Sense and Sensibility | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Sense and Sensibility | Chapters 29–30 (Volume 2, Chapters 7–8) | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 29

Early the next morning Marianne cries—Elinor can't comfort her—and writes to Willoughby for the last time. At breakfast, Marianne can't eat, and when a letter from Willoughby arrives, she races to her room to read it. After trying to tell Mrs. Jennings there is no engagement, Elinor follows Marianne, finding her almost choking with grief, and cries too. Marianne gives Elinor the letter in which Willoughby informs her in cold, formal language that his "affections have long been engaged elsewhere." He has returned her letters and lock of hair.

Marianne cries as she contrasts her loss to Elinor's happiness in Edward's love, ignorant of the secret Elinor keeps. To Elinor's argument that sooner is better than later to discover Willoughby's real nature, Marianne replies that she and Willoughby were never engaged but that he implied his love for her every day. As Elinor reads Marianne's returned letters, finding them imprudent, Marianne says she has been cruelly used, but not, she is sure, by Willoughby. She longs to return to Barton Cottage to escape the inevitable gossip, becoming hysterical until Elinor treats her with lavender drops.

Chapter 30

Mrs. Jennings arrives, full of compassion, to confirm that Willoughby is engaged to a Miss Grey. After dinner with company Marianne hurries out. Mrs. Jennings tells Elinor Miss Grey is an heiress; Willoughby needs her £50,000 inheritance since he has squandered his income. Miss Grey's guardians are unhappy with her choice, but as an independently wealthy woman, she can choose as she pleases. Elinor doesn't want those in their social circle to mention Willoughby in front of Marianne. Mrs. Jennings hopes that Colonel Brandon's suit may now succeed. After Elinor checks on Marianne (and drinks some wine Mrs. Jennings found for Marianne), Brandon himself arrives for tea; he has also heard that Willoughby and Miss Grey will soon marry. Mrs. Jennings is surprised to see Brandon more thoughtful than usual; she expected him to exult over his rival quitting the field.

Analysis

In these chapters love and money are again conflated and confused. Romantic love alone does not motivate the increasingly desperate Marianne; readers have already seen her fantasize about being mistress of Allenham. Her dreams of love in a grand setting sweep her away, especially after Willoughby takes her on a tour of Allenham and as much as calls it her future home. Now Willoughby's own financial needs—he is, he admits, expensive—have driven him to court Miss Grey.

Even Mrs. Jennings can't untangle love and money. After Willoughby's betrayal, she praises Delaford to Elinor as a fine estate, imagining a match for Marianne and Colonel Brandon, as if that prize can compensate the heartbroken girl for the loss of Willoughby's love. The speed at which Mrs. Jennings moves from love lost to land gained speaks to how intertwined these facts of life were in her class and culture. Yet her concern for Marianne seems genuine: in Chapter 30 she sighs, "Poor soul!" over Marianne, who is crying over Willoughby.

In Chapter 29 Elinor demonstrates the value of rational analysis (sense) by understanding the greater stakes for Marianne: not gaining a fine house and grounds or a grand romance but avoiding "the ... most irremediable of all evils, a connection, for life, with an unprincipled man." This is the fate Marianne has escaped—that of a ruined woman or the wife of an untrustworthy cad. Elinor advises Marianne to let everyone see that she is innocent of any suggestion of wrongdoing.

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