Study Guide

Sense and Sensibility Chapter 18

By Jane Austen

Chapter 18

  • Elinor notices that Edward is feeling kind of down; she can't enjoy his visit if he can't. She wishes she knew what his deal is.
  • Edward, Marianne, and Elinor find themselves at breakfast together the next day. Marianne, trying to push things along in her sister's relationship, makes a big show of leaving them together, but Edward just responds by leaving to look at his horses (a lame excuse if we've ever heard one).
  • Edward returns from his quality time with the horses seeming somewhat refreshed; he praises the beautiful countryside. Marianne, who's also an admirer of nature, presses him for details on his walk, and he responds somewhat oddly, saying that he has no talent for describing the picturesque.
  • Marianne doesn't really get him, but Elinor does – of course. She explains to her sister that Edward avoids flowery descriptions that have very little meaning, but goes to the opposite extreme of not describing at all.
  • Edward himself steps in to say that he, unlike so many admirers of the romantic landscape, prefers things that are wholesomely beautiful to those that are dramatic – Marianne is shocked, but Elinor understands.
  • Later on, Marianne notices that Edward's wearing a new ring, that's set with a braid of hair. Yes, you read right – human hair. This seems freaky to us, but making jewelry that incorporated a loved one's hair was common practice in Austen's time. Anyway, Edward's got a new ring, and Marianne asks about it.
  • Edward claims that the hair is his sister Fanny's (remember, the Dashwoods' annoying sister-in-law), even though it looks like it's not quite the right color. Who could it belong to?
  • Both Elinor and Marianne assume that the hair is actually Elinor's. Marianne assumes that her sister gave Edward the lock of hair as a gift, while Elinor herself thinks that he must have somehow stolen it. However, she's not offended at all – in fact, she wants to get a better look at it herself to make sure it's hers. Can this mean that Edward is really in love with her?
  • Edward is terribly embarrassed by this whole incident. Marianne feels bad about it, but our knowing narrator tells us that she wouldn't have felt so bad had she known that the conversation about the ring was actually quite welcome to Elinor.
  • Sir John and Mrs. Jennings stop by for a visit, having heard that the cottage has a mysterious gentleman visiting. They are delighted to find that Edward's last name, Ferrars, begins with an "F" – if you recall, Margaret let slip earlier on (Chapter 12) the fact that Elinor's suitor's name begins with that letter. They assume – correctly – that he's the man in question. Fortunately, they don't bring up the subject with Edward himself.
  • Sir John and Mrs. Jennings invite the Dashwoods and their guest over for tea and dinner the next day, and attempt to lure their young friends over with the prospect of a dance.
  • Marianne scoffs at this idea, and asks who will dance; Mrs. Jennings and Sir John rather tactlessly refer to Willoughby's notable absence.
  • Edward unknowingly inquires about Willoughby, and notices Marianne's reactions. Once the visitors have left, he teases Marianne about this new friend, implying that he's the source of Marianne's thoughts about her future household (see Chapter 17).
  • Marianne smiles, and replies only that she hopes that he and Willoughby will get along (implying that they will definitely meet in the future). Edward is surprised by her revealing response.