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After the death of her father, Elinor persuades her mother (who's offended by the family's treatment at the hands of John and Fanny) to stay at Norland until they find another home.
While at Norland, Elinor meets Fanny's brother, Edward Ferrars. The pair are well-suited to each other – could they be falling in love?
Various issues arise with Elinor and Edward's relationship – Marianne finds him too dull, while Mrs. Ferrars, Edward's mother, doesn't seem inclined to approve of the match.
Mrs. Dashwood decides to move the family to Devonshire. Edward and Elinor are distressed about parting (though not overtly).
Elinor moves to Barton Cottage with her family.
Upon meeting Colonel Brandon, Elinor defends their new friend to Marianne, who thinks he's so old he's practically on his deathbed.
Marianne wonders why Edward hasn't come to visit, and is surprised by her sister's calm, seemingly emotionless attitude towards her would-be suitor. Elinor tries her best to hide her feelings.
Willoughby turns up, and everyone, Elinor included, kind of falls for him. Elinor, however, feels bad for Colonel Brandon, since he's obviously interested in Marianne, but can't stand a chance next to Willoughby.
Elinor and Colonel Brandon become friends, and he tells her that he once knew a young lady very much like Marianne.
Meanwhile, Marianne is wrapped up in Willoughby. Elinor has to force her to turn down his offer of a horse.
Elinor becomes convinced that Marianne and Willoughby are engaged.
Margaret tells Elinor that she's sure Marianne has given Willoughby a lock of hair, a sure sign of affection.
Unfortunately, Margaret also reveals to everyone that Elinor's lover's name starts with "F." Poor Elinor is mortified.
After an awkward interaction with the departing Willoughby, Elinor is certain that he's not being honest with them.
Edward arrives out of the blue, and Elinor greets him cautiously, though Marianne can't understand why. Elinor is angry (or as close to angry as she gets) with him, and responds rather coldly to him initially.
Elinor warms to Edward again, but wonders why he's so glum. She wishes she understood him. It becomes clear that she does understand him – they're made for each other.
Elinor and Marianne both assume that the ring that Edward wears contains a lock of Elinor's hair, proving his affection for her.
Edward leaves, and Elinor is understandably sad – but she tries her best to keep a stiff upper lip and not show it. She throws herself into her artwork to avoid her emotions.
Elinor and Marianne meet the Miss Steeles, and take an immediate dislike to them. Lucy, however, decides that she and Elinor are going to be special friends.
After hearing Sir John joke about Elinor's crush on Edward, Lucy reveals a horrible secret to Elinor – she and Edward Ferrars are secretly engaged!
We see a crack appear in Elinor's layer of calm; she's visibly distraught by this development. Elinor thinks about this information after Lucy leaves, and decides that she feels worse for Edward than herself – after all, he'll have to marry the horrible Lucy Steele. She resolves to learn as much about this engagement as possible from Lucy. It turns out that Lucy wants Elinor to help her get the Dashwood-Ferrars family on her side.
Elinor is convinced that this secret engagement can only lead to unhappiness – Edward must not really love Lucy any more. Furthermore, she's not sure how much Lucy really loves Edward.
Elinor and Marianne accept Mrs. Jennings's invitation to spend the winter with her in London, after much equivocating.
While in London, it's revealed that Willoughby is actually engaged to Miss Grey, an heiress. Elinor finds out that he and Marianne were never really engaged to each other, and tries to calm her sister down.
Colonel Brandon reveals the truth about Willoughby to Elinor, asking her to relate the story of Eliza to Marianne.
The Miss Steeles show up again, like two bad pennies. Elinor and Lucy both meet Mrs. Ferrars at a dinner party, and the stuck-up lady takes an instant dislike to Elinor (since she's heard rumors of her son's attachment to her).
Lucy comes over to gloat about how popular she was with Edward's mother and sister. Edward interrupts Lucy and Elinor's tête-à-tête, and a very awkward moment ensues.
More bad news on the love front arrives – Miss Steele informs Fanny and Mrs. Ferrars of Lucy and Edward's secret engagement, and Edward is disowned. Elinor feels awful for Edward's sake.
Elinor tells Marianne the news, and admits that she's known about the engagement for four months. Marianne realizes that Elinor really does have feelings – she just keeps them hidden.
Colonel Brandon tells Elinor that he will give the Delaford living to Edward, asking her to inform him.
Edward himself stops by, and Elinor tells him about Colonel Brandon's plan. She keeps her emotions in check.
Feeling rather defeated, the Dashwood sisters retreat home, stopping at Cleveland on the way. Marianne falls seriously ill, and Elinor cares for her.
Elinor is shocked by a visit from Willoughby, who desperately wants to know about Marianne's condition. He admits that he really does love Marianne, but can never be with her. Elinor forgives him (kind of), and promises to tell Marianne.
Once they're home at Barton, the rumor mill tells the Dashwoods that Lucy and a certain Mr. Ferrars are married. Mrs. Dashwood finally sees how strong Elinor's feelings for Edward are, but she's not sure what to do to make her poor daughter feel better.
Edward arrives on the scene to clear things up – actually, Lucy married Robert, so he's free to propose to Elinor.
Elinor is, for the first time, completely overwhelmed by uncontrollable emotion. She has to run from the room.
Edward successfully proposes to an overjoyed Elinor, and the two lovebirds start planning their married life.
Elinor encourages Edward to reestablish contact with his mother – he does so, and is rewarded by ten thousand pounds. Combined with Elinor's money, his own, and the Delaford living, the new couple are all set.