Wednesday, 15 March 2017


The structure of Sense and Sensibility shows how carefully Jane Austen planned her fiction. Having devised the 'offstage' events, she structured the rest in a simple, chronological way. She needed to keep readers (and the heroines) in the dark about the past histories of Willoughby and Brandon. 

Jane Austen alternates between the sisters, making each the centre of attention for a few chapters at a time. So, as soon as Willoughby has left Devon, causing distress to Marianne (Chapter 15), Edward arrives (Chapter 16), only to cause parallel distress to Elinor.

In Devon, Lucy Steele puts Elinor's love for Edward under great stress. But when the scene moves to London, Marianne's suffering at the hands of Willoughby occupies our attention. Lucy does not reappear until this topic has been exhausted.

Would-be matchmaker Mrs. Jennings sees Elinor and Colonel Brandon conversing privately. She overhears only part of their conversation and sees Elinor change colour. She is convinced the two are going to marry. By keeping the angle of vision with Mrs. Jennings, Jane Austen creates a little gratuitous suspense and also makes fun of the fate of those who meddle.

On the next page, Jane Austen says: 'What had really passed between them was...' and explains that Brandon asked Elinor to let Edward know he could offer him the living of Delaford. The joke is extended in Chapter 40, where Mrs. Jennings and Elinor talk at cross purposes.