Study Guide

Sense and Sensibility Women and Femininity

By Jane Austen

Women and Femininity

Rumor has it that girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, but we think that Jane Austen might disagree. Her very real, at times rather harsh depiction of the women of Sense and Sensibility exposes the undeniable fact that there's more to her proper young ladies than meets the eye – underneath their dainty exteriors, we see dangerous passion, frustration, and even a bit of malice in one case in particular. Austen's portrayal of women is challenging and incredibly real, and she sums up both the delights and difficulties of femininity through the array of characters revealed in this text.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. How do you think Austen defines femininity?
  2. Does Austen offer an ideal model of womanhood? If so, who is it?
  3. What are the differences between women and men here? The similarities?
  4. Do you think Austen's observations about femininity or womanhood hold true today? Why or why not?

Chew on This

By depicting Elinor as a logical, stoic figure (characteristics typically associated with masculinity), and depicting Edward as a more submissive character, Austen subverts conventions of gender in order to suggest a new vision of femininity.

Austen protests against her period's typical view of women as sentimental creatures; she inflicts Marianne's sufferings to demonstrate the dangers of adopting this attitude of romantic emotionalism.