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Theme of Money in Sense and Sensibility

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In addition, Austen uses wealth to signify intelligence. To once again subvert our expectations, it is not necessarily always ones capital that equates to high levels of intelligence but rather ones lack thereof. Austen displays intelligence in the more obvious form of academia, as a result of being wealthy, but also through her characters practical knowledge and shrewdness. Austen displays an ‘ability to imbue her characters with hallmarks of social intelligence’. This is made evident in Sense and Sensibility, which is centred on its main theme of the dangers of excessive sensibility. Where characters are placed in a position of potential financial insecurity, although as previously mentioned, this only consisted of fewer luxuries than what they were accustomed to, their wits become more evident, as most prominently seen with the characterisation of Elinor Dashwood.

Elinor displays an asset of understanding ‘characterised by remarkable moral earnestness’ which, though only nineteen years old, affords her the role, or what may be considered the burden, of being the head of her house. Through these qualities, she is adept in providing counsel for her mother whilst keeping in check her sisters. Although having emotions and strong feelings, she possesses the ability to exercise restraint, governing her sensibility unlike Marianne, thus granting her control in events of crisis, such as her family losing their house or finding out that Edward, her lover, is proposed to be engaged to Lucy.

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Emma Thompson who plays the intelligent Eleanor Dashwood in Lee’s film adaptation fails to show this same degree of sense over sensibility as witnessed in the novel. Lee deliberately alters the heroines with traits that were not present in the novel and heightens the qualities that were already in existence, such as the two sister-heroine’s sensibility. Elinor henceforth becomes much more emotional than the reader had originally encountered her as. One could interpret this as using less feminist ideals in order to promote emerging principles of manhood, hence why the male characters are elevated in their roles. It is through Elinor and Marianne’s sensibility that their emotions for their respective love interests are clouded; having been displaced from their home, forced to navigate their way in society, suddenly without what they believe to be enough means, their emotional state can then be seen to be driven by money.


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