Jane Austen: Sense Or Sensibility?

With PBS Masterpiece Classic broadcsting Sense and Sensibility (2008 ) again on Feb 1 and 8, it’s good time to muse on the question:  Which Austen heroine was Jane herself most like?  You can see the poll on my side bar, and the results so far. 

As you watch Sense and Sensibility once again, look closer at Elinor and Marianne.  Mind you, if you have a chance, watch the 1995 movie too, then you’d appreciate Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet in bringing out the differences between sense and sensibility even more clearly I think.

No doubt, we all like to perceive Jane herself as the very source that had inspired the creation of our all time heroine, Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, intelligent, witty, self-assured, sharp in her critique of social norms, and brave enough to challenge, and diverge.  She dominates our popular votes here with a 44% lead… so far.

But Anne Elliot of Persuasion is also a popular choice, mature, patient and wise.  The silent lover is a strong second with 23%.


After reading the biographies of Jane, knowing how she had loved the burlesque and to play a part in the family’s performances, how openly she had engaged in activities with her brothers and the student boarders in her home, how she had  written satires while still a youngster, how critical she could be, and above all, upon my reading Claire Tomalin’s incisive analysis of Jane’s relationship with her older sister Cassandra, I tend to lean toward a very unpopular choice. 

I think Jane by nature was more like Marianne Dashwood, passionate, spontaneous, expressive and bold.  It’s Cassandra, like Elinor, who reminded her to rein in her emotions, to keep her skepticism in check, and to help her fit into a world that was not ready for a female like her.  Have you wondered why Cassandra needed to burn so many of Jane’s letters to her after Jane’s death?

Is it sense and sensibility we’re talking about here, or rather nature and nurture? 

No matter.  It’s best that our favorite writer remains an enigma.  But, if you have to choose, thinking back to all the Austen heroines in her six novels, who do you think Jane resembled the most?

Cast your vote and let Janeites decide.

To read my review of Sense and Sensibility (2008, TV), Part 1, Click here.

Click here for Part 2.



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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

9 thoughts on “Jane Austen: Sense Or Sensibility?”

  1. Thank you for alerting us that PBS is rebroadcasting some of the Austen classics. I so enjoyed them the first time around last year.

    Loving your blog too–a like mind in movies and books is always a treat to find. Though it’s nice to hear another opinion too, like our differing thoughts on Slumdog Millionaire…

    One ‘problem’ with good movies is, especially with indies, once they’ve been noticed and praised, all the hype ensues, turning them into a cliché almost overnight. I agree with you about differing opinions and I appreciate them too… case in point The Visitor. Maybe I’ll write about that some time. Thanks for visiting and leaving your comment.



  2. I chose Elizabeth Bennet because I see a lot of spirit and energy in her that Austen had herself. I’m reading the Tomalin biography right now (just posted on it), and am enjoying learning new things about Austen. I hadn’t realized she was quite so feisty.

    Yes, I had the same feeling as you have when I read Tomalin. She has brought forth a JA who is bold, passionate, critical, and even impulsive sometimes. I feel that Tomaline has painted Cassandra and Jane quite like Elinor and Marianne. Let me know what you think once you get into the latter part of the book. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.



  3. I agree with you and I voted for Marianne Dashwood…whether unpopular…no matter…we are on target ! Love this blog and congrats on your award !

    Lynn, looks like we have one more supporter for Marianne, the one vote there wasn’t me since I didn’t vote in my own Poll. Thanks for your kind words and what an interesting blog you have yourself. I’m sure you must have gained some new visitors in our economic downturn these days. Thanks for all the saving tips!



  4. It may be part of the nature of some artists to refuse to mature – I am thinking of the nature of satire, and also of Jane romping with adolescent boys. The avoidance of the approved norms is freeing for art. Possibly her heroines were speculations on what she would have been like if she had chosen to “grow up” past appearing quiet and acceptable while writing her social critiques.

    Susan, Interesting view you have here… umm… the creation of fictional characters could be an attempt of the author herself in self-exploration. Thanks for sharing! Arti


  5. Arti – you’re the world’s Best!

    Holly & I are not much of a scholar like you, although we’ll try to read as much as you do. One thing though, both Holly & I can’t thank you enough for your guidence and support!

    Holly, in particular, sends his Love to you & all your readers.

    Keep up the good work! Great Blog.
    When will we get to read a book of yours?


  6. Dear Arti: You & your readers are cordially invited to visit Holly’ Blog if you wish to know more about him:


    He does read, you know.

    Dear Holly,

    Thank you for your support of my blog… you’re not the only canine fan I have, mind you, but I thank you for reading and commenting just the same. Chow!



  7. Hi Arti-
    What about the truth that a writer puts some of herself into each of her characters?
    And that the characters we create are composites of the people in our lives?
    My guess is that Jane may have been on the surface more like one character than the other, but beneath the surface possibly identified with the other.


    Of course, it’s impossible to box her into one of these characters only… this Poll is more for fun than for fact. However, I remember Jane’s biographers, namely Tomalin and Shields (you may like to click on the link to my post), both have attributed Jane’s creation of the characters in her books to her exceptional imagination, considering her physical confinement in parochial, rural England most of her life. Could I even say that Imagination is one of the essential elements of all artistic creations?



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