"It is enough," said she; "to say that he is unlike Fanny is enough. It implies everything amiable. I love him already."
"I think you will like him," said Elinor, "when you know more of him."
"Like him!" replied her mother with a smile. "I can feel no sentiment of approbation inferior to love."
"You may esteem him."
"I have never yet known what it was to separate esteem and love." (3.8)
Mrs. Dashwood's vision of love, and personal relationships in general, is much more loose and all-encompassing than Elinor's – basically, "love" and "like" are confused in her book. She's willing to "love" anyone, while Elinor has positive feelings broken down more specifically into the intellectual and emotional ("esteem" versus "love").
The excellence of his understanding and his principles can be concealed only by that shyness which too often keeps him silent. You know enough of him to do justice to his solid worth. But of his minuter propensities, as you call them, you have from peculiar circumstances been kept more ignorant than myself. He and I have been at times thrown a good deal together, while you have been wholly engrossed on the most affectionate principle by my mother. I have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure. His abilities in every respect improve as much upon acquaintance as his manners and person. At first sight, his address is certainly not striking; and his person can hardly be called handsome, till the expression of his eyes, which are uncommonly good, and the general sweetness of his countenance, is perceived. At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or, at least, almost so. (4.6)
Elinor's reasons for loving Edward are delivered here, in classic Elinor fashion. She's fallen in love with him (or at least, she thinks she has) because of his correct qualities, not because of anything so rash as irrational passion.
Willoughby was a young man of good abilities, quick imagination, lively spirits, and open, affectionate manners. He was exactly formed to engage Marianne's heart; for, with all this, he joined not only a captivating person, but a natural ardour of mind, which was now roused and increased by the example of her own, and which recommended him to her affection beyond everything else. (10.6)
Willoughby is the perfect lover for Marianne – in theory. It doesn't even really matter what he's like beyond the surface at this point; he seems just right, so Marianne fits him into the Willoughby-shaped place in her heart that she'd already had waiting for him. This is in distinct contrast to Elinor's measured evaluation of Edward's qualities.
The private balls at the Park then began; and parties on the water were made and accomplished as often as a showery October would allow. In every meeting of the kind Willoughby was included; and the ease and familiarity which naturally attended these parties were exactly calculated to give increasing intimacy to his acquaintance with the Dashwoods, to afford him opportunity of witnessing the excellencies of Marianne, of marking his animated admiration of her, and of receiving, in her behaviour to himself, the most pointed assurance of her affection. (11.1)
This description makes it seem as though Willoughby must be convinced to fall in love with Marianne – there's something almost legalistic about this language. Does this imply that men and women somehow fall in love differently?
The evening passed off in the equal indulgence of feeling. She played over every favourite song that she had been used to play to Willoughby, every air in which their voices had been oftenest joined, and sat at the instrument gazing on every line of music that he had written out for her, till her heart was so heavy that no farther sadness could be gained; and this nourishment of grief was every day applied. She spent whole hours at the pianoforte alternately singing and crying; her voice often totally suspended by her tears. In books, too, as well as in music, she courted the misery which a contrast between the past and present was certain of giving. She read nothing but what they had been used to read together. (16.3)
Marianne's melodramatic, self-indulgent behavior demonstrates her beliefs about love – she thinks that it's supposed to be just like it is in novels. Ironically, it's through this novel that we see how very wrong this supposition is. Austen shows us that love is more complex and nuanced than simply swooning about and delighting in sorrow.
Mrs. Charlotte Palmer
"Oh! no; but if mama had not objected to it, I dare say he would have liked it of all things. He had not seen me then above twice, for it was before I left school. However I am much happier as I am. Mr. Palmer is just the kind of man I like." (20.32)
Charlotte Palmer's statement here about her husband proves that it really does take all kinds – she loves her husband, not in spite of his rudeness, but perhaps because of it. Austen proves once again that love is a mystery.
Had Edward been intentionally deceiving her? Had he feigned a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement to Lucy an engagement of the heart? No; whatever it might once have been, she could not believe it such at present. His affection was all her own. She could not be deceived in that. Her mother, sisters, Fanny, all had been conscious of his regard for her at Norland; it was not an illusion of her own vanity. He certainly loved her. What a softener of the heart was this persuasion! How much could it not tempt her to forgive! He had been blameable, highly blameable, in remaining at Norland after he felt her influence over him to be more than it ought to be. In that, he could not be defended; but if he had injured her, how much more had he injured himself! If her case were pitiable, his was hopeless. His imprudence had made her miserable for a while; but it seemed to have deprived himself of all chance of ever being otherwise. She might in time regain tranquillity; but he, what had he to look forward to? Could he ever be tolerably happy with Lucy Steele? could he, were his affection for herself out of the question, with his integrity, his delicacy, and well-informed mind, be satisfied with a wife like her -- illiterate, artful, and selfish? (23.1)
Poor, poor Elinor. She realizes that love should truly be a match of equals – and that Lucy Steele is certainly not Edward's equal (obviously, she herself is).
"But I did not love only him; -- and while the comfort of others was dear to me, I was glad to spare them from knowing how much I felt. Now, I can think and speak of it with little emotion. I would not have you suffer on my account; for I assure you I no longer suffer materially myself. I have many things to support me. I am not conscious of having provoked the disappointment by any imprudence of my own, and I have borne it as much as possible without spreading it farther. I acquit Edward of all essential misconduct. I wish him very happy; and I am so sure of his always doing his duty, that though now he may harbour some regret, in the end he must become so. Lucy does not want sense, and that is the foundation on which everything good may be built. And after all, Marianne, after all that is bewitching in the idea of a single and constant attachment, and all that can be said of one's happiness depending entirely on any particular person, it is not meant -- it is not fit -- it is not possible that it should be so. Edward will marry Lucy; he will marry a woman superior in person and understanding to half her sex; and time and habit will teach him to forget that he ever thought another superior to her." (37.13)
Elinor's approach to love comes out clearly here – she claims that she's basically reasoned her way out of sorrow (which we know not to be true). She attempts to conquer love and heartbreak with logic.
"I have not a doubt of it," said Marianne; "and I have nothing to regret -- nothing but my own folly." (47.8)
Marianne's views on love are clearly changing – she recognizes that she herself was a fool for love with Willoughby, and now repents.
Elinor could sit it no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease. Edward, who had till then looked any where, rather than at her, saw her hurry away, and perhaps saw -- or even heard -- her emotion; for immediately afterwards he fell into a reverie, which no remarks, no inquiries, no affectionate address of Mrs. Dashwood could penetrate, and at last, without saying a word, quitted the room, and walked out towards the village, leaving the others in the greatest astonishment and perplexity on a change in his situation, so wonderful and so sudden -- a perplexity which they had no means of lessening but by their own conjectures. (48.17)
Finally, Elinor's emotions break free of her controlling "sense" – and overcome, she has to flee the room. Yay! We're also kind of overcome by this scene.