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attempt at consolation from either.
Edmund Burke describes the highest form of beauty in the female sex as somethingwhich ‘almost always carries with it an idea of weakness and imperfection’, and hesuggests that ‘Beauty in distress is much the most affecting beauty’.
Weeping,indisposition and the lack of appetite, which are illustrated through Marianne’sdistress, characterise the ideal Burkean heroine whose visible vulnerability servesto increase her attraction and beauty. The free indirect discourse adopted in thisepisode is permeated with the consciousness of Elinor, who is at once sympatheticto Marianne’s genuine pain, and critical towards Marianne’s excess of sensibilityand her disregard of the feelings of others. Elinor’s implicit disapproval of Marianne’s manifestation of distress is implied through her own response toEdward’s departure after his short visit at Barton:Without shutting herself up from her family, or leaving thehouse in determined solitude to avoid them, or lieing awakethe whole night to indulge meditation, Elinor found everyday afforded her leisure enough to think of Edward (102).This depiction uniquely juxtaposes Marianne’s behaviour after Willoughby’sdeparture with Elinor’s rejection of such conduct. Elinor refuses to unleash herdistress and avoids letting her feelings overflow (‘it was [Elinor’s] determination tosubdue [her feelings]’) (101).After discovering the engagements of the men they love, the sisters’ differentways of managing their intense disappointment not only show further examples of the contrast between self-command and uncontrolled passion, but also indicate thatthe exercise of reason is crucial to the integrity of a woman’s affections. On beingconvinced by Lucy of her secret engagement with Edward, Elinor suffers not only
All quotations from
Sense and Sensibility
in this essay are taken from
Sense and Sensibility
, ed.Ros Ballaster (London: Penguin, 1995).This quotation is taken from p.83. Subsequent citations fromthis novel will be given in parentheses.
Edmund Burke, ‘Perfection not the Cause of Beauty’,
On the Sublime and Beautiful