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Sense and Sensibility | Quotes


They will live so cheap! Their house-keeping will be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants; they will keep no company, and can have no expenses of any kind! Only conceive how comfortable they will be!

Fanny Dashwood, Chapter 2

In this section Fanny whittles away at the money John Dashwood intends to give his stepmother and half-sisters for them to live on. The verbal irony of her justification for cutting their funds even further, in these lines, seems lost on John. Fanny's words are full of negatives ("nothing at all"; "no carriage, no horses"; "no company"); she is saying explicitly that they will have nothing.


How cold, how composed were their last adieus! How languid their conversation the last evening of their being together! ... And Elinor, in quitting Norland and Edward, cried not as I did. Even now her self-command is invariable. When is she dejected or melancholy?

Marianne Dashwood, Chapter 8

Emotional Marianne finds her restrained sister puzzling and recounts her behavior to their mother. Marianne cannot imagine remaining cheerful if she had to leave her beau behind, as Elinor had to leave Edward. These lines draw a contrast between the sisters' temperaments and reactions to events.


Tell me that not only your house will remain the same, but that I shall ever find you and yours as unchanged as your dwelling; and that you will always consider me with the kindness which has made every thing belonging to you so dear to me.

John Willoughby, Chapter 14

Willoughby objects to Mrs. Dashwood altering Barton Cottage. Only in retrospect do readers grasp why Willoughby expresses such attachment to the cottage and its furnishings: they are the site of his happiness. He soon ends his relationship with Marianne, and what she (and her family) thinks of him later is drastically different. He knows as he begs for them to think kindly of him that they will not be able to continue to do so.


Remember I have no knowledge in the picturesque, and I shall offend you by my ignorance and want of taste ... . I shall call hills steep, which ought to be bold; surfaces strange and uncouth, which ought to be irregular and rugged; and distant objects out of sight, which ought only to be indistinct through the soft medium of a hazy atmosphere.

Edward Ferrars, Chapter 18

Edward teases Marianne by contrasting his prosaic view of the countryside with her romantic one. His comparison reveals his practical, reserved nature while highlighting her excessively dramatic responses to natural beauty.


Had Edward been intentionally deceiving her? Had he feigned a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement to Lucy an engagement of the heart? No; whatever it might once have been, she could not believe it such at present. His affection was all her own. ... If her case were pitiable, his was hopeless.

Narrator, Chapter 23

Through free, indirect discourse, the narrator reveals Elinor's perplexed state of mind after Lucy's revelation that she and Edward are engaged. Unable to imagine that Edward would deliberately hurt or mislead her, Elinor decides that Edward "injured himself" more than her by entering into a secret engagement at a young age.


My esteem for your whole family is very sincere; but if I have been so unfortunate as to give rise to a belief of more than I felt, or meant to express, I shall reproach myself for not having been more guarded in my professions of that esteem. ... My affections have been long engaged elsewhere.

John Willoughby, Chapter 29

Willoughby's letter, which readers later learn was dictated by his fiancée, is so cold in its language and so unlike him in its sentiment that it breaks Marianne's heart and jeopardizes her health. However, the letter also exposes Marianne's initial assumptions about Willoughby as naïve and premature.


At her time of life, any thing of an illness destroys the bloom forever! Hers has been a very short one! She was as handsome a girl last September, as any I ever saw .... I question whether Marianne now, will marry a man worth more than five or six hundred a year.

John Dashwood, Chapter 33

John's visit to London reminds Elinor that her half-brother views everything and everyone through a lens of wealth or the lack of it. Here he despairs of Marianne, still only a teen, finding a suitable match. For him female beauty and desirability are a type of currency. (Women of the time were seldom in possession of much money of their own.) Unfortunately Marianne's worth has been diminished by her misery over Willoughby's betrayal.


Oh! Elinor ... you have made me hate myself forever.—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!

Marianne Dashwood, Chapter 37

These lines mark a shift in Marianne's behavior. She grasps that she has been selfish and biased in her assessment of Elinor's feelings as Elinor explains how her restrained conduct toward Lucy spared Edward pain. Yet Marianne expresses her regret in her usual dramatic way.


The cruelty, the impolitic cruelty ... of dividing, or attempting to divide, two young people long attached to each other, is terrible.—Mrs. Ferrars does not know what she may be doing—what she may drive her son to.

Colonel Brandon, Chapter 39

Colonel Brandon expresses his dismay at Mrs. Ferrars's threat to disinherit Edward if he honors his pledge to Lucy. He understands this "cruelty" because he suffered it himself when his cousin Eliza was forced to marry someone else for money. Because of his suffering and Eliza's subsequent ruination, he also understands its potential ramifications. The strength of his language reveals his similarity to Marianne: both feel deeply and are capable of impassioned words, but Brandon has learned to discipline his feelings under most circumstances.


To attach myself to your sister ... was not a thing to be thought of;—and with a meanness, selfishness, cruelty—which no indignant, no contemptuous look ... can ever reprobate too much ... , I did not know the extent of the injury I meditated, because I did not then know what it was to love.

John Willoughby, Chapter 44

Willoughby's confession to Elinor reveals him to be a more complex character than he first seems. He admits to his caddish behavior, expresses genuine remorse, and suffers because of his actions. Elinor is moved to some pity, but she still holds him responsible for Marianne's heartbreak. There is also a current of self-pity that flows beneath Willoughby's words, making it apparent that he still remains focused on his own desires and feelings.


Whenever I looked towards the past, I saw some duty neglected, or some failing indulged. Everybody seemed injured by me. The ... unceasing kindness of Mrs. Jennings, I had repaid with ungrateful contempt. ... Your example was before me; but to what avail?

Marianne Dashwood, Chapter 46

Marianne realizes the negative behaviors that too much sensibility caused her to commit and resolves to Elinor to balance her excitable nature with the sense that Elinor often practices. These lines support the theme that head and heart both matter to happiness and kind behavior.


[Elinor] now found, that ... she had always admitted a hope, while Edward remained single, that something would occur to prevent his marrying Lucy. ... But he was married now, and she condemned her heart for the lurking flattery, which so much heightened the pain of the intelligence.

Narrator, Chapter 48

The narrator reveals that Elinor is not as composed or rational as she has presented herself to be. Elinor, like Marianne, sometimes lets her heart lead. Her grief when she hears of Lucy's marriage, expressed in these lines, sets up the joyful surprise of Edward's freedom to propose to Elinor.

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