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  • P e n g u i n R e a d e r s F a c t s h e e t s l e v e l


    Sense and Sensibility

    S U M M A R Y

    ane Austen is one of the literary giants of the 19thcentury. Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811,was Austens first novel and is an acknowledged

    masterpiece. Like all her novels, its subject matter isromantic; it is written with a sharp wit and keenlyobservant eye. It has recently been made into an Oscar-winning film starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet.

    All Jane Austens novels are about a young womansprogress towards marriage, and Sense and Sensibility isno exception. The book tells the story of two pretty, well-bred sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Their fatherdies, leaving them with little money, and the family has tomove to a smaller house in a different part of the country.Elinor and Marianne are very different in temperament.The elder sister, Elinor, is sensible and self controlled.Marianne, emotional and impulsive, is much moreromantic. Marianne falls in love with Willoughby, agoodlooking and exciting young man, and Elinor falls inlove with the ordinary but pleasant Edward Ferrars, hersister-in-laws brother. However, these romances run farfrom smoothly, and both girls experience disappointmentin love. All ends well, of course, but with the sting in thetail that readers have learned to expect from Jane Austen.

    Jane Austen, one of Englands greatest novelists, wasborn in 1775 in the Hampshire countryside; she had sixbrothers and sisters. Her father, George Austen, was aclergyman; the family was middle class and comfortablyoff. Austen started writing as a young teenager. Even atthat age her works were incisive and elegantly expressed.

    Jane Austens family was lively and affectionate. Likemost country people of that time, the family lived a fairlyrestricted social life, since travel was difficult. Austenreceived several proposals of marriage. However, shenever married, and lived an uneventful life, happy toremain in the family home. We know that she wrote hernovels at her desk in the drawing room, with her familyaround her. She was an attractive, lively and witty youngwoman, much loved and respected by family and friends.The whole family recognized her genius. Her brotherwrote: In person she was very attractive; her figure wasrather tall and slender ..... She was a clear brunette with arich colour.

    Austen wrote six major novels: Sense and Sensibility(1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814)and Emma (1816) were published during her lifetime;Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published in 1818after her death. The books were popular. Highly placedpublic figures such as the Prince Regent (the heir to thethrone) admired her novels greatly. The Prince kept a setof her novels in each of his homes.

    As many geniuses did, Jane Austen died relativelyyoung. She developed Addisons disease and died in1817 in Winchester, at the age of 42.

    Jane Austens works are satirical comedies about themiddle and upper-middle classes. The plots are variationson a standard theme: a young womans courtship andeventual marriage. By the end of every one of Austensnovels the heroine has found a husband. The worldAusten describes is not a large one; she describes smallsocial groups in provincial environments. In one letterAusten compares herself to a painter of miniatures: Thelittle bit of Ivory on which I work with so fine a brush .....But within this narrow focus Austen explores universalthemes: money and its effect on the human psyche;romance and its illusions and the necessary progressiontowards more realistic relationships, as the courtingcouples discover each others true natures. For a youngwoman of this period, marriage was the surest route toindependence and freedom. Marriage to a wealthy man ofgood birth was the most desirable position for a woman.Unmarried women living in their parents house (as JaneAusten was) were considered to be second-class citizens.

    Austen was a very careful writer and revised her novelsmany times. She writes clearly and incisively, with greatwit. Few writers combine this, as she does, with needle-sharp observation of human behaviour. The stories flowand are easy to read; she needs only a few words to bringthe characters to life. Her dialogue is unequalled.

    Sense and Sensibility is, above all, a study of character.As the title suggests, one sister, Elinor, embodies sense








    A B O U T J A N E A U S T E N



    T e a c h e rs n o t e s

    B A C K G R O U N D A N D T H E M E S

    S E N S E & S E N S I B I L I T Y : T H E M E S

    by Jane Austen

    Pearson Education 2000

  • P e n g u i n R e a d e r s F a c t s h e e t sl e v e l


    - self-control, careful thought, the ability to acceptgracefully the trials of life. The other sister, Marianne,embodies sensibility - sensibility here has the old-fashioned meaning of the capacity for feeling, often toomuch.

    In Austens novel, sense triumphs over sensibility.There is a symmetry in the story. Both sisters fall in loveand both are disappointed in love. But one bears herdisappointment bravely, the other is hysterical and self-absorbed. Whom do we admire? Elinor, of course, who,although she is loving and sensitive, is also self-contained. In this respect, Elinor is typical of Austensheroines, and the type of woman whom Jane Austen mostadmired.

    Another theme that weaves through the novel is money,the need for it, and its effect on people. Austen acceptsthat a certain amount of money is necessary forhappiness and the respect of ones peers. But she isscathing in her condemnation of greed and meanness.Her portraits of John and Fanny Dashwood and MrsFerrars (Fannys mother) are savagely witty; one does notforget them.

    The following teacher-led activities cover the samesections of text as the exercises at the back of the reader,and supplement those exercises. For supplementaryexercises covering shorter sections of the book, see thephotocopiable Students Activities pages of this Factsheet.These are primarily for use with class readers but, with theexception of discussion and pair/groupwork questions,can also be used by students working alone in a self-access centre.

    ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING THE BOOK1 Teach the word connection. Give students these

    definitions of sense and sensibility:Sense: intelligence about how you live your life. Sensibility: having strong feelings, often feeling toomuch.

    In small groups students look at the front cover of thebook and discuss these questions:

    (a) What is the connection between the title and thepictures, do you think?

    (b) What is the story about, do you think?


    Chapters 1-3

    In pairs, students answer these questions.

    (a) Why do you think Willoughby is going back toLondon?

    (b) Do you think he is serious about Elinor?(c) What do you think will happen between them?

    Chapters 4-6 1 In pairs, students discuss the following questions:

    (a) Who do you prefer, Elinor or Marianne? Givereasons for your opinion.

    (b) Which sister are you most like? Say why.

    (c) Which sister do you think is more modern? Givereasons for your opinion.

    2 Ask students to look up the noun quality in theirdictionaries. Then, in pairs, students write down one ortwo qualities that they feel the following charactershave:

    Lucy Steele, Mrs Ferrars, John Dashwood, ColonelBrandon, Mrs Jennings

    For each quality, they must find sentences in thechapter that prove their point. For example, for MrsJennings, one could write the following:

    kind . . . she tried to do many kind things for Marianneall day. (p20)

    Chapter 7 In groups of four, students take it in turns to play eitherEdward or Willoughby. The group asks questions abouttheir behaviour and Edward and Willoughby mustanswer the questions.

    ACTIVITIES AFTER READING THE BOOK1 Teach the phrase: the moral of the story (what can be

    learnt from the story). In small groups, students writedown what they think is the moral of the story. Theyshould write one to four sentences. Each group thenreads out their sentences, and the class votes for thebest moral. Tell students that they can have morethan one moral.

    Example: The moral of the story is that people shouldnot marry for money.

    2 Ask students to look up behave and deserve in theirdictionaries. Then, in pairs, they discuss this question:(a) In what ways does Marianne behave stupidly in

    this book?

    (b) Do you think she deserved what happened toher? Say why/why not.

    It will be useful for your students to know the following new words.They are practised in the Before You Read sections of exercises atthe back of the book. (Definitions are based on those in the LongmanActive Study Dictionary.)Chapters 1-3advise (v) to tell somebody what you think they should doanxious (adj) worriedcarriage (n) a vehicle that is pulled by horsesencourage (v) to tell somebody that they are doing the right thing sothat they will continueengaged (adj) when you have promised to marry someonegentleman (n) a kind man from a good familysensibility (n) someones strong feelingsservant (n) a person who works for someone in their houseChapters 4-6priest (n) someone who works for a churchChapter 7fever (n) a very high body temperature


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    F a c t s h e e t s e r i e s d e v e l o p e d b y L o u i s e J a m e s Pearson E