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Quotes

Quote #1

He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted, and rather selfish, is to be ill-disposed: but he was, in general, well respected; for he conducted himself with propriety in the discharge of his ordinary duties. (1.7)

This description of John demonstrates how "cold hearted and rather selfish" society's requirements are – all one has to do is conduct oneself "with propriety" in everyday life in order to gain respect, regardless of one's personal qualities.

Quote #2

He is very far from being independent. What his mother really is we cannot know; but, from Fanny's occasional mention of her conduct and opinions, we have never been disposed to think her amiable; and I am very much mistaken if Edward is not himself aware that there would be many difficulties in his way, if he were to wish to marry a woman who had not either a great fortune or high rank. (4.8)

Elinor realizes even early on that her marriage to Edward could be prevented by the intense snobbery of his family, despite their very real regard for one another, proving that social status is more important to them than Edward's actual happiness.

Quote #3

"I am afraid," replied Elinor, "that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety."

"On the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure." (13.19)

This spat between Elinor and Marianne demonstrates their differing views on society, and how much control it should have over our actions. Marianne seems to believe that we should really just do what we feel like doing, whereas Elinor always thinks of the social ramifications of any action.

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