Sense and Sensibility (Austen)

Discussion Questions 
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Sense and Sensibility:

1. Talk about the significance of Austen's title. What is the difference in meaning between the words "sense" and "sensibility" ... and which sister represents which word? Which word most represents your own approach to life and love? Which matters more...or are they both equally important in chosing a mate?

2. If you haven't already (in question #1), discuss the differences between the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne? Does Austen seem to favor one over the other?

3. Then, of course, there's Fanny Dashwood. How does she set about working on her husband after his father's death? Later, why does she make it clear that her brother Edward is not for Elinor? What does this suggest about the role of marriage for the upper classes?

4. Are Edward's attentions to Elinor fair and honorable? Why isn't he more open with her? Where does his honor lie—or where should it lie—with Lucy or Elinor? Do you admire him? Is he overly passive, honorable, loyal...or what?

5. What is Marianne's objection to Colonel Brandon? At times, do you find yourself sympathetic to Willoughby despite his abandonment of Marianne? Does Austen plant clues to Willoughby's character early on?

6. Talk about the other characters, as well: Sir John Middleton and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings; John Dashwood; Mrs. Ferrars; and Lucy Steele. How does Austen portray them? What about Lucy, for instance, makes her seem insincere, even when we first meet her?

7. Austen explores the function of marriage in Sense and Sensibility (actually, in most if not all of her novels). What social constraints are placed on choosing a mate and for what reasons? Do similar restraints exist today?

8. What gave a woman advantages in the marriage market in Austen's time? What placed her at a disadvantage? Same for men: what made free choice in marriage difficult for them, as well?

9. In the end, does sense triumph over sensibility? Or do you think Austen is sympathetic to both perspectives? What does each sister come to learn from the other?

10. Do you find the ending satisfactory for both sisters? Do you feel the two make the right choice for happiness? Why or why not?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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