Essay on Concealment and Progression in the form of letters

Submitted By bella2489
Words: 1192
Pages: 5

Concealment and Progression in the Form of Letters

Sense and Sensibility follows the lives of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood and how their romantic attachments begin in secrecy and only later become known publically to the reader. The novel’s crucial turns in plot occur during these moments of revelation. Jane Austen sets the letters in her work against the voice of the narrator, and in this style, she exposes the self-expression of personality in characters by having the characters allow their voices to be heard, rather than generalizations made by the narrator, and helps advance the novel’s storyline by demonstrating the secrecy found in intimate relationships. Rather than pure dialogue between characters and the perspective of the narrator, the letters allow for communication of the inner thoughts of the individuals. Jane Austen’s use of short letters reveals the true personality of certain characters in the novel, while still revealing the progression in the plot, because it allows for the characters to have a chance to “speak.” Instead of information provided by the narrator, the letters show the actual thoughts of the characters at an exact moment. Willoughby’s notorious letter to Marianne is a prime example:
“MY DEAR MADAM I have just had the honour of receiving your letter, for which I beg to return my sincere acknowledgements. I am much concerned to find there was anything in my behavior last night …It is with great regret that I obey your commands of returning the letters, with which I have been honoured from you, and the lock of hair, which you so obligingly bestowed on me. I am, dear Madam, Your most obedient humble Servant, JOHN WILLOUGHBY.” (123)
The very stiff opening, “My dear Madam,” is especially rebarbative given Marianne’s youth and her characteristic informality. The phrase, again repeated at the end of the letter, makes it seem as if the letter was between two complete strangers. It is not until the near end of the novel that we discover, during Willoughby’s long talk with Elinor, that not he but his fiancée Miss Grey was the author of the heartless letter. He was, he declares, merely the amanuensis, while the “’original was all her own—her own happy thoughts and gentle diction’” (225). Willoughby’s disavowal of authorship makes his sending the letter worse. Although not directly written by Willoughby, he was with Miss Grey and agreed with her thoughts because he was so focused on monetary gain that he had to do whatever she said. Also, Willoughby’s blaming Miss Grey for his odious letter is just another one of his habitual falsehoods. The secrecy of the relationship between Willoughby and Miss Grey almost tears Marianne apart. The plot is pushed forward as after Marianne’s acknowledgement of the note and its contents, she descends into a very depressed state and becomes ill for a time. This leads to Colonel’s Brandon’s concern for her and eventually Marianne’s self-maturation. In contrast to the unemotional letter produced by “Willoughby,” Marianne expresses herself through her letters on her unrequited want of a relationship with her first love. Elinor remains paralyzed with silent doubt about the understanding between her sister and Willoughby until the action of the novel moves to England. The evening of their arrival, Elinor sees Marianne handing an envelope with a large “W” to the doorman. Another letter that is initially unseen, although later shown to readers, is one from Marianne, written alone, to Willoughby before she realized their courtship was over:
“How surprised you will be, Willoughby, on receiving this; and I think you will feel something more than surprise, when you know that I am in town. An opportunity of coming hither, though with Mrs. Jennings, was a temptation we could not resist. I wish you may receive this in time to come here to-night, but I will not depend on it. At any rate I shall expect you to-morrow. For