View Full Version : Marianne's marriage to Brandon in context

03-05-2011, 09:34 AM
I've just finished 'Sense and Sensibility' and can't say I enjoyed it that much, I certainly preferred 'Pride and Prejudice'.

As with a lot of people I've spoken to about the ending, and as I've seen discussed in a couple of other threads on here, what I particularly didn't like was the way Marianne ended up marrying Colonel Brandon. I thought this was handled quite dismissively, almost just for the sake of social harmony, rather than from any deeply passionate feelings on her side. Earlier on in the book she believes him too old and doesn't see the possibility of his marrying again having been married before.

To what extent do you think Austen did this just for the sake of rounding off the novel to the satisfaction of those who would have been reading it when it was published? Would her audience at the time have demanded a 'happy' ending, even if it is arguable that she doesn't even give them that?

L.M. The Third
03-06-2011, 02:04 AM
Austen is very specific that Marianne “was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily to give her hand to another!” Certainly in this there was none of the passion that marked her love for Willoughby.

Your references to "rounding off the novel" and audiences demanding a happy ending bring to mind the American authoress Louisa May Alcott marrying off her character Jo in Little Women. There is evidence suggesting that Alcott probably intended her heroine to remain a literary spinster like herself, but yielded to the pressure of her audience, although perversely by marrying her heroine to (notice the parallel) an older, less passionate man who might temper her impetuous spirits.

However, Jane Austen is an authoress who finishes every novel with an impending marriage and there is no evidence she had any other plans for Marianne. What she would do with her female characters if she lived in a time of greater opportunity for women is a topic for another thread

But there is little doubt that Austen specifically represented Colonel Brandon as the polar opposite of Willoughby in character, personality, pursuits, courtship and relationship with Marianne. This is obviously on purpose, for all of Austen's dashing heroes turn out to be cads - John Willoughby, Frank Churchill, George Wicham. And Jane Austen is not Charlotte Bronte, she does not redeem them through long and painful processes, for how likely is that in reality? Cads are simply out of bounds for a true Austen heroine.

True, Mr. Darcy is often viewed as the perfect literary hero. But, in my opinion, much of the "sexiness" attached to Darcy is in the reader's mind, mostly because of media and film portrayals and preconceived (Byronic) notions of rich, taciturn men. The real reason Darcy is such a great literary hero is because of his willingness to overcome his faults and to make sacrifices because of his love for Elizabeth.

Austen has been criticized for being an author dwelling on women searching for husbands, but Austen is not the stuff of popular romance novels, because she knew that a marriage-relationship must be founded on regard and mutual honesty, not upon the flirtation and excitement of a dashing and dangerous courtship.

I hesitate to link to this article on the musical hero in Jane Austen, because it criticizes my all-time favorite Austen film adaptation. But... in the spirit of Austen-hero honesty, I provide it as having some thoughts that might prove interesting or helpful (if you remember that the film is still divine. ;) )

03-06-2011, 07:26 AM
I don't know whether Austen married Marianne to Brandon merely because of her public... If she had wanted to please her public, she had rather married Marianne to Willoughby instead, because that was love at first sight...

However, Willoughby was not the ideal personality, nor was Marianne, in fact. Willoughby was not only bad because of his excapades (although they are despicable), but he also reveals himself as an incredibly weak personage. At the end it is revealed that, had he pleaded with his aunt for a marriage with Marianne at the point where she was sending him away believing that Marianne was going to be cheated on as well, he would have obtained leave to marry her and his inheritence. Instead, he just did not do anyting and forgets Marianne with a clip of his fingers because of the money. He marries another he admits he dos not like (anymore after the season in London). That is quite sad... Wanting to throw away your life potentially (if your wife stays alive) just because she's got money? Had he been a strong person, he would have pleaded and there was an end to it. Edward Ferrars does not do what Willoughby does. Even worse: he stays with a, what turns out to be fickle, woman he doesn't love anymore because they have grown apart, just... because it is honorable. Fortunately for him, she leaves him, but that is a person you can depend on.

Marianne does say what she says about older men in the beginning, but she quickly comes round to the fact that Willoughby is nowhere to be seen when she is in need, indeed he has left her to rot in such a horrible and despicable manner, where the other guy shows himself a support and one you can count on. That speech about 'flanel waistcoats' (:lol:) is also part of the irony don't forget.

Like LM said, Marianne has to learn that first impressions are not everything and that sometimes a man who is not so passionate on the surface is a better buy than a man who comes across better.

Brandon is potentially a much better man to marry. He worships her, he is quiet, he is happy she has no money, he is so honorable as to care for the child of an old flame of his (it is not even his), even at the point where he is openly ignored by Marianne, he continues to try his best without leaving it altogether. He is just a man you can trust. His affection is not going to go away over night. Willoughby would potentially have married Marianne and maybe after a few years they would have grown apart because the only thing he is bent on is pleasure. Suffice to say that is not a sure catch, certainly not in days that women depended entirely on their hubands. For as loong as Brandon lives he will worship the ground Marianne walks on, will care for her mother gladly when she becomes elderly and things do not move so smoothly anymore, he will gladly take the youngest's education up etc. Whether Willoughby would have gone further than taking the girl to London for the season, is the question.

mona amon
03-06-2011, 11:29 AM
Ha, Kiki, ironic or not the flannel waistcoat prejudiced me against Colonel Brandon forever! :lol: And I've never even seen a flannel waistcoat in my life.

There's no doubt that Brandon's the better man. But Willoughby for all his caddishness is such an attractive character, and Brandon with all his goodness is such a boring one. There's not a spark of chemistry between him and Marrianne, and I'm afraid the whole tragic story of his first love made me roll on the floor laughing.

I'm not sure if Jane Austen intended Brandon as a happy ending for Marrianne (in which case he fails to convince since he's such an unsatisfactory character) or as a chastisement for her rash love for Willoughby.

03-07-2011, 07:55 AM

Yes, Willoughby is a bit of a puzzle. After P&P and Wickham, I was presuming another rake, but I really felt sorry for him :eek:. After that talk with Elenor, I felt quite sad for him...

But you could be right actually. Although, wasn't it a common opinion that woman's love grew over time and that a man's attachment was formed based on passion?

That last bit about Brandon, that 'a three week absence' and nothing to occupy him with in the evening hours apart from calculating the difference between 36 and, what was it, 17 (?), is pretty funny. That absolutely cracked my up, together with the flanel waist coats and rheumatism :smilielol5:.

03-07-2011, 12:22 PM
L.M the Third hit the nail onthe head,and theirin lies the genius of Jane Austen. There is actual little "romance" in Jane Austen's books. If the heroines are lucky, there might be love, but it is sevely qualified...by a dull man who loves deeply, or a poor, yet honorable man who will only profess his love if it is safe for him to do so. I think this is why "Sense and Sensiblility" is my favorite Jane Austen novel. Her characters are so very human-even as we attempt to devolve them into stereotypes-and marriage might be a safe haven, but it is not necessisarily happily ever after.

03-07-2011, 05:15 PM
I have to say the bit about 'calculating the difference between 36 and 17' actually made me laugh. After the rest of the book, where I found most of the prose to be fairly dry and prosaic it was quite unexpected to come across a moment of obvious humour.

03-07-2011, 07:32 PM
I have to say the bit about 'calculating the difference between 36 and 17' actually made me laugh. After the rest of the book, where I found most of the prose to be fairly dry and prosaic it was quite unexpected to come across a moment of obvious humour.

Prozaic? Surely you jest! How about (from memory, so Austen probably said it better): "Elinor agreed with everything he said, because she did not believe he deserved the compliment of rational opposition."

Austen was not a romantic (which is why I find it amusing that her novels appeal to romantic girls who like to imagine themselves wearing period costumes). However, I agree that Brandon is a failure as a character. Remember, Austen was very young when she wrote Sense and Sensibility. It wasn't published until she was older -- but we don't know exactly how thoroughly she revised the original.

I suspect that Brandon was meant to be a brooding, romantic character, disappointed in early love. As such, he could have been attractive to Marianne. However, Brandon never plays much of an "on screen" roll in the novel (except in terms of exposition, as when he explains his knowledge of Willoughby to Elinor). The result is that we readers see Brandon through the eyes of Marianne and Willoughby - and the result is unflattering.

Let's face it: Brandon was idiotic to complain of a slight rheumatic feeling in his shoulder and to talk of flannel waistcoats. Why would a sensible, 36-year-old man say something so stupid in the presence of a younger girl he wished to attract? Besides, Brandon is constantly described as "melancholy" or "dull" or "grave". Even after Willoughby is disposed of (this from the quote LikeHerod enjoyed): Brandon came to...."Barton in a temper of mind which needed all the improvement of Marianne's looks, all the kindness of her welcome, and all the encouragement of her mother's language, to make it cheerful."

What kind of lover is that? If faint heart ne'er won fair lady, Brandon does not deserve Marianne. Instead of moping around, he should exert himself to be entertaining and attractive. Personally, I like the unreformed, romantic Marianne (silly and self-centered as she is).

11-09-2011, 07:06 AM
I think the overriding motif in Sense and Sensibility is Austen's parodying of the Romantic literature movement where Marianne represents Romanticism.Marianne's 'overflowing of powerful emotions' are juxtaposed to Elinor's rationality. The inclusion of happy marriages at the end were what was expected from the genre and the audience and so Austen obliges.

Jackson Richardson
10-28-2015, 04:57 AM
Marianne ended up marrying Colonel Brandon… rather than from any deeply passionate feelings on her side.

I’ve just re-read the book.

It is quite clear in the early chapters that a reliance and indulgence in deeply passionate feelings are selfish and unrealistic. Elinor has to put up with just as hurtful rejection as Marrianne and yet not let anyone know.

Colonel Brandon has fought a duel – quite the most macho man in Jane Austen.

For me Edward Ferrers is quite the least worthwhile of Austen's heroes. Even Edmund Bertram has physical sex appeal or Mary Crawford wouldn't fancy him.

08-30-2016, 08:07 PM
Yes I believe Jane Austen was a bit unfair in her depiction of Maryann. I think she poked fun at her throughout for being too senstitive. Actually sensitivity is not such a bad thing and most people who care deeply about life usually accomplish great things as long as they don't appear too weak. Jane Austen seems to tuck Maryann neatly away with a man who will somehow calm her sensitive nature and help her mature. But the maturity is only how Jane Austen sees it, and Maryann is never able to reach her full potenial in this novel.