Essay on Social Class in Sense and Sensibility

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Social Class in Sense and Sensibility

In her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen brought to life the struggles and instability of the English hierarchy in the early 19th century. Through the heartaches and happiness shared by Elinor Dashwood, who represented sense and her sister Marianne, who stood for sensibility, Austen tells a story of sisters who plummet from the upper class to the lower crust of society and the characters that surround them. Austen juxtaposes the upper and lower classes in English society to give the reader a full understanding of the motivation to be a part of the upper class and the sacrifices one will give up to achieve such status. Austen exposes the corruptness of society, the significance
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Austen places many of her characters on the margins of the land gentry so as to illuminate the constant threat of the possibility of ejection from fashionable gentry society due to lack of money and social connections. Everyone fits neatly into minuscule pigeonholes in the incredibly stratified, hierarchical class system. Her characters are all painfully, obsessively aware of their individual positions in society, and all of their relationships are marked distinctly by their varying amounts of power within the social system. Austen’s displays this in her description of Willoughby as “not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted, and rather selfish, is to be ill-disposed: but he was, in general, well respected; for he conducted himself with propriety in the discharge of his ordinary duties.” Her portrayal of Willoughby parallels how "cold hearted and rather selfish" society's requirements are and all one must do is conduct oneself "with propriety" in everyday life in order to gain respect, regardless of one's personal qualities. This is further demonstrated when Willoughby leaves Marianne for London and Sophia Grey. Willoughby speaks, “to avoid a comparative poverty, which her affection and her society would have deprived of all its horrors, I have, by raising myself to affluence, lost everything that could make it a blessing.” Despite his love for Marianne, he gives it
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