the young man a job as the curate at his estate, Delaford. It seems as though things have worked out for Edward and Lucy (though not ideally). 

Disgruntled, the Dashwoods and Mrs. Jenkins leave town, and head out to the Palmers' country house, Cleveland. The party hangs out there for a while, but Marianne can't help but be upset by their proximity to Willoughby's ancestral home, Combe Magna. She catches a cold wandering around outside, and quickly becomes dangerously ill.

Everyone's in crisis mode because of Marianne's frightening illness – apparently, even Willoughby. He shows up, disheveled and distraught, having heard that Marianne is at death's door. He opens his heart to Elinor, explaining that the only reason he married someone else was because of money – basically, he screwed up a lot of things (namely, his relationship with Colonel Brandon's adopted daughter), and his mistakes ended up preventing him from marrying Marianne, his true love. He leaves, after being reassured that Marianne's on the mend. Elinor finally forgives him (kind of) for his dastardly deeds, and knows that this story will make Marianne feel better. Elinor and Marianne's mother arrives shortly thereafter, with dramatic news of her own: Colonel Brandon has confessed that he's in love with Marianne, and Mrs. Dashwood already regards their engagement as a foregone conclusion.

Marianne slowly gets better in the company of her mother, sister, and friends, and finally, the little family heads back home to Barton, where Elinor tells Marianne and her mother about Willoughby's true feelings. Everyone feels something akin to resolution, at long last. Elinor, however, is unsettled anew by a report that "Mr. Ferrars" is married to Lucy Steele. Happily, though, there turns out to be a miscommunication; the Mr. Ferrars in question is Robert, the younger brother, not Edward. Elinor receives this good news from Edward himself, who comes to finally ask her to marry him (yay!). In the end, that little minx, Lucy, managed to ingratiate herself with the new heir to the Ferrars fortune, and broke off her engagement with the no-longer-wealthy Edward. 

In the end, everything works out – Lucy gets her rich husband, and Elinor gets the man she loves. Finally, Marianne finds her own happiness, too – she learns to love Colonel Brandon back, and the pair is married. After all the drama, both Elinor and Marianne end up with their happy endings.

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Sense and Sensibility

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  1. Sense and Sensibility: Full Book Summary

    In Volume III, Lucy's older sister inadvertently reveals the news of Lucy's secret engagement to Edward Ferrars. Edward's mother is outraged at the information and disinherits him, promising his fortune to Robert instead. Meanwhile, the Dashwood sisters visit family friends at Cleveland on their way home from London.

  2. Sense and Sensibility

    Sense and Sensibility tells the story of the impoverished Dashwood family, focusing on the sisters Elinor and Marianne, personifications of good sense (common sense) and sensibility (emotionality), respectively. They become destitute upon the death of their father, who leaves his home, Norland Park, to their half brother, John.

  3. Book Summary

    Literature Notes Sense and Sensibility Book Summary Book Summary This is the story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, sisters who respectively represent the "sense" and "sensibility" of the title. With their mother, their sister Margaret, and their stepbrother John, they make up the Dashwood family. Henry Dashwood, their father, has just died.

  4. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen Plot Summary

    Chapter 1 Literary devices: Genre Mood Setting Style Tone View all Henry Dashwood lived at Norland Park in Sussex, England, a property owned by his wealthy uncle. Henry had three daughters by his current wife and one son from a prior marriage. When his uncle died, Norland was left to Henry's son John and John's own son.

  5. Sense and Sensibility

    [3] Plot summary Henry Dashwood, his second wife, and their three daughters live for many years with Henry's wealthy bachelor uncle at Norland Park, a country estate in Sussex.

  6. Sense and Sensibility Summary

    by Jane Austen Buy Study Guide Sense and Sensibility Summary The Dashwood family is introduced; Mr. and Mrs. Dashwood and their three daughters live at Norland Park, an estate in Sussex. Unfortunately, Mr. Dashwood's wife and daughters are left with very little when he dies and the estate goes to his son, John Dashwood.

  7. Sense and Sensibility Summary and Study Guide

    Overview. Sense and Sensibility (1811) was the first published novel of British writer Jane Austen (1775-1817). Still a widely read author today, Austen published six complete novels and became famous for documenting the interior lives of young women in addition to the social mores of her time. She developed a distinctive form of narrative ...

  8. Sense and Sensibility Study Guide

    Key Facts about Sense and Sensibility. Climax: Edward unexpectedly shows up to Barton Cottage, tells Elinor that his engagement with Lucy has fallen through, and proposes to her. Antagonist: Willoughby is in a sense the antagonist to Marianne, as he is the main barrier to her happiness for much of the novel.

  9. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

    Elinor Dashwood marries Edward Ferrars. Edward comes from a wealthy family with high expectations for him. They want him to move in the highest social circles and join parliament. He wants a quiet...

  10. Sense and Sensibility

    Literature Notes Sense and Sensibility Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis Chapter 1 Summary For many years, Henry Dashwood and his family had lived at Norland Park and cared for its owner, Henry's aged uncle. On the old man's death, Henry inherited the estate.

  11. Sense and Sensibility Chapter Summaries

    Chapter 1 August A wealthy relative offers Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters a home at Barton Cottage. Chapter 4 September The Dashwoods meet Colonel Brandon at Barton Park; Willoughby rescues Marianne. Chapter 7 October-November Brandon mysteriously departs for London; a week later Willoughby leaves, too. Marianne is downcast. Chapter 13 January

  12. Introduction

    Summary. Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility was at least fifteen years in the making: first conceived and written as Elinor and Marianne in 1795 (a date from family tradition), converted into Sense and Sensibility beginning inNovember 1797 fromits previous epistolary form (also family memory), revised twelve years later in 1809 and 1810 with a ...

  13. Sense and Sensibility Book Review

    Sense and Sensibility is a richly rewarding story of manners from one of the world's greatest novelists. Full of feeling, humor, and beautifully realized characters, this book is treasured by teens and adults who enjoy a complex romantic page-turner. For two centuries, readers' hearts have broken for naive Marianne and long-suffering Elinor ...

  14. Sense and Sensibility Overall Analysis and Themes Summary & Analysis

    Overall Analysis and Themes. The dichotomy between "sense" and "sensibility" is one of the lenses through which this novel is most commonly analyzed. The distinction is most clearly symbolized by the psychological contrast between the novel's two chief characters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. According to this understanding, Elinor, the older ...

  15. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

    Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility explained in just a few minutes! Professor Kristen Over of Northeastern Illinois University provides an in-depth analysis...

  16. Sense and Sensibility Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

    Chapter 2 Themes and Colors Key Summary Analysis The narrator describes the Dashwood family, who lived at Norland Park in Sussex, England. The owner of the property was a single man and he invited his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood to live with him at Norland. Henry had a son by a previous marriage and three daughters by his current wife.

  17. Sense and Sensibility Summary

    Sense and Sensibility Summary. In the wake of their father's death, the Dashwood sisters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, are left at the financial mercy of John, half-brother, and his greedy wife. Though their father asked John to take care of the girls and their distraught mother, the women end up getting seriously shafted - they're turned ...

  18. Sense and Sensibility Themes

    Chapter 50 Sense and Sensibility Themes Next Love and Marriage Themes and Colors LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Sense and Sensibility, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. Love and Marriage The plot of Sense and Sensibility revolves around marriage.

  19. Sense and Sensibility Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

    Analysis. The next day, Mrs. Palmer was happy to see the Dashwood sisters at Barton Park and invited Elinor and Marianne to come stay with her and her husband in London. They declined the invitation. Sir John joked with Marianne about Willoughby and complimented her on her taste in men. Sir John assumes that Marianne and Willoughby are still ...

  20. Sense and Sensibility

    Jane Austen, the daughter of a clergyman, was born in Hampshire in 1775, and later lived in Bath and the village of Chawton. As a child and teenager, she wrote brilliantly witty stories for her family's amusement, as well as a novella, Lady Susan.Her first published novel was Sense and Sensibility, which appeared in 1811 and was soon followed by Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma.

  21. Sense and Sensibility Chapters 1-5 Summary & Analysis

    Chapters 1-5 Summary Old Mr. Dashwood is the owner of a large estate in Sussex called Norland Park. Following the death of his sister, Mr. Dashwood invites his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood to come live with him at Norland.

  22. Sense and Sensibility: Study Guide

    Sense and Sensibility is a novel by Jane Austen that was first published in 1811. Summary Read our full plot summary and analysis of Sense and Sensibility, scene by scene break-downs, and more. Summary & Analysis Chapters 1-5 Chapters 6-10 Chapters 11-15 Chapters 16-19 Chapters 20-22 Chapters 23-27 Chapters 28-32 Chapters 33-36 Chapters 37-41

  23. Sense and Sensibility Chapters 42-45 Summary & Analysis

    A summary of Part X (Section10) in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of Sense and Sensibility and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.