Edward Ferrars isn't entirely in control of his life. Actually, hold up – that's not quite right. It's better to note that at the beginning of the novel, he's not at all in control of his life. First, he was dominated since childhood by his bullying sister, Fanny, and their uppity mother. His mean-spirited little brother, Robert, also wasn't any help at all, from what we can tell. Rather, poor Edward had to go it alone as the only tolerably human member of the Ferrars clan, and it's obviously taken a toll on him. When we first meet him, he's a man without a mission of any kind – or even a day to day profession (his mother having decided that it was better to be a wealthy man of leisure than to have a career). Edward is not a loafer by choice or by nature, but rather, by command. It's kind of a funny situation to be in – many other men might envy his free time and inherited income, but he himself is thoroughly disgruntled by it.
However, we learn that Edward did once (secretly) disobey Mummy Dearest, and is now living to regret it; he secretly got engaged to Lucy Steele at a young and impressionable age, and now, years later, he's stuck in the dreaded clutches of yet another controlling, manipulative, and not very nice woman. Who can blame him, then when he meets the Dashwoods, and immediately is seduced by their kindness, sweetness, and gentle natures? Who can blame him when he falls in love with the intelligent and fair-minded Elinor, who's basically everything Lucy isn't? Sure, Edward makes mistakes left and right throughout this novel, but the fact of the matter is, we can never really blame him for them; rather, we sympathize with his troubles, even while we shake our heads at his rather spineless, befuddled act (which a particularly floppy-looking Hugh Grant hit dead on in the movie version, in our opinion).
But hang on – Edward isn't just a weak-willed, namby-pamby pushover. No, there's definitely something about him that makes Elinor fall for him. After all, he's essentially a really good, kind, sensitive guy, and his pensive nature is a natural match for Elinor's own. Even though he's not spectacularly good looking or even particularly talented, he's still a likable, dependably nice dude. And we see him develop tremendously over the course of the novel – he begins at the mercy of his mother and sister (and, in secret, Lucy), but he gradually frees himself from all of these obligations until he's finally living on his own terms at the end, in an equal partnership with Elinor, his true love. Sure, Edward doesn't always exactly take an active role in his gradual process of independence (after all, Miss Steele is the one who gets him booted from his mother's good graces by outing the engagement), but he takes it all in stride and doesn't kowtow to his mom or Fanny to try and get back in with them. Though he's not present in the foreground of the novel most of the time, he's growing up slowly but steadily.