Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility for Literary Ladies We Love
There are two main reasons I chose to do Marianne:
• She's my favorite Austen heroine and the one I connect to the most. I truly enjoy all of Austen's heroines but I feel most similar to Marianne and really adore her, flaws and all.
• She gets a lot of unfair heat and I've seen her often considered people's least favorite Austen heroine and while that's totally fine, I do want to address some of the issues people take with her and explain why I love her, despite and because of these issues.
The most common arguments I hear about why people don't like Marianne is that she's careless with her emotions and their subsequent consequences, she hurts characters like Elinor, she's flighty and dramatic and non-sensical, she doesn't think and she doesn't understand propriety. Now, all of these are true. These are some of her most defining characteristics. However, when people rail against her using these arguments, the first question I want to ask them is: do you know how old Marianne is?
Marianne Dashwood is sixteen. She is a child. One of the things I love so much about Marianne is that her story is one about growing up. She goes on an incredible internal journey and learns so much from it so while she may come across as a childish and dramatic character at the start (which is who she is), she is certainly not that same character by the end. Frankly, I find that people expect far more from her than she can possibly give and that she is not just the selfish child many people take her to be.
Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband as it had once been to Willoughby.
S&S, Chapter 50
Marianne feels very deeply; she wears her heart on sleeve; and it is her emotions, not her rationale, that dictates her actions and words and leads her through life. This is something I can connect very deeply with and one of the things I love most about S&S, is that while Marianne learns and evolves, she does not change. Now, I realize that evolving is, in essence, changing, but what I mean to say is that I'm grateful she doesn't become less emotional, but rather that she learns to channel her emotions differently and that her emotions mature. Marianne should not have to apologize for being an emotional person and I'm glad that she does not.
I admire Marianne for how much she expresses her emotions (and not just because I love having a character I can relate to and sigh in relief about). Her passion is infectious. She can come across as slightly pretentious (especially with her initial opinions of Edward and Brandon) but her appreciation for culture does not have to be viewed with such a critical eye. She is talented and well-read and I, for one, see something to be admire there (just as Brandon does). Wanting someone who appreciates the same things she does, as well as on the same level, isn't something that should make her villain. She should not be put down as character because she gives herself and her heart completely to people.
Marianne is honest.
Marianne was silent; it was impossible for her to say what she did not feel, however trivial the occasion…
She says what she feels and believes, not caring if other people like or dislike her for how she feels because she has to be honest with herself. At such a young age, this is a remarkable and mature trait to have. It can make her seem quite vain in some lights but truly, it only makes me love her more. She says things that people only wish they had the courage (or recklessness) to say; she often says things we are all thinking. This isn't to say Marianne can't be frustrating. Of course she can be; in fact, she is an extremely frustrating character! However, she is not malicious and this brings me to one of my most important points: her relationship with Elinor.
Fans often cite this relationship as being one of the major reasons to dislike Marianne and I think that is highly unfair. Marianne can become blinded by her own emotions, this is true. She becomes so consumed by her own feelings of excitement and heartbreak that she isn't always entirely aware of those around her, even the people she holds dearest to her heart. She doesn't do this as any slight against Elinor, though. Marianne simply cannot help it and this is part of the growth she goes through over the course of the novel. Other characters in this novel don't feel as openly or as deeply as Marianne which frustrates her and this comes from the fact that, especially regarding the people she loves, she wants to see them embrace their feelings and their happiness and their passions. Marianne is not a spiteful or vicious character as some make her out to be.
Elinor was much more hurt by Marianne's warmth, than she had been by what produced it; but Colonel Brandon's eyes, as they were fixed on Marianne, declared that he noticed only what was amiable in it; the affectionate heart which could not bear to see a sister slighted in the smallest point.
Marianne's feelings did not stop here. The cold insolence of Mrs. Ferrars's general behaviour to her sister, seemed, to her, to foretel such difficulties and distresses to Elinor, as her own wounded heart taught her to think of with horror; and urged by a strong impulse of affectionate sensibility, she moved, after a moment, to her sister's chair, and putting one arm round her neck, and one cheek close to hers, said in a low, but eager voice:
"Dear, dear Elinor, don't mind them. Don't let them make you unhappy."
S&S, Chapter 34
If Elinor won't show how she's been offended or hurt, Marianne will do it for her. And she does it because she loves Elinor, she truly does, and Colonel Brandon can plainly see that in this scene (though as implied by this passage, he also has some bias in his view). Marianne has absolutely no problem in being offended on people's behalf. She gets frustrated on occasion when they won't do it for themselves but it cannot be said that Marianne is not a loyal character. Elinor being slighted is an offense to Marianne as well and she isn't afraid to let people know it.
However, the most telling scene between these wonderful sisters for me is when Marianne finds out about Elinor's heartbreak.
Marianne was quite subdued.
"Oh! Elinor," she cried, "you have made me hate myself for ever. How barbarous have I been to you! -- you, who have been my only comfort, who have borne with me in all my misery, who have seemed to be only suffering for me! -- Is this my gratitude! Is this the only return I can make you? Because your merit cries out upon myself, I have been trying to do it away."
The tenderest caresses followed this confession. In such a frame of mind as she was now in, Elinor had no difficulty in obtaining from her whatever promise she required; and, at her request, Marianne engaged never to speak of the affair to any one with the least appearance of bitterness; -- to meet Lucy without betraying the smallest increase of dislike to her; -- and even to see Edward himself, if chance should bring them together, without any diminution of her usual cordiality. These were great concessions; -- but where Marianne felt that she had injured, no reparation could be too much for her to make.
S&S, Chapter 37
Being quiet is difficult for Marianne but after seeing the way her sister, someone she holds very dear to her heart, has been suffering from her own heartbreak, Marianne is willing to hold her tongue and not speak of it, despite how much she may want to. She recognizes how selfish she's been and shows a clear sense of guilt over it. Marianne is perhaps not as selfish as some people want to make her out as. She can become consumed by her own feelings but that does not mean, in any way, that she does not care for other people or will not empathize at another's pain once she becomes aware of it.
Truly I think she is summed up very well at the end of the novel by Austen:
Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily to give her hand to another!- and that other, a man who had suffered no less than herself under the event of a former attachment, whom, two years before, she had considered too old to be married,- and who still sought the constitutional safeguard of a flannel waistcoat!
But so it was. Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion, as once she had fondly flattered herself with expecting, instead of remaining even for ever with her mother, and finding her only pleasures in retirement and study, as afterwards in her more calm and sober judgment she had determined on, she found herself at nineteen submitting to new attachments, entering on new duties, placed in a new home, a wife, the mistress of a family, and the patroness of a village.
S&S, Chapter 50
And on the note of her and Brandon, they are one of my favorite romantic Austen couples. Brandon sees the good in her almost from the start and while it may take her longer, she does end up seeing the good in him as well. They are perfect foils for one another, especially as a couple to find comfort and solace and good company with each other. Brandon appreciates the same cultural things that Marianne does, as well as with the same passion, he merely displays it differently and not as openly or loudly. I think there's a lot to be said that she ends up giving her heart to him just as much as she gave it to Willoughby before. I just really love them as a couple.
For those who don't like characters who evolve and grown and learn, I can see why you might not like Marianne. But frankly, I'll never understand it. I'll never understand disliking a character who is not afraid of her own heart and is so utterly human because at the end of the day, Marianne does not need to become less emotional, but rather learn to channel her emotions differently and more maturely. I love Marianne Dashwood, and I can only hope to one day learn the things she does and to grow as much as she does ♥
Furthermore, skypirateb wrote on Elinor Dashwood because we are actually that perfect.
Current Mood: sympathetic
Current Music: hocus pocus