Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey
I was asked to write a summary of the book Sense and Sensibility for the website The Literary Detectives. This is what I came up with. My only regret is I didn’t find room to mention Margaret, the sassy younger sister that everyone forgets about:
The first of Jane Austen’s novels ever to be published, Sense and Sensibility is above all else a story about the bond between two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and their contrasting dispositions. When their father dies, they, along with their widowed mother, are left without any fortune or claim to inheritance. Forced to move from their estate at Norland Park to a small cottage in Devonshire, the Dashwood sisters learn to adjust to a new life with different expectations. The young and lively Marianne meets and falls in love with the handsome Willoughby, a gentleman who shares her admiration for romance and passionate expression. While not without her own romantic attachment, Elinor occupies herself primarily with the security and well-being of her family, in particular that of her sister’s, whose romantic inclinations Elinor feels are expressed with too little personal restraint or censure, especially for someone in their position.
In Sense and Sensibility Austen demonstrates the intimate nature of communication that often exists between sisters but is so rarely examined. She also considers the comparative values in the different ways we react to hardship and heartache. Does a woman in a position of limited means express her agency better through prudence or unapologetic articulation? Is a disposition prone to sensibility over sense merely an inclination towards self-interest and over-indulgence? Can second love ever truly compare to the first? When both sisters face parallel challenges in romance, they are forced to question their own ideals of morality and strength of character. Through the support of each other, Marianne and Elinor learn that achieving personal happiness requires a complex combination of passion and reason, of sense and sensibility, and that such characteristics need not always be in conflict.
Kate Chopin, The Awakening
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
Lindy West’s writing gets me every time.