*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
Life sometimes hands us lemons. We have two choices when we receive the figurative lemon. We can either get emotional or we can be rational and figure out what needs to be done in spite of receiving that lemon. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor Dashwood is given a lemon by life.
Born into a wealthy, landowning family, her world is uprooted when her father dies. Her older half-brother, who was their father’s only son and heir takes what is rightfully his. That means that Elinor, her sisters and her now widowed mother must find another place to live. On top of that, her sister-in-law convinces her husband the reduce the income left to the girls and their mother by her late father.
Forced out of the only home they have ever known, Elinor faces her new reality with aplomb, while her mother and sisters are not quite ready to face the fact that their lives are about to change. She also falls for Edward Ferrars, the younger brother of her sister-in-law. Edward seems to respond with equal affection, but the lemon that life has thrown her way is also giving her mixed signals about Edward.
However, there is a downside to the rationality and calm when dealing with the lemon. Human beings are emotional creatures, when we are unable to let out our feelings, especially when dealing with stress or loss, it can take a toll on us.
To sum it up: On the surface, Elinor is a vision of serenity and doing what needs to be done. But underneath that calm are emotions that have been pushed aside and at some point, must be released. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor represents duty, thinking rationally and basically just doing what needs to be done. Austen asked the question, through Elinor, is thinking rationally and using logic the best way to deal with a tough situation? Or is it better to be emotional and wear your heart on your sleeve like Elinor’s younger sister Marianne (who shall be discussed next week)?
Good writing makes a reader think. It makes them ask questions, not just about the narrative and character choices the writer made, but also about how those questions can be applied to a larger canvas. Through those questions, the reader becomes involved with the story and will not put the book down until the last page has been read.