“She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions.”

Sense and Sensibility is a novel of duality as well as a social satire directed at the leisure class of Regency England. It is also the novel that many of us find “troubling.” The 2011 JASNA AGM will explore these three themes.

The time may come when Harry will regret that so large a sum was parted with
“The time may come when Harry will regret
that so large a sum was parted with.”

Duality permeates the novel and Jane Austen goes to great lengths to give us examples of the importance of balancing sense and sensibility without condemning either. She shows us the dangers of both hasty and examined judgments (of Willoughby, Brandon, Edward), portrays both devotion and disregard for one’s family (contrasting Marianne and Elinor with John, Fanny, and Mrs. Ferrars), and emphasizes the availability of “manly pursuits” for men while exposing women’s exclusion from them.

The moral complexities of class, money, and status illustrated in the novel make up the second theme of the conference. Jane Austen, through her characters and plots, questions the importance of these things to one’s happiness and well-being, but at the same time acknowledges that class, status, and money cannot be ignored in the society in which she and her characters lived. The “double standard” in regard to the legal rights of men vs. women is also explored (why did things end so badly for Eliza Brandon and not her husband?).

The final theme addresses the subjects in the novel that don’t make “sense” to the reader. Why is Marianne called Colonel Brandon’s reward? Why do Robert Ferrars and Lucy Steele end up with all of the money? Was Edward’s engagement to Lucy at so young an age legal? Why did Edward remain silent about his engagement to Lucy Steele even when Marianne asked him about the “ring with a plait of hair”? This theme could provide enough material for a separate conference!