Sense and Sensibility
Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Marianne would have thought herself very inexcusable had she been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby. She would have been ashamed to look her family in the face the next morning, had she not risen from her bed in more need of repose than when she lay down in it. But the feelings which made such composure a disgrace, left her in no danger of incurring it. She was awake the whole night, and she wept the greatest part of it. She got up with an headache, was unable to talk, and unwilling to take any nourishment; giving pain every moment to her mother and sisters, and forbidding all attempt at consolation from either. Her sensibility was potent enough! (16.1)
Here we see Marianne acting hilariously (and embarrassingly) in the correct, tried and true fashion of a tragic, scorned heroine in a romance novel – clearly the basis for her behavior here.
Mrs. Palmer was several years younger than Lady Middleton, and totally unlike her in every respect. She was short and plump, had a very pretty face, and the finest expression of good humour in it that could possibly be. Her manners were by no means so elegant as her sister's, but they were much more prepossessing. She came in with a smile, smiled all the time of her visit, except w hen she laughed, and smiled when she went away. (19.13)
We see another vision of womanhood here. Mrs. Palmer, though less proper and elegant than her older sister, is much more charming. However, Austen makes it clear that she's not the ideal vision of woman put forth by society at the time – quite the contrary, in fact.
The young ladies arrived, their appearance was by no means ungenteel or unfashionable. Their dress was very smart, their manners very civil, they were delighted with the house and in raptures with the furniture, and they happened to be so doatingly fond of children that Lady Middleton's good opinion was engaged in their favour before they had been an hour at the Park. She declared them to be very agreeable girls indeed, which for her ladyship was enthusiastic admiration. Sir John's confidence in his own judgment rose with this animated praise, and he set off directly for the cottage to tell the Miss Dashwoods of the Miss Steeles' arrival, and to assure them of their being the sweetest girls in the world. From such commendation as this, however, there was not much to be learned; Elinor well knew that the sweetest girls in the world were to be met with in every part of England, under every possible variation of form, face, temper, and understanding. (21.3)
This description of the Steeles demonstrates the wide variety of criteria that various members of society take towards judging women. Lady Middleton, typically, is only concerned with the fact that the Steeles praise her and her family, while her husband, bless his heart, is totally indiscriminating – he loves everyone.