Howard McEwen

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Sense and Sensibility

January 28th, 2016 · No Comments

My politics tend to lean libertarian/anarcho-capitalist but when I watch Downton Abbey I want to get my Bernie Sanders on real bad and hang the Crowley family.

The same goes for the characters in Sense and Sensibility.

That doesn’t bode well for my 2016 reading goal of working my way through all of Miss Austen’s six novels, does it? But it was my reaction about 50% of the way through when I realized that although a soldier is a character, the Napoleonic Wars are not mentioned and although servants in the households are mentioned and moved about like furniture, none are given names or allowed to speak a single line until the near end of the novel when one screws things up.

That and nothing happens. Lots of talk. Lots of not talking. The most exciting course of action any of the characters take is to go for a walk or to hold their tongues.

Also, the money-conscienceness of all the characters – of the society – was simply gauche and depressing.

That being said, I breezed through the novel because strewn about the text where Austen’s incisive and understated character observations. And there were simply entertaining because people don’t really change and I saw my own family, friends and acquaintances in them.

I also liked the novel because it doesn’t do anything. It must have taken huge courage – and a large amount of skill – to NOT pack in some action. In fact, it must have taken a huge amount of sensibility over sense(see what I did there?).

I’m surprised the title of the novel wasn’t Sensibility Over Sense. The message is pounded home very clearly. Act too rashly, too youthfully, follow your heart, have flights of fancy, go for an unchaperoned walk with a man and your life will end up pretty dreadful. Shelley and Lord Byron are fine for the sitting room and in small doses, Austen seems to say, but I’m here to tell you how to be British. Listen up.

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