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Sneaking a Peek at Sense & Sensibility Entry 21

People: the Dashwood sisters, the Steele sisters, and Lady Middleton

Text: John Middleton loved company, and he loved his tenants at Barton Cottage. So, not long after the Palmers returned home, Sir John had found a new set of people to introduce to the young Miss Dashwoods, Miss Anne Steele and her young sister, Lucy Steele. Although they were only distantly related to the Middletons, they were invited for an extended stay, and Sir John was insistent that the two sets of young women become intimately acquainted.

               But despite, his attempts to bring them together, the Dashwood ladies saw little in the Steele women to draw them in. One day, while somewhat forced to spend hours in each other’s presence, Lady Middleton had her young children with them in the drawing room. The Steele’s and Lady Middleton were spoiling them when the youngest girl was accidently poked by her mother’s hairpin. Her wails continued loudly once she realized how much doting she was receiving by her mother and the Miss Steeles. The din only ceased when the child was taken from the room in search of the promised marmalade.

               “Poor little creature!” said Miss Steele (Anne), as soon as they were gone. “It might have been a very sad accident.”

               “Yet I hardly know how,” cried Marianne, “unless it had been under totally different circumstances. But this is the usual way of heightening alarm, where there is nothing to be alarmed at in reality.”

               “What a sweet woman Lady Middleton is!” said Lucy Steele.

               Marianne was silent; it was impossible for her to say what she did not feel, however trivial the occasion; and upon Elinor therefore the whole task of telling lies when politeness required it, always fell. She did her best when thus called on, by speaking of Lady Middleton with more warmth than she felt, though with far less than Miss Lucy.

               “And Sir John too,” cried the elder sister, “what a charming man he is!”

               Here too, Miss Dashwood merely observed that he was perfectly good humored and friendly.

Emotion: honesty

Insight: Luke 6:31 offers, “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

               This passage from the novel openly shares the differences between Elinor and Marianne. Marianne was completely incapable of speaking something that she did not believe to be true. She had no genuine good opinion of either Lady Middleton or her husband, despite the good deal that they were getting on the rent of the cottage. Elinor, on the other hand, more practical and less bound by her passions and feelings, was able to politely say what she did not heartily feel. She gave simple praise without committing herself to the lavish praise of the two Steele women.

               By looking at two sides of the same coin, we can see that both Marianne and Elinor were being honest and true to themselves. Marianne was practicing the Golden Rule as she would have others practice with her. She was refraining from saying something that she did not truly believe. But Elinor, also feeling like she needed to be polite and say something, was also doing unto others as she would have them do to her. She was leaning toward kindness, even though she hardly felt it more than her sister. May we be true to ourselves always. In this way, we can hope that others would be true with us.

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