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Sneaking a Peek at Sense & Sensibility Entry 12


People: Marianne, Elinor

Text: Willoughby and Marianne hopped into his carriage and took off, leaving the party until later in the day when they rejoined the group. The well-informed Mrs. Jennings had her servant discover where the two had been. A tour of the grounds and house of Allenham had taken hours of their day together. This was the home Willoughby was to inherit. Elinor questioned Marianne about the propriety of such a tour.

               “I am afraid,” Elinor said, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”

               “On the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had not pleasure.”

               “But, my dear Marianne, as it has already exposed you to some very impertinent remarks, do you not now begin to doubt the discretion of your own conduct?”

               Marianne said, “If the impertinent remarks of Mrs. Jennings are to be the proof of impropriety in conduct, we are all offending every moment of all our lives…I am not sensible of having done anything wrong in walking over Mrs. Smith’s grounds, or in seeing her house. They will one day be Mr. Willoughby’s, and…”

               Elinor replied, “If they were one day to be your own, Marianne, you would not be justified in what you have done.”

After ten minutes of internal thought, Marianne came to her sister again, and said with great humor, “Perhaps, Elinor, it was rather ill-judged in me to go to Allenham; but Mr. Willoughby wanted particularly to show me the place; it is a charming house, I assure you.”


Emotion: lack of good judgment


Insight: Jeremiah 17:9 seems to know what Marianne does not, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

               Spending the day alone with Willoughby, touring the estate that he was to inherit, and doing it while the owner was at home, were all highly improper, especially given the protocol of that age. Marianne was sure that if she had been doing something lacking in propriety, that her heart would have convicted her so, that she would not have enjoyed the day because her conscience would have been telling her right from wrong.

               But Marianne seems unacquainted with her own heart. Jeremiah reminds us that our hearts are tricky and deceitful and that we often are incapable of understanding our own inner being. To assume that our hearts would always warn of doing wrong is naïve. Often, our hearts are capable of out-and-out lying to us. Although to our modern eyes, it may seem like a lightweight accusation, Marianne would have been well-educated into the customs of her day. May we be less trusting of our own hearts than Marianne and be more honest to view our hearts as being capable of trickery and deception

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