Romance is elusive in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Romance and realism are in perpetual conflict in the novel. Individuals who have an ideal perception of love view romance as being of more importance than wealth and material possessions. On the other side, individuals who have a realistic perception of life, view material possessions and wealth as being of more importance than romance. In the novel, individuals with the two contrasting perceptions get romantically involved. The result of the romantic involvement of the two individuals with different perceptions about life is tragic. The paper looks at the conflict that arises when individuals who have an ideal perception of romance and those who have a realistic perception of life get romantically involved.
A conflict between romanticism and realism is exemplified in the relationship between Marianne Dashwood and John Willoughby. Marianne loves John Willoughby, and Willoughby loves Marianne (Austen 34). However, even though John Willoughby loves Marianne, his quest for wealth and power makes it impossible for their love to bear fruit. The reality of the matter is that money and wealth are important in the society that Willoughby lives to the extent that it is impossible to prioritize romance over wealth and material gain. A person's stature in society is pegged on their wealth and affluence in Willoughbys times. For a person to be treated with respect and dignity, he has to be high ranking in society with regard to material possessions. Individuals who are poor are treated with disrespect in society. Given that Willoughby has squandered his fortune, he purposes to get married to Miss Grey even though in his heart, he loves Marianne. Willoughby sees his marriage to Miss Grey as one that would guarantee him a better living. Suffice is to say that Willoughby is a realist. Willoughby rebuffs Marianne when she travels to London with his Elinor and Mrs. Jennings with the hope that she will rekindle her love with Willoughby. Willoughby rebuffs Marianne because he is romantically engaged to a wealthy woman and he doesn't want the woman to know about his involvement with Marianne. Willoughby goes to the extent of writing a letter to Marianne denying that ever loved her so that Marianne may not interfere with his romantic involvement with the wealthy woman (Trollope and Austen 25). The wealthy woman that Willoughby is romantically involved with is Miss Grey, an heiress to a large fortune. Marianne has an ideal perception of love. According to Marianne, romance and love are the most important things in life. According to Marianne, romance is of more value than wealth and material possessions. Marianne is attracted to Willoughby, and she is expressive of her affection. Marianne is attracted to Willoughby because of his youth, handsome looks and cultural sensibilities. When Willoughby suddenly announces his departure to London, Marianne becomes love sick because she has gotten used to the former's company and charm. Willoughby's departure to London leaves Marianne miserable. After Marianne is treated with disregard by Willoughby, she falls ill. It is not far-fetched to state that Marianne was deeply hurt by the cold treatment that she received from Willoughby because she has an ideal perception of love and romance. Marianne expected Willoughby to be glad when he saw her in London. Marianne also expected Willoughby to treat her with love and kindness given that the two were in good terms before Willoughby left for London. The truth of the matter is that Willoughby viewed Marianne as a person who would destroy his romantic involvement with Miss Gray. Willoughby is a schemer; he knows that when he gets married to the wealthy heiress, he will automatically become wealthy. Marianne on the other side lives in a utopia where romance is more important than wealth. On realizing that Marianne is ill because of the manner in which he treated her, Willoughby visits Marianne and explains his misconduct revealing that he loves Marianne but he views material possessions to be of more importance than romance (Lee 2).
A conflict between romanticism and realism exists in the relationship between Lucy Steele and Edward Ferrars. Lucy is of the view that her relationship with Edward Ferrars will elevate her social standing and get her out of poverty; she does not truly love Edward Ferrars. Edward Ferrars on the other side has affection for Lucy and truly loves her (Nollen 36). Lucy sees her involvement with Edward Ferrars as a means to riches and financial freedom. Lucy is a realist who exhibits no infatuation for Edward Ferrars. Lucy is scheming and manipulative. She is willing to do anything to achieve her goals. Edward Ferrars is romantically attracted to Lucy because of her good looks; she is physically attractive. Edward Ferrars has an idealistic perception of romance; he truly loves Lucy, and he thinks that Lucy truly loves him. Edward Ferrars does not see the manipulative and cunning side of Lucy. Edward Ferrars's family is against the romantic involvement of Edward and Lucy. Edwards family members are of the opinion that Lucy is only interested in Edward because of his wealth. Given that Edward and Lucy have different perceptions about love, a conflict between romanticism and realism is inevitable in their relationship (Tauchert 15).
In conclusion, romanticism and realism are in perpetual conflict in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Reality dictates to individuals of a low social standing that material possessions and wealth are or more importance than romance. On the other side, individuals who are affluent view romance as of more importance than wealth because they do not know tribulations that people who are not affluent go through. Also, affluent individuals do not value wealth and material possessions to be of more importance because they are in possession of wealth and material possessions.
Austen, Jane. The Novels of Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility. London: Oxford Univ. Pr, 1983. Print.
Lee, Ang, Emma Thompson, Lindsay Doran, Michael Coulter, James Schamus, Laurie Borg, Sydney Pollack, Patrick Doyle, Tim Squyres, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, James Fleet, Harriet Walter, Gemma Jones, Elizabeth Spriggs, Robert Hardy, Greg Wise, Imelda Staunton, Imogen Stubbs, Hugh Laurie, and Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility. , 1999.
Nollen, Elizabeth. "Ann Radcliffe's "a Sicilian Romance": A New Source for Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility"." English Language Notes. (1984): 30-37. Print.
Tauchert, Ashley. Romancing Jane Austen: Narrative, Realism, and the Possibility of a Happy Ending. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hants: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Internet resource.
Trollope, Joanna, and Jane Austen. Sense & Sensibility. , 2014. Print.
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