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Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

by Jane Austen

Language and Communication Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"That is an expression, Sir John," said Marianne warmly, "which I particularly dislike. I abhor every common-place phrase by which wit is intended; and 'setting one's cap at a man,' or 'making a conquest,' are the most odious of all. Their tendency is gross and illiberal; and if their construction could ever be deemed clever, time has long ago destroyed all its ingenuity." (9.16)

Marianne expresses her dislike for perfectly normal colloquial speech, which she finds too crude entirely. While Sir John could be a bit less direct and blunt, we have to say that he does manage to communicate more clearly than some of the other characters. Perhaps some of Marianne's troubles come from her desire to phrase everything poetically.

Quote #2

Elinor's uneasiness was at least equal to her mother's. She thought of what had just passed with anxiety and distrust. Willoughby's behaviour in taking leave of them, his embarrassment, and affectation of cheerfulness, and, above all, his unwillingness to accept her mother's invitation, a backwardness so unlike a lover -- so unlike himself, greatly disturbed her. One moment she feared that no serious design had ever been formed on his side; and the next that some unfortunate quarrel had taken place between him and her sister; the distress in which Marianne had quitted the room was such as a serious quarrel could most reasonably account for, though when she considered what Marianne's love for him was, a quarrel seemed almost impossible. (15.11)

Willoughby's change in attitude is clear from the shift in his mode of conversation – which Elinor's canny ear picks up. She, unlike some of the other characters, constantly tries to read between the lines of everyone's discourse, where most of the truth is usually found.

Quote #3

"I have not wanted syllables where actions have spoken so plainly." (15.14)

Mrs. Dashwood is willing to accept actions and implications rather than actual declarations – a dangerous tactic in this proper, convention-bound society.

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