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Sneaking a Peek at Sense & Sensibility Entry 11

People: Marianne, Elinor, Willoughby

Text: Elinor and Marianne were walking together when Marianne shared how that Willoughby had given her a horse as a gift. She shared this information with the greatest delight, saying that Willoughby had bred the horse himself and that it was exactly calculated to carry a woman. Elinor, more sense, attempted to explain that a gift of a horse would require a stable, money to feed it, and a servant to tend to it. Even these practical tidbits of truth had a difficult time waking Marianne from her impractical dreams. Elinor also touched on the impropriety of receiving such a gift from a man she barely knew.

               “You are mistaken, Elinor,” Marianne said warmly, “in supposing I know but little of Willoughby. I have not known him long indeed, but I am much better acquainted with him, than I am with any other creature in the world, except yourself and mama. It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others. I should hold myself guilty of greater impropriety in accepting a horse from my brother than from Willoughby. Of John I know very little, though we have lived together for years; but of Willoughby, my judgment has long been formed.”

               Marianne was only shortly subdued (when Elinor explained the stress it would place on their mother); she promised not to tempt her mother to such imprudent kindness by mentioning the offer (of the horse), and to tell Willoughby that the gift must be declined. Elinor overheard parts of that conversation the next day (and was surprised to hear Willoughby say,) “But, Marianne, the horse is still yours, though you cannot use it now. I shall keep it only till you can claim it. When you leave Barton to form your own establishment in a more lasting home, the horse shall receive you.”


Emotion: flattery

Insight:  Proverbs 12:15 seems to know Marianne, “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

               Marianne, though highly intelligent, lacks the simple common sense of her older sister, Elinor. Only feeling the raptures of receiving such a gift as a horse from the man she loves, Marianne at first disdains Elinor’s pleas for logical thinking. Elinor’s first objection, that of Marianne receiving an expensive gift from a man she barely knows, falls on deaf ears as the younger sister explains her views on the requirements of knowing someone well. She is only swayed from her folly by the understanding that her mother would feel the financial stress of trying to please Marianne if the horse was accepted.

               This story does not necessarily elevate the superiority of Elinor’s personality over Marianne’s, but rather it seeks to display the value of having balance. Marianne’s passion tempered by Elinor’s practical wisdom would offer a nearly perfect person. May we not only see what’s right in our own eyes, but also be open to listening to the advice of others.


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