Sense and Sensibility
Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
This specimen of the Miss Steeles was enough. The vulgar freedom and folly of the eldest left her no recommendation, and as Elinor was not blinded by the beauty or the shrewd look of the youngest, to her want of real elegance and artlessness, she left the house without any wish of knowing them better. (21.17)
Elinor, the best judge of character we know in this novel, comes down pretty hard on the Steeles. They're clearly not the kind of lady she approves of – they've got an air of trying-too-hard, and furthermore, Lucy isn't entirely trustworthy.
Lucy was naturally clever; her remarks were often just and amusing; and as a companion for half an hour Elinor frequently found her agreeable; but her powers had received no aid from education, she was ignorant and illiterate, and her deficiency of all mental improvement, her want of information in the most common particulars, could not be concealed from Miss Dashwood, in spite of her constant endeavour to appear to advantage. Elinor saw, and pitied her for, the neglect of abilities which education might have rendered so respectable; but she saw, with less tenderness of feeling, the thorough want of delicacy, of rectitude, and integrity of mind, which her attentions, her assiduities, her flatteries at the Park betrayed; and she could have no lasting satisfaction in the company of a person who joined insincerity with ignorance; whose want of instruction prevented their meeting in conversation on terms of equality, and whose conduct towards others, made every shew of attention and deference towards herself perfectly valueless. (22.2)
In this description of Lucy, we see a specimen of womanhood that's almost correct, but not quite. Everything about Lucy is close to perfect, but still off by a few degrees – she's uncultivated and uneducated, and is thus not a totally successful example. Austen's emphasis on women's education and intellectual development shines through here.
Nothing was wanting on Mrs. Palmer's side that constant and friendly good-humour could do, to make them feel themselves welcome. The openness and heartiness of her manner more than atoned for that want of recollection and elegance, which made her often deficient in the forms of politeness; her kindness, recommended by so pretty a face, was engaging; her folly, though evident, was not disgusting because it was not conceited; and Elinor could have forgiven everything but her laugh. (42.13)
Charlotte is almost the perfect hostess, and we see that a more forgiving image of womanhood is starting to emerge here – despite Charlotte's lack of high society polish, she's still recognized as a good woman (with the only exception being her irritating, constant giggles).