Strong Esteem and Lively Friendship ~ A Happily Ever After Story

In the British Literature class I have been taking, we just recently finished reading Sense and Sensibility.  I must say, it has moved up greatly in my opinion, and I can't wait to read it again in a few months, and think on the things that were learned and discussed in class! 

The following composition is the essay that I wrote for this section of the class. It does assume that you have some knowledge of the story, and preferably have read the book. (The book is almost always better!) 

In Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen writes,“Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate...She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily give her hand to another!” (pg. 311). Instead of marrying the man that had seemed to fulfill Marianne’s ideals, she chooses to marry Colonel Brandon. Do their characters form the right combination to suggest a happy marriage?  Circumstances and conversations from Sense and Sensibility show that Colonel Brandon is indeed a good match for Marianne Dashwood.

In the story, the characters of several different men are shown, in particular, the two men who are most attracted to the vibrant Marianne Dashwood; Mr. Willoughby and Colonel Brandon. The complete difference between these two men is rather startling. First seen is Willoughby, whose behavior seems polite, respectful, and who appears to be absolutely perfect for Miss Marianne Dashwood. He rescues Marianne after her fall and brings her home, then “apologized for his intrusion, by relating its cause, in a manner so frank and graceful...” (pg. 36). Sir John Middleton declares he is “a pleasant , good-humored fellow” (pg. 37) . Willoughby is seen as one who delights in having a good time, and is as passionate about poetry and music as Marianne. Unfortunately it is soon evident that these observations merely scratch the surface, and are simply a veneer over the core. Willoughby displays that he is not thoughtful of others when he speaks to and of them. Elinor notes that he would say “ too much what he thought on every occasion, without attention to persons or circumstances” (pg. 41) and that 
“the whole of his behavior from the beginning to the end of the affair, has been grounded in selfishness. It was selfishness which first made him sport with your [Marianne’s] affections; which afterwards, when his own were engaged, made him delay the confession of it, and which finally carried him from Barton. His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every particular, his ruling principal.” (pg. 288)
This selfishness drives all of Willoughby’s actions and  behaviors. The things he does are done merely because at the time it pleased him to please others. 

Colonel Brandon is more quiet and reserved than his rival. Only once does he behave in a way that irks any of his companions, and that is when he deserts the party that is to go to Delaford. His sense of duty and honor require that he leave to take care of his ward, but this idea of staunch attention to responsibility and care is unrecognized by many of Brandon’s companions. Fortunately, this event does not bias most opinions of him. Edward Ferrars, who although not intimately acquainted with him, gives the Colonel a favorable report by saying “Colonel Brandon seems a man of great worth and respectability. I have always heard him spoken as such, and your brother I know esteems him highly. He is undoubtedly a sensible man, and in his manners perfectly the gentleman.” (pg. 238) Colonel Brandon never causes grief to his friends, and in his behavior to others there is nothing to censure. He is prudently aware of the needs of those around him. Unmistakable differences like these automatically place Colonel Brandon in a higher class than that of his disreputable rival. Proverbs 12:8-9 says, “A man will be commended according to his wisdom, but he who is of a perverse heart will be despised. Better is the one who is slighted but has a servant, than he who honors himself but lacks bread.” Colonel Brandon always shows wisdom in all his endeavors, and by the end of Sense and Sensibility he is happily situated, although he was previously looked down upon. In the case of Willoughby, though, his selfish heart does exactly as the Proverb says and honors himself. In the end, his reward for pleasing self is to be despised by those who thought him to be their friend, to be disinherited by his cousin Mrs. Smith, and to be “forced” to marry a woman of fortune to secure a comfortable future.  These contrasts of selfishness and selflessness, foolishness and wisdom, clearly show Colonel Brandon to be the better man.

Will Marianne’s marriage with Brandon be happy? After all, according to her the Colonel “has neither genius, taste, nor spirit” (pg. 43). Isn’t Willoughby more suited to Marianne in this area, despite his poor choices? What of similarity of  interests and pursuits? Isn’t that a very important subject to consider before matrimony? It is true, that having common interests makes things easy for both parties. If both love to ride horses then the couple can enjoy many hours together. Jane Austen records that Marianne and Willoughby “speedily discovered that their enjoyment of dancing and music was mutual, and that it arose from a general conformity of judgement in all that related to either” (pg. 40).  Later Marianne and Willoughby spend much time together doing the things that they both love.  It has been shown in many marriages, however, that though there is some compatibility in interests, it is not completely necessary for lasting felicity. A husband and wife can be completely supportive of each other’s hobbies without being entirely enthusiastic about it for themselves. If a gentleman likes riding horses but his wife does not, she can still delight in discussing his ride, his horse, the weather while riding, and in seeing his enjoyment of the ride. Edward and Elinor can be another example. Elinor is quite fond of drawing, but Edward, as Marianne puts it, “admires as a lover, not as a connoisseur” (pg. 15). Edward is not very intrigued by drawing in general, but so long as it is connected with Elinor, he is a content admirer. So even if a marriage involves interests that are not mutually attractive to both people, it is entirely possible for a couple to support one another. 

Finally, Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood have many positive qualities that will promote a happy marriage. It is seen in Sense and Sensibility that they have a mutual respect and 
admiration for each other. At the beginning of their marriage she had, “no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship” (pg. 311), and only a few paragraphs later it is said that “Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband as she had once been to Willoughby” (pg. 312).  It is well known know that Marianne’s attachment to Willoughby had been prodigiously strong, assuredly this new affection will not easily be broken, now that she has been more circumspect in her choice. On Colonel Brandon’s side his regard for Marianne is obvious, for it has been seen throughout the book. Before Marianne takes ill, Elinor notes that the Colonel had “looks of anxious solicitude on Marianne’s feelings, in her head, and throat...” (pg. 251), and “she could discover in them the quick feelings, and needless alarm of a lover” (pg. 251). Brandon has loved Marianne consistently through all of her many ups and downs. Leadership qualities, and follower abilities are also noted in the pair. Colonel Brandon is obviously a leader. He was a military officer, and as such would be required to lead those under him. He has also shown a decisive authority in the unfortunate circumstances of his ward, in his patronage of Edward Ferrars, and finally in the others who must be under his care at Delaford. The abilities that the Colonel shows in these circumstances combine, showing that he can and will be an admirable authority in his home as well as out of it.

As for Marianne, she has learned that many of her opinions and ideas are not as wise as they should be. She shares about her behavior with her sister and says “ I compare it with what it 
ought to have been. I compare it with yours” (pg. 283). She had been hasty, headstrong, and blind to any warnings she received from her family and friends. To contrast Marianne’s foolishness, Elinor is shown, in her cautious approach to how she becomes acquainted with Lucy Steele and in her carefulness of the feelings of others. Marianne finally admits that there were others with more wisdom whose example and advice she should have followed. Also, she probably recognizes in the Colonel those leadership qualities that have been mentioned, and realizes that she can depend upon him.    

When comparing Colonel Brandon and Willoughby it is shown that the former is a man of honor, and the latter a scoundrel. The importance of having common interests in a marriage has been pondered, and while found to be a bonus, it is not absolutely necessary. Colonel Brandon is seen to be a great leader who takes his responsibilities seriously, and Marianne has realized her mistakes and has learned from the lessons that both her mistakes, and others, have taught her. She has learned to take advice, and is more willing to be guided by those who truly have her best interest at heart.   After all of these characteristics have been deduced, and after the respect and respectability of both parties is made clear, it can be decided that, yes, Colonel Brandon is a very good match for Marianne Dashwood, and that they will live a long and happy life together. 

All quotes are from the Barnes & Noble Classic version of Sense and Sensibility.


  1. Bravo, bravo, bravo!!! Very well written and obviously thought through.

    "Strong esteem and lively friendship" is what brought my own love story about, if truth be told! My courtship was based very much on that, rather than a rush of emotions. ;)

    Wonderful post! Keep up the great writing!

  2. wow! great post!!
    I second the comment about "well written"

    Hope all is well with you.
    Have a lovely day,

    P.S. I know I haven't been by in a while, but I just read all your posts that I hadn't been caught up on yet. :) fun.


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