Tag Archives: Marianne Dashwood

Sense And Sensibility Character Review: Mrs. Jennings

*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.

Every author, regardless of genre, relies on a stable of character tropes when creating the characters that inhabit the world of their stories. One of the familiar character tropes that readers of Jane Austen will recognize is the character that induces eye rolling and internal groaning. This character for the most part, is female, older and though she has good intentions, sometimes runs her mouth off without thinking.

In Sense And Sensibility, this character is Mrs. Jennings. Mrs. Jennings is a wealthy widow who is distantly related via marriage to the novel’s heroines, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. With both of her daughters married, Mrs. Jennings is more than happy to play matchmaker for Elinor and Marianne. The problem is that her advice/attention is unwanted by the girls. Mrs. Jennings also lacks the self awareness that she sometimes has, well, foot in mouth disease.

To sum it up: While Mrs. Jennings is peripheral character, she in her own way, contributes to the narrative. As writers, we have to remember that every character plays a role in the narrative, whether they are central to the plot or they come and go as needed. The peripheral characters may not be front and center, but they still as important as the main characters. We cannot forget them or marginalize them, for if we do that, the story loses some it’s humanity and it’s color. That humanity and color is vital to the narrative, otherwise it will be just another story with another set of characters.

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Sense and Sensibility Character Review: John and Fanny Dashwood

*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.

We need money to survive, that is a fact of life. Money buys us a roof over our heads, fresh food and clean clothing. But money also has a corrupting influence. It can blind us to the suffering of others and can make us forget that the person next to us is a human being.

If nothing can be said about Jane Austen, one can say that she used her characters to make statements about the world she lived in (as every writer does). John and Fanny Dashwood are the half-brother and sister-in-law to Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, the heroines of Sense And Sensibility. John has the luck of the draw, he is the first-born son and automatically inherits Norland, the Dashwood family estate upon the death of his father. That means that his stepmother and half sisters will have to find another place to call home.

Fanny is a corrupting influence on her husband. While John is more than ready to give his sisters and stepmother the income promised to them in his father’s will, Fanny convinces him to reduce the amount drastically. She is also an out-and-out snob, making it clear to Mrs. Dashwood early in the novel that the budding romance between Elinor and her brother Edward will have to be squashed. If Sense And Sensibility has a villain, these two are it.

To sum it up: When a writer wishes to make a statement, they have one of two choices. They can hit the reader over the head, which might be effective, but it also might not be. Or, the writer could find a way to weave their statement into the narrative and characters,  making the statement not only more effective and memorable in the minds of the readers.

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Sense And Sensibility Character Review: John Willoughby

*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.

For romantic love to last what will hopefully be a lifetime, it requires three key ingredients: commitment, compromise and the willingness to stand by your significant other through good times and bad. Unfortunately, some people are unwilling or unable to do what is stated above to make love last. John Willoughby is one of these people.

The reader is introduced to Mr. Willoughby in the most romantic way possible: he rescues one of the novel’s heroines, Marianne Dashwood. Marianne falls and twists her ankle during a rainstorm. He sweeps her off her feet, both literally and figuratively. The heir to a local estate, he is handsome, charming and outgoing. It look like Mr. Willoughby and Marianne are headed for wedded bliss, if only he would propose. Then he disappears without much of an explanation and it all goes south from there.

Like all of Austen’s male baddies, Mr. Willoughby is all charm with nothing beneath the charm. His smooth manners and easy conversations conceal a man whose motives are cold and selfish. He only cares for his own desires and does not care for the feelings of someone else.

To sum it up: Willoughby is a jerk, to say the least. However, the reader/audience member does not know that initially. That is the fun of reading and where the writer’s work truly begins. It’s like a magic act where the magician is telling the audience to look at their left hand, but the real trick is in their right hand.

A complete 180 switch for a character is never easy, especially when the audience/reader thinks that they have an idea of who this person is. The writer must create such a convincing character, that when this 180 switch occurs, it creates a ripple effect that completely changes the rest of the narrative and how this character is viewed. Without that complete convincing of knowing who this character is, the reveal will lose its power and the reader will not be compelled to continue with the story.

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Sense and Sensibility Character Review: Colonel Brandon

*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.

We all deal with grief and heartbreak in different ways. Some of us grieve and then move on with our lives. Others go about our business and try to not let the past get in the way of our present.  When the reader/audience meets Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, he introduced as the good friend of the cousin who is renting a small cottage on his property to the newly widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters. He is all manners and amiability, holding his metaphorical cards to the chest.  Marianne Dashwood, Mrs. Dashwood’s 17-year-old daughter sees nothing but an old man who is boring and has resigned from life.

But Colonel Brandon is a different man from the readers initially meet. The younger son of wealthy landowner, in his youth, he was in love with Eliza, his father’s ward. She was equally in love with him and ready to run away with him, but they were discovered and stopped. Sent away by his father, Colonel Brandon learns that Eliza, who is an heiress was forced to marry his older brother. It was not a love match, to say the least.

A few years later, Colonel Brandon discovers that Eliza is now divorced from his older brother and is dying in a poorhouse. Forced to earn her bread by selling her body, Eliza has a young daughter. Though he cannot save Eliza, Colonel Brandon takes in Eliza’s daughter, raising her as his ward.

Though it is not immediately obvious to the reader (nor to Marianne, who only realizes who her heart belongs to at the end of the book), Colonel Brandon, though appearing to be outwardly boring, is very much the ideal life partner. He is loving, loyal, generous, considerate and the knight in shining armor that Marianne thinks she has in John Willoughby (who will be discussed in two weeks).

To sum it up: In creating Colonel Brandon, Jane Austen created a character who surprised the audience/reader. When a writer can surprise the audience and totally change the way the character or the narrative is looked at, then they have done their job. It is just a question of how to weave the surprise into the existing narrative and character arc.

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RIP Alan Rickman

*Warning: the post contains minor spoilers about the narrative and characters in Sense and Sensibility. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or have watched any of the adaptations. 

Two years ago today, the world lost of one this era’s greatest actors: Alan Rickman.

My favorite Alan Rickman performance will always be Colonel Brandon in 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Playing opposite Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood, his character (as it was faithfully adapted from the novel of the same name by Jane Austen), was a man who held the proverbial cards to his chest. When the audience meets Colonel Brandon in the film, he introduced as the good friend of the cousin who is renting a small cottage on his property to the newly widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters. A bachelor in his mid 30’s,  he is amiable and a gentleman, but his character and his past are a mystery at that juncture in the narrative.

Over the course of the story, Colonel Brandon is revealed to be a man whose past is filled with grief and heartbreak. Rickman played the part with nuance and sensitivity, elevating the character to a new level, reminding Janeites why Colonel Brandon is one of the favorite leading men within the Jane Austen universe. Rickman himself became a fan favorite, gaining new fans and a new level of respect from the Janeite fan base.

RIP Sir. While your physical remains are gone, your spirit and your body of work will live on forever.

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Sense and Sensibility Character Review: Marianne Dashwood

*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.

When we are young, some of us are so certain in our beliefs that it takes an act of G-d to show us otherwise. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne Dashwood is only sixteen when the book starts. She has just lost her father and is soon to lose her home to her older half-brother and his wife. She is romantic, dreamy-eyed and so certain of everything she is thinking and feeling. That will soon change.

Forced to relocate to a new and smaller home with her mother and sisters, Marianne meets two different men: the, young, dashing and romantic Mr. Willoughby and the seemingly old, austere and silent Colonel Brandon. Marianne’s meet cute with Mr. Willoughby is straight out of a fairy tale: after twisting her ankle on the wet grass, Mr. Willoughby carries Marianne home. It looks like Marianne may have found her own version of Prince Charming, but Mr. Willoughby is not all he seems to be.

Colonel Brandon, on the other hand, is not young, dashing or romantic. He is 35 (which always seems old when your sixteen), according Marianne probably wears flannel waist coats and does not match the romantic fantasies that have colored her view of the world. When Mr. Willoughby break’s Marianne’s heart by abruptly disappearing without an explanation, this sets on her a path to realize that maybe the beliefs she once held near and dear were not always correct.

To sum it up: Sometimes, regardless of our age, we have to learn things the hard way. There is no other way to learn. But, on the other hand, when we are young and forced to learn the hard way, it’s calling growing up. And growing up is never easy. As writers, when we are creating characters in the mold of Marianne Dashwood, I believe that we have to have to end in mind. When we are sending this character on this journey, what will be the end result? Will they be wiser, smarter, more flexible, bitter, angry, etc.?  The journey is taxing on both the writer and the character. But, if done right, the reader will remember the learning experience and perhaps come to learn a bit more about life along the way.

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Sense And Sensibility Character Review: Elinor Dashwood

*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.

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Poldark Character Review: Dr. Dwight Enys

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Poldark, both the books and the television series. Read at your own risk.

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 Winston Graham’s series of novels, Poldark and the subsequent television series to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

In the previous posts, I wrote about the title character, Ross Poldark , his wife, Demelza, Ross’s cousin, Francis, Francis’s wife, Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s second husband, George Warleggan and Ross’s cousin, Verity Blamey. Today’s post will focus on Ross’s best friend, Dr. Dwight Enys.

In any good story, the hero or heroine needs another character to create an emotional balance.  It could be a romantic partner or it could be a close friend. In the world of Poldark, the character of Dr. Dwight Enys creates that balance. Dwight is the Oscar to Ross’s Felix. A doctor by profession, he could have easily chosen to practice among the well heeled ton of London or Bath. Instead he chose to live and work in Cornwall, an area where the majority of the residents are far from wealthy. Where Ross is temperamental and impulsive,  Dwight is practical and level headed. A generous soul, Dwight is known to treat patients for free who unable to pay. But no one is perfect, not even Dwight.

His affair with a miners wife that ended tragically  in both book 2 and series 1 allowed the specter of guilt and doubt to enter his life. That guilt and doubt plagued him until he met Caroline Penvenen, the heiress who he would later marry. Torn between his job and his heart in book 4 and series 2, Dwight nearly walks away from Caroline.

 

The thing that strikes me about Dwight is that in a universe where characters are temperamental, emotional and dramatic, Dwight is the opposite. He creates a balance that allows the characters on the other side of the emotional spectrum to be out there emotionally while he remains calm and collected.

To sum it up: There has to be a balance on the emotional spectrum when it comes to characters. For every Marianne Dashwood, there has to be an Elinor Dashwood. While one character rages on and explodes, the other is sitting there quietly, responding with a cool and level head. In the world of Poldark, Ross is Marianne and Dwight is Elinor. Without that contrast, the reader may find the characters to be monotone, predictable and the book unreadable. The worst thing a writer wants to hear is the p word. It has sounded the death knell for the many books that have been returned to the library or the bookstore unfinished and un-liked.

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The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love Book Review

Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first mature completed novel and her first published novel. Published in 1811, Sense and Sensibility is the story of the Dashwood Sisters. Elinor is practical and level-headed. Marianne is romantic and spontaneous. The death of their father and the loss of their home to their older half-brother forces the sisters into a new life and new relationships.

In 2006, author Rosie Rushton added her name to the long list of writers who have attempted to re-write Austen’s novels. In The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love, The Dashwood Sisters- practical Ellie, romantic Abby and tomboy Georgie have been hit by a one-two punch. First their parents divorce and their father marries a woman that neither his daughters or his ex-wife care for. Then their father dies, revealing not only how heavily in debt he was, but also that the house that the Dashwoods have called home for generations, now belongs to the new Mrs. Dashwood.

Moving from Sussex to Norfolk is a big change for everyone. Abby is mourning the social life she left behind. Ellie has feelings for Blake, her stepmother’s nephew who has a girlfriend. Georgie is beginning to see a different reaction from the boys around her. The fate of these girls has forever changed, but how will it change them?

The problem with Austen re-boots is that some writers are able to keep Austen’s voice and characters while putting a new spin on an old favorite. Ms. Rushton is not one of them. While she was able to keep the characterizations and the general narrative intact, she lost the ramped up tension that keeps the reader engaged in Sense And Sensibility.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Scents and Sensibility (2011) Vs From Prada to Nada (2011)

2011 gave us two very different modern reboots of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Both very interesting movies, trying to put Sense and Sensibility in a different light.

Scents and Sensibility (2011)

Cast: Elinor Dashwood (Ashley Williams) and Marianne Dashwood (Marla Sokoloff)

  • Pro’s: It is very faithful to the novel, with the exception of a few modern changes.
  • Con’s: It screams Hallmark movie, which is fine if you enjoy that type of movie. It’s just a little bland for my taste.

From Prada to Nada (2011)

Cast: Nora Dominguez (Camille Belle) and Mary Dominguez (Alexa PenaVega)

  • Pro’s: This adaptation is very close to the book, again with some modern changes. I also like that there is an ethnic, multi-lingual flavor to this movie.
  • Con’s: None.

And the winner is…. From Prada to Nada. But that is my opinion. Maybe you prefer Scents and Sensibility.

 

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