Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Honorary Mention of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

There is absolutely nothing more incredible than a book that has lasted 200 years through time as one of the best written novels.

I don't think I appreciate this book as much as I should.  I finished reading it and it left me kind of dry.  I actually lost a lot of reading stamina while reading this book.  It should have only taken me a week, or even less, to read it and it took me almost two weeks because I could not get myself to read more than 15-20 pages at a time, unfortunately.  The writing was exhausting to some extent: long run-on sentences, long and spoon fed descriptions of the characters, long and superficial stories about the characters.... Then there was the plot: gossip, social parties, social class etiquette, the story of the rich versus the more humble, girls chasing guys and guys courting girls.... I really couldn't get myself into this novel.  It wasn't until I started reading 'Pride and Prejudice' that I began to look at this novel with more interest to see how Jane Austen's writing is and why she was really so popular and still is, now, 200 years later.  Anyway, I figured that even if I didn't really enjoy the book as much as I 'should' have, I thought I should do some research and dig deeper for things I could talk about regarding this book.  It turns out there were a few things that caught me, it wasn't all grey for me. There were some colored spots which were enjoyable and I'll talk about those things for a bit.

One of the primary things about the book that I think I don't fully appreciate is Jane Austen's ability to describe the character's personalities and traits as well as she did.  As you're reading the book you can really feel that as a writer she really has a grasp on how to create characters.  On top of that she's also really great at creating the relationship between those characters and knowing very keenly where each character stands in relation to their interaction with another character.  It made the plot very realistic. Even further, she had a sense for writing vividly about the environment in which it takes place, the scenery of it all, and so, it adds to it an additional dimension.

A prominent element of the book is the monetary worth placed on people's associations, especially in speaking of marriage.  This theme inundates the novel and ultimately, I think, causes the novel to be what it is.  It is because of a monetary discrepancy that the two main characters, Elinor and Marianne, don't fully realize their true happiness with their true love until the end of the novel.  Meanwhile, they're forced to undergo plenty of heartache and suffering for their loved ones causing a lot of dynamic interactions between all of the characters.  It is in this way that you can really see the intricate and interwoven relations between all the characters, how they all see one another, how they respond to each other, how they support and coexist with one another, and the roles of compassion and love versus deceit and despair have a place and time in the characters lives.

The novel is enriched by the sisterly relationship between Elinor and Marianne.  Their relationship was my most favorite of all the characters.  When it comes to romance they're complete opposites.  Marianne is the idealistic romantic, and Elinor is more practical and realistic.  It happens that neither of them like each other's love interest.  Elinor doesn't like Willougby (Marianne's beau), and at the same time Marianne doesn't really vibe with Elinor's beau, Edward.  But through all the ups and down, all the heartache and confusion of their love, they stand by each other with the ut-most sympathy and compassion for one another as sisters.  I think Elinor is more capable of it than Marianne, though.  Eventually, both of them end up with the man they've loved throughout the novel.  So the book offers some sense of romantic relief and gives you a happy ending.  It's said that sad stories make for good books, but isn't only if it has a happy ending? (something to ponder on....)

Lastly, I want to mention at how impressed I was at the maturity of the young sisters, at the age of seventeen. They were well read, they knew of finance matters, they knew themselves to some extent, they knew what they wanted from life, they were good daughters to their mother, and they had a good head on their shoulders, so to say.  This is 200 years ago!  Look at how far we've come?!? Can you say our seventeen year olds have at least one third the maturity of these young ladies?  We live in such a different world that our teenagers are SO FAR removed from this novel, and yet, I think, maybe it's not so removed, it has lasted this long after all, so there must be some element of universal truth in the book, right? (another thing to ponder on)

Maybe I'll come back to this book another time in the future to see if I can feel closer to the plot and what it might have to offer on an emotional level, not just an intellectual level....

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