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Sense and Sensibility Context

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Elinor and Colonel Brandon's discussion of "second attachments" is ironic in light of the eventual developments of the novel, for nearly every character except Elinor will ultimately fall in love more than once: Marianne has fallen for John Willoughby but will grow to love the more sensible and constant Colonel; the Colonel loves Marianne because, as we will soon learn, she reminds him of a woman he loved before; Edward Ferrars will marry Elinor only after a long engagement to Lucy Steele; John Willoughby professes his devotion to Marianne but then marries the wealthy Miss Sophia Grey; and even Mr. Henry Dashwood had two wives. In her discussion with the Colonel, Elinor seems to have no problem with second attachments, yet it is only she who marries the very first man she knows and loves.

When Marianne uses the term "attachment," she is referring to the deeply individualized, subjective feeling of falling in love, a term closely linked to the novel's notion of "sensibility." The counterpart of this term is "connection," which refers to a public bond that also entails an emotional "attachment," and is closely linked to the notion of "sense." Marianne's relationship with Willoughby is described as an "attachment," whereas, when Elinor speaks of her relationship to Edward, she points out the lack of any formal "connection" between them.

As in all of Austen's novels, marriage here is closely bound up with financial considerations. When reflecting on her sister's relationship with Willoughby, Elinor realizes that "marriage might not be immediately in [the pair's] power." This preoccupation with money in relation to marriage was highly warranted in Austen's day; marriage was for life, and insurance and social security did not exist; a couple needed a guaranteed source of income before they could settle down together. Jane Austen understood this problem personally. Her older sister Cassandra's engagement stretched on for several years because the marriage was postponed for lack of money.

Although Willoughby ultimately marries for money, he seems oblivious to all practical concerns in the early days of his relationship with Marianne. He offers her the gift of a horse even though, as Elinor reminds her sister, there is no way the Dashwoods can afford its upkeep. The horse is named Queen Mab, a reference to the fanciful "fairies' midwife" from Romeo and Juliet (Act I Scene 4), who supposedly rides her chariot across lovers'



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