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By Laura G. Mooneyham

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Sample text

Elinor sees the humour in Marianne's inflexibility, for her apology is given with a laugh: 'Excuse me ... ' That Marianne can find Elinor's rhetoric offensive is a mark of how poorly the sisters communicate. Marianne's vocabulary operates on inflated values. 'Taste', for example, is for Marianne not merely the appreciation for beautiful and pleasing things, but a 'rapturous delight' (p. 19) in their presence. Colonel Brandon's need for a flannel waistcoat she labels 'infirmity'. When, on the other hand, she doles out what she feels is meager praise for Edward to Elinor- 'I have the highest opinion in the world of his goodness and sense' (p.

The society of Austen's day rated most suitable those matches in which the money and rank of each partner were in rough equilibrium. But Austen's heroines always marry men whose fortunes exceed their own, and, with the exception of Persuasion's Anne Elliot, they marry men of higher social standing. On the symbolic level, this is as it should be: fortune and status stand as rewards for the achievement and growth of the heroine in much the same fashion as the half-kingdom bestowed with the hand of the princess rewards the triumphant prince of a fairy tale.

In this sense, Willoughby's confession serves much the Failure of Resolution in 'Sense and Sensibility' 43 same purpose as Frank Churchill's letter of apology in Emma: we care less about what the cad has to say in his own defence than about how his statements affect the heroine. After all, Willoughby gives Elinor little new information. Beyond the fact that his wife, not he, authored the reprehensible note to Marianne, Elinor learns nothing she might not have guessed on her own of his motives and actions.

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