The Dashwoods

Brandon is just the kind of man whom everybody speaks well of, and nobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see, and nobody remembers to talk to.—-Sense and Sensibility

The characters of Sense and Sensibility continue to engage me.  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read this particular Jane Austen novel.  It never ceases to elucidate something about myself for me.  It’s unbelievably cheesy, but this book encourages me to be better and to have hope.  It has been over two centuries since it’s publication and the plot remains relevant.  Women go on being judged and judging for how they and others handle situations.  If you’re like Marianne, you might be seen as dramatic, too emotional, uncontrolled, and overly romantic.  On the other hand, if you’re like Elinor, your mannerisms may be perceived as cold, unfeeling, too reserved, possibly controlling.  A Willoughby exists in every town, it seems, along with a Brandon as a decorative wallflower.  There are the lives we wish we had and the lives we have.  Though women are often able to earn their own money now, they still earn less than men.  If I were to have tea with the Dashwoods today, I’m sure my access would be astounding, yet they would lament that my life is very much determined by the men surrounding me, both near and far.  Women are expected to smile, to sit prettily, to talk less and not display their intelligence.  Our understanding of our own bodies and what we need is constantly being decided by other people, usually men.  The people trying to break the mold move at a snail’s pace, at least it feels that way.  Even now, someone somewhere is waiting on an Edward to speak up because society says that it is Edward that should do so.  I doubt I’ll be alive when this book reaches its 300th birthday.  Will it still resonate then?  It’s a moot point, because it resonates with me right now.  Each time I read it, I’m reminded to think about why someone else is being quiet, to try not to make assumptions, and to talk to those on the fringes.  Feeling invisible when you don’t want to be is painful, and the voices in Sense and Sensibility illustrate how invisibility camouflages from person to person. 

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