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Free Study Guide-Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES

CHAPTER 29

Summary

On waking up the next morning, Elinor finds Marianne sobbing and writing a letter to Willoughby. Since Marianne refuses to reveal anything to her sister, Elinor leaves her alone. After breakfast, Marianne receives a letter from Willoughby. The letter creates even more pain for Marianne than did his behavior at the party. Willoughby denies ever having loved Marianne and returns all the letters she had written him in the past, as well as the lock of hair he had taken from her. Elinor reads the letter and condemns Willoughby for his heartlessness. She also reads the three letters Marianne had written earlier, in which she professed her love for Willoughby and expressed her eagerness to meet him. Marianne feels that others might have poisoned Willoughby's mind against her. However, she is not able to excuse his hypocrisy and indifference. Weighed down by sorrow, she expresses a desire to go back to Barton to meet her mother. Elinor asks her to wait for some more time.

Notes

Jane Austen convincingly portrays a woman passionately in love, one who has been thwarted by her lover. Marianne is shattered by Willoughby's attitude. Unable to suppress her feelings, she writes one more letter to him, asking him to justify his behavior during the previous evening. Willoughby's reply wounds her tortured heart all the more. He neither expresses regret nor apologizes for his behavior at the party. His words express only cruelty. Marianne's last hope fails. She breaks down in front of her sister and asks her to take her home. She wants to go away from the city, which has given her nothing but anxiety and pain.


Elinor, who generally excuses people for their lapses, finds Willoughby's behavior atrocious. He has used her sister shamelessly and discarded her at his convenience. She condemns him for his villainy. Again, her response is entirely justified.

CHAPTER 30

Summary

The news spreads like wild fire. Mrs. Jennings, returning back from her visit, gives them the news about Willoughby's engagement to Miss Grey. She takes pity on Marianne and tries to soothe her wounded heart. In the evening, during dinner, she gives more information about Miss Grey. Willoughby's fiancée is a fashionable and wealthy woman, inheriting fifty thousand pounds; but she is common in her looks. The news distresses Marianne all the more. Shortly afterwards, Colonel Brandon enters the scene. He has also heard about Willoughby and his engagement. He shows his concern for Marianne and inquires about her reaction.

Notes

Mrs. Jennings is one of the most likeable characters in this novel. She loves teasing young people in love, but at the same time, is sympathetic to those who have been wronged by love. Her generous heart goes out to Marianne. She curses Willoughby and consoles Marianne. However, her concern for Marianne is an added irritant: by fussing over the girl, Mrs. Jennings only increases her agitation. But the old lady is quite unaware of this.

The chapter relates how news spreads like wild fire, thanks to the women busy in gossiping. Just a short while after Marianne and Elinor learn of Willoughby's engagement, Mrs. Jennings comes home with the news: "Mrs. Taylor told me of it half an hour ago, and she was told it by a particular friend of Miss Grey herself, else I am sure I would not have believed it." The old lady also provides all the details about Miss Grey. In the evening Colonel Brandon comes to share the news he has heard in a stationer's shop in Pall Mall. He reveals, "Two ladies were waiting for their carriage, and one of them was giving the other an account of the intended match, in a voice so little attempting concealment, that it was impossible for me not to hear all." This also hints that the Colonel is a gentleman who does not pursue gossip.

CHAPTER 31

Summary

Elinor tries her best to lift Marianne from her depression by talking to her. Shortly afterwards, they receive a letter from their mother. Mrs. Dashwood, unaware of the recent developments, asks Marianne to explain her relationship with Willoughby. Her letter, full of wishes and hope, moves Marianne, who wants to go see her mother all the more. Colonel Brandon calls on them again. He recounts his past to Elinor. He also talks about Eliza Brandon and her daughter, Miss Williams. He relates how Willoughby had once played with the girl's heart, and after managing to seduce her, had left her in the lurch.

Notes

Marianne is still in love with Willoughby and nurtures a hope that he may repent and come back to her. Thus, when Mrs. Jennings brings a letter for them, Marianne imagines it to be a letter of repentance from Willoughby.

Marianne is emotional and prejudiced. She does not take kindly to Mrs. Jennings' genuine sympathy or generosity. In her opinion, all that the old lady wants is "gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it." She also considers Colonel Brandon as an intruder who enjoys interfering in others' affairs. She remarks: "A man who has nothing to do with his own time, has no conscience in his intrusion on that of others." Marianne lacks a mature understanding of human nature. Immersed in her own sorrow, she fails to notice the genuine concern that others may have.

Colonel Brandon clears the suspicions regarding his reputation by revealing his past to Elinor. Miss Williams is not his natural daughter, as most people imagine, but Eliza Brandon's. He had once loved Eliza Brandon, but she was forced to marry his brother. The marriage was unhappy, and Eliza had several extra- marital affairs. Colonel Brandon ultimately became the guardian of Eliza Williams, the daughter that resulted from the first of these affairs. His love for Marianne makes him confide in Elinor. He also exposes the deceptive nature and base character of Willoughby. Willoughby behaved in a disreputable manner with Miss Williams but has refused to acknowledge his mistake. He deserves to be punished, but the Colonel has been generous enough to pardon him.

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