Every age has its doctrines: capitalism, individualism, economic rationalism; and it is less uncomfortable to analyse those from the past with the help of hindsight, than those in the present. Spontaneous-and-Sentimental Marianne in Sense and Sensibility is an idealist. Remember she believed in truth and sincerity in all situations. She would not moderate her feelings whether they were pleasant or unpleasant. When she starts to fall in love with Willoughby she knows no way to proceed with caution. It is all or nothing. She cannot moderate either her inward or outward journey of love. Indeed, she sees to do so would be a wrong:
“Marianne abhorred all concealment…and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not in themselves illaudable, appeared to her not merely an unnecessary effort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and mistaken notions.”
Do we need to look at behaving in a way that promotes self preservation, mental well being and long term happiness? Marianne learns too late that an unfettered trust in an idea or someone you have only just met can bring you unstuck. If we jump too soon we may end up very hurt. Moderation can keep us happier. A belief in truth and sincerity seems innocuous enough. But can it lead to harm? Marianne abhorred the social conventions. Rightly so. They can lead to the worst type of hypocrisy. But can flouting them, and following unfettered hedonism sometimes lead to unhappiness? The ending of Sense and Sensibility can be a little unsatisfactory to a modern audience, but is there something worth salvaging there?
“Marianne was born to an extra ordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract by her conduct, her most favourite maxims.”
Sometimes in our youth we have strong opinions and then time and experience helps us to temper them. (Although we probably wouldn’t have it any other way.) Balance just may be the key.
- 54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (itzally92.wordpress.com)
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