When I was a little girl, my family was watching Kandukondein Kandukondein, a modern Indian adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and they instantly began commenting on how similar I was to the Indian version of Marianne Dashwood – the character played expertly by Aishwarya Rai in the movie.
I had the same attitude, I acted like her, I was young and passionate, I wrote and loved books, and I even had my streak of unrealistic expectations with romance, showing even back then.
My mother – to this day, continues to point out how brutally honest I can get with my sharp-tongued words and that my outspoken stubbornness is all Jane Austen’s fault.
I DID NOT LIKE THIS COMPARISON.
I was very little when these comparisons came popping up, and I couldn’t stand it. You see, it was an age when all that I had loved to read was Famous Five and Harry Potter, and I was not yet aware of how cool a privilege it was to be compared to an Austen heroine.
You see, it was an age when all that I loved to read were Famous Five and Harry Potter, and I was not yet aware of how cool a privilege it was to be compared to an Austen heroine.
I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and I read Sense and Sensibility for the first time when I was around thirteen years old.
At that age, I found Marianne Dashwood to be irritating and impetuous, uncaring and selfish.
I was pretty annoyed and offended when people saw me in these traits of hers. This was not who I was – or at least this was not who I thought who I was. But is this really how I made an impression with people? Was I really impetuous, uncaring, selfish and all these things?
Well, I didn’t want to be.
But then, over the years, after real life had curated and brewed me to a state of acceptable maturity – I found myself reaching over and over again to Sense and Sensibility, and I found myself empathizing with her more. I was now more accepting of her many strongly intimidating traits.I found myself understanding her.
I was now ferociously defending her to other Jane Austen fans who criticize her for being too sensitive and possessing idealistic aspirations when it came to romance – as opposed to her sister’s sense of practicality and good judgment. Elinor always emerges as the superior in the dichotomy of Sense and Sensibility.
I can’t help but strongly disagree with this. The thing about Marianne is that she grows in and out of her traits, she emerges as a spontaneous and overly sensitive romantic idealist, but at the end of the book, she has grown and matured to possess both the traits of sense and sensibility!
This is how I look at it. Here’s a passionate young girl, who consistently exhibits an accurate manifestation of her emotions through impenitent and transparent emotions. Whether it be someone she loves or someone she hates – her words and emotions are never contrived. These declarations, while offensive, validate Marianne’s sense because they are grounded in logical reasoning.
Even when she feels a conversation is headed somewhere she doesn’t feel morally appropriate – like when all the women at the party, in succession, offer their opinions about the comparative heights of Lady Middleton and Fanny Dashwood’s sons – Marianne offends them all by saying she has no opinion to give, as she has never thought about it. This is such an interesting edge to her character. She faithfully abides by her spirit of transparency and says what she is truly thinking—that she feels quite indifferent about the matter.
This is where I fall for her, and believe, well – maybe it’s not a bad thing being compared to her. Maybe it isn’t as much a curse being Sense and Sensibility’s Marianne Dashwood.
And then, she falls in love – and my heart breaks.
Marianne meets the dashing John Willoughby, and she falls deeply and sincerely in love with him. Eveything that happens afterwards, has managed to traumatize me for the rest of my life. His heartless ditching of her, and the shocking discovery of his true nature and dissipated character, finally causes her to recognize her misjudgment of him.
His heartless ditching of her, and the shocking discovery of his true nature and dissipated character, finally causes her to recognize her misjudgment of him.
Things get to a downward spiral from there.
IF MARIANNE DASHWOOD IN NORMAL STATE IS IRRITATING, MARIANNE DASHWOOD HEART BROKEN IS A DEPRESSIVE MANIAC!
She acts exactly as she feels, thus making herself and everyone around her miserable when Willoughby leaves her, as opposed to her sister, who keeps the secret of Edward’s prior engagement to another in quiet, thoughtful composure.
She feels everything deeply, and lets every emotion hit her as hard as possible. Be it love, aversion, hatred or indifference – intensity is probably Marianne’s guilty pleasure.
All this churns into a knot in my tummy – because I know from the bottom of my heart that I have the potential in me to be that wreck – I could easily get there just as much as she did.
I have spent the best years of my life growing up, what a wretched curse it is to be born a person like Marianne – to be able to feel and emote very deeply, very intensely and very very spontaneously.
That’s the catch with Jane Austen heroines – they are supposed to exist only in Jane Austen books, because the real world is always waiting to shred them to pieces, and there is hardly any happy endings.
But now – at this point of my life, I find myself asking, ‘So what?’ much too often for my own good.
Marianne’s only pitfall was perhaps that she was too passionate about everything she did and felt.
And I strongly refuse to believe that nobody should be allowed to think or feel that it’s a bad thing to be sensitive and impulsive.
Unless it’s a mad, passionate and extraordinary life, it’s a waste of our time. There are too many people having a mediocre life on this planet.
Mine shouldn’t be one of them.
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