I have done Jane Austen a disservice. The post was on Romantic Literature as a modern value system. The post suggested that Jane Austen was very predictable – the good guy always gets the good girl, the fool marries the fool. When I wrote that post I had finished Pride and Prejudice and was about half way through Persuasion. I have since finished Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen is not predictable. She does fascinating studies in character, culture, social status, ambition, pride, prejudice, persuasion, sense, and sensibility.
It is true that in both Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion there are clear favorites, heroes and heroines one might say. The most desirable romantic matches are clear – but life creates difficulties that must be worked through. The difficulties, with Jane Austen, are spelled out in her book titles. In both cases the good guy won the good girl. I probably said that backwards – at least from the point of view of Jane Austen. All of her stories that I have read have young women as the central characters. The stories are generally told through the point of view of one of the women – usually the most mature, beautiful, sensible, honorable, educated, and dignified of all women. So one should say: The good girl won the good guy.
Sense and Sensibility is a genuine romantic thriller. Suspense carries the day. Surprises occur in every chapter. What the reader believes to be true is seldom the truth. The story unfolds with twists and turns of the drama of lies, misdeeds, distortion, ambition, and the staples of Austen’s work: pride and prejudice.
As the story revealed itself I could not imagine a happy outcome for anyone, let alone those of deserving character. And this: Jane Austen is a master of dry satirical humor. Readers have to be on their toes, we have to pay close attention. Austen presents philosophical arguments in the form of dialogue defending hierarchical social and economic status. She draws the reader in, as if reeling in a large mouth bass. Then she snares the fish with her net of real honor and pure character.
I will not spoil the suspense of Sense and Sensibility. I will say this is a masterpiece of character development.