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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 32

Summary

Elinor tells the Colonel's story to Marianne, who believes it, but feels miserable on hearing this information. Her attitude towards Colonel Brandon improves. A letter arrives from Mrs. Dashwood, expressing concern for Marianne. She advises them to prolong their stay in London. The Middletons and the Palmers sympathize with Marianne and curse Willoughby for his deceit. Mrs. Palmer informs Elinor of Willoughby's wedding. Elinor conveys the news to her sister a few days later. Marianne breaks down after this. At about this time, the Steeles pay them a visit. They indulge in frivolous talk and insist on meeting Marianne.

Notes

Marianne gradually comes to terms with her situation. First she hears about Willoughby's deceptive nature and his shameless behavior towards Miss Williams, followed by the news of his wedding. Her hopes are dashed and she is miserable.

Everyone shows concern for Marianne, but their words of consolation only hurt the sensitive girl. In such circumstances, Lady Middleton's indifference proves to be a blessing in disguise. Her non-committal attitude neither hurts nor soothes Marianne's feelings.


Mrs. Jennings is busy matchmaking, even during an unhappy period, such as the present one. When she observes Colonel Brandon talking to Elinor, she presumes that they are in love. Matchmaking is her favorite pursuit.

The Steele sisters arrive and irritate Elinor with their frivolous behavior. Miss Steele talks coquettishly about Dr. Davies, while Lucy makes a show of her affection for Elinor. They feign concern for Marianne and insist on meeting with her. They are downright indiscreet in their behavior; the Steele sisters offer a complete contrast to the heroines of the novel.

CHAPTER 33

Summary

One day while they are out shopping, Elinor and Marianne have a chance encounter with their brother. He is apologetic for not having contacted them earlier but promises to pay them a visit the next day. True to his word, he keeps his appointment. He is introduced to Mrs. Jennings and Colonel Brandon, both of whom he treats respectfully. He considers Colonel Brandon an eligible match for Elinor and astonishes his sister with his congratulations on her impending marriage. He also meets the Middletons and is impressed by their wealth and status.

Notes

Jane Austen here portrays John Dashwood as a hen-pecked husband who is governed by nothing but money. He is impressed by Mrs. Jennings because she lives in elegance. He wants Elinor to marry Colonel Brandon because he possesses considerable property in Dorsetshire. He commends the abilities of Mrs. Ferrars in finding a good match for Edward in Miss Morton, who is to inherit thirty thousand pounds. Finally, he is impressed by the Middletons because "they are people of large fortune." John Dashwood approves of just about anyone who is wealthy.

John Dashwood is a humorous character, who never fails to amuse the readers through his talk and behavior. His conversation with Elinor is comical. He presumes that Colonel Brandon is in love with Elinor, and so he congratulates her on her good fortune in getting married to a man of status. In order to cover up his guilt for not helping his sisters financially, he paints a sorry picture of himself and exaggerates his own financial obligations. He then expresses the hope that Mrs. Jennings will bestow her wealth on Elinor and Marianne. He meets the Middletons and is impressed by their style of living, and he decides to introduce his wife to them because she would surely approve of such people. Elinor is embarrassed by his outlook and attitude. He is obsessed with money and entirely governed by his wife.

CHAPTER 34

Summary

Fanny Dashwood makes the acquaintance of Lady Middleton and is impressed by her. She also meets the Steele sisters and takes a liking to them. She thus invites all of them, including the Dashwood sisters, to a party at her house. Lucy Steele is eager to attend the party, as it will give her an opportunity to meet with Edward and Mrs. Ferrars. Elinor is apprehensive about the visit. At the party they meet Mrs. Ferrars, who is cold and snobbish. She looks down on Elinor, and in order to slight her, pays attention to Lucy. John Dashwood tries to impress Colonel Brandon by boasting about Elinor's talent. Marianne feels offended when Mrs. Ferrars tries to insult Elinor and answers her back, much to Fanny's dismay. To rectify the situation, John informs the Colonel of Marianne's delicate health and her loss of beauty, which he says is the cause of her anxiety.

Notes

This chapter focuses on Fanny and John Dashwood and Mrs. Ferrars. Both Mrs. Ferrars and her daughter, Fanny Dashwood, are molded in a similar fashion. They are haughty, snobbish and cold. They are obsessed with money and fascinated by the wealthy.

Fanny Dashwood is in awe of Lady Middleton because she resembles herself in her tastes, temperament and status. "There was a kind of cold-hearted selfishness on both sides, which mutually attracted them; and they sympathised with each other in an insipid propriety of demeanour, and a general want of understanding." Jane Austen is rather sarcastic about the relationship between the two snobbish ladies.

Austen continues the same tone of harsh critique while describing Mrs. Ferrars: "Mrs. Ferrars was a little, thin woman, upright, even to formality, in her figure, and serious, even to sourness, in her aspect. Her complexion was sallow; and her features small, without beauty, and naturally without expression: but a lucky contraction of the brow had rescued her countenance from the disgrace of insipidity, by giving it the strong characters of pride and ill-nature." But Austen chooses only such characters as Lady Middleton, Fanny Dashwood and Mrs. Ferrars to present as caricatures. Lucy and Elinor, who are both in love with Edward, get the opportunity to meet Mrs. Ferrars, and each responds differently to the situation. Lucy is excited about meeting her and tries her best to impress her, while Elinor is merely curious about Mrs. Ferrars. She acts normally and presents her true self before the old lady.

Elinor is always composed and handles even an unfavorable situation to the best of her ability. Marianne, on the other hand, is easily excited by criticism or unjust remarks. When Mrs. Ferrars and Fanny Dashwood try to hurt Elinor by praising the talent of Miss Morton, Marianne rebukes them. She then becomes emotional and bursts into tears, thereby embarrassing the guests. The chapter also presents humorous situations. Marianne's defending her sister and offending Mrs. Ferrars, creates a furor at the party. When she finally breaks down after consoling her sister, her distress affects all the other characters. Jane Austen describes the scene thus: "She could say no more; her spirits were quite overcome, and hiding her face on Elinor's shoulder, she burst into tears. Everybody's attention was called, and almost everybody was concerned. Colonel Brandon rose up and went to them without knowing what he did. Mrs. Jennings, with a very intelligent, 'Ah! poor dear,' immediately gave her salts; and Sir John felt so desperately enraged against the author of this nervous distress, that he instantly changed his seat to one close by Lucy Steele, and gave her, in a whisper, a brief account of the whole shocking affair." No one but Jane Austen could describe the confusion so effectively and amusingly.

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