Study Guide

Sense and Sensibility What's Up With the Ending?

By Jane Austen

What's Up With the Ending?

What is up with this ending? Sympathetic readers have been puzzling over the conclusion to Sense and Sensibility since the novel's arrival on the literary scene. The events that unfold aren't the mystery – rather, they're completely straightforward. Like in a Shakespearean comedy, an Austenian happy ending, particularly at this early stage in her career, means marriages for everyone. Elinor and Edward finally get together (yay!), Lucy Steele marries Edward's rich, lame-o brother Robert (OK...), and Marianne, after getting her heart broken by the dastardly Willoughby, marries the ever-faithful Colonel Brandon (hmm…well, good).

It's this last thing that throws readers off so often. The burning question is, does Marianne really love him? The narrator assures us politely that she does, but all the same, it's kind of hard to believe. Two possibilities are present: first of all, if we take everything the narrator says at face value, we are to believe that Marianne has truly learned a lesson from her experience with Willoughby, and truly falls in love with the Colonel. However, a more disturbing take on the ending is that Marianne, her romantic spirit conquered by practicality, gives in to "sense" and marries Colonel Brandon despite the fact that she doesn't really love him. If the second is true, can we say that Sense and Sensibility really ends happily? We can't say for sure – it's up to you, dear reader, to decide!