Study Guide

Sense and Sensibility Chapter 20

By Jane Austen

Chapter 20

  • The Dashwood sisters show up dutifully at the Middletons' house, and Mrs. Palmer rushes over to greet them.
  • Mrs. Palmer announces that she and her husband have to leave tomorrow, so she's glad that the girls came. Apparently their visit was a surprise to everyone, including herself. She hopes that they will meet again soon in town (London town, that is).
  • The Dashwoods say that they won't be going to London – Mrs. Palmer is very disappointed, and invites them to come anytime, saying that she'll basically figure out all of the plans for their visit.
  • Mrs. Palmer tries to get her husband in on convincing the girls, but he's uninterested, and instead starts complaining about the weather, and about the fact that Sir John doesn't have a billiard room at Barton.
  • Everyone else shows up, and Sir John teases Marianne about how often she walks around Allenham, Willoughby's ancestral home.
  • Marianne looks serious and doesn't respond. Mrs. Palmer tells her not to worry – she's familiar with Willoughby, since they're live in the same part of the countryside, and she thinks he's a very handsome man.
  • Mr. Palmer, not to be outdone, says that Willoughby's other house is hideous.
  • When everyone's at dinner together, the Dashwoods witness some rather awkward family dynamics between Mr. Palmer and his in-laws. He's a prickly customer, to put it mildly.
  • Mrs. Palmer genuinely laughs off her husband's bad behavior – she loves him despite his rudeness.
  • Elinor muses on Mr. Palmer's character; she ponders the fact that he, like many other men, has married a beautiful woman despite her silliness, and that he's never recovered it. However, that's not the cause of his irritability – that's just his personality.
  • Mrs. Palmer asks the Dashwood girls to come and stay at Cleveland, her home in the country. She and Mr. Palmer bicker a little more – apparently he's running for Parliament, and has been going around trying to get people to like him (we wonder how that's working out for him).
  • Later, Mrs. Palmer assures Elinor that Mr. Palmer likes her and her sister very much.
  • Elinor asks about Willoughby – what do people think of him where the Palmers live?
  • Mrs. Palmer, who claims to know Willoughby very well, despite the fact that they've never spoken, says that she can understand why Elinor is curious, since Marianne is supposedly going to marry him.
  • Elinor is taken aback, and wants to know how Mrs. Palmer heard such a rumor. Of course, there's a ridiculous story attached – Mrs. Palmer ran into Colonel Brandon one day in London, and basically asked him to confirm the rumor (that she'd originally heard from Mrs. Jennings) that Marianne was to marry Willoughby. Colonel Brandon didn't say anything, but Mrs. Palmer assumed that this was a sign of agreement.
  • The pair briefly discusses Colonel Brandon, whom Mrs. Palmer dismisses as nice but dull.
  • Finally, Mrs. Palmer gets back to the original topic – Willoughby. Apparently, he has a good reputation in Somerset (where Willoughby has his second home), and everyone likes him.
  • Mrs. Palmer compliments both Elinor and Marianne, saying that they're both equally beautiful.
  • Elinor and Charlotte (Mrs. Palmer) go back to the subject of Colonel Brandon; Charlotte claims that he wanted to marry her back in the day, but it obviously didn't happen. She's happy with Mr. Palmer, anyway – he's apparently exactly what she wants.