Austen’s Depiction of Children in the Novel
The novel Sense and Sensibility is the first published work of the great English writer Jane Austen, which achieved wider readership and made Jane famous. The story is about young girls from the middle-class family, and the feelings that they experience. From the very beginning, Sense and Sensibility catches a reader by the wear and tear of the family Dashwood’s life, and throughout the novel he feels joy and sorrow together with sisters Dashwood. The book is rich with events and heroes. Main characters, like Mrs. Dashwood, are closely related to the members of several respectable English families, who are directly involved in the events happening in the novel.
The plot of the story centers mainly on Elinor and Marianne, young ladies of marriageable age, the eldest daughters of Mrs. Dashwood, but there is one more sister, the thirteen-year old, Margaret, who is mentioned just several times: at the beginning and at the end of the novel. Introducing Margaret Dashwood to the reader, Jane Austen accentuates the impact of Marianne’s romantic nature on Margaret. The author says: “Margaret, (…), was a good-humored, well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne’s romance, without having much of her sense.” Margaret comes across as ingenuous teenager intent to make a mountain out of a molehill, but very distressed for her sisters.
Focused on adult heroes of the story, the author doesn’t pay much attention to children, but sometimes they appear on the pages. Moving to Devonshire, the Dashwoods lodged in the cottage belonging to Mr. Middleton, a relative of Mrs. Dashwood. The Middletons has four children, the eldest of them, “a fine little boy about six years old” is mentioned when Mrs. Middleton with his son came to paid respects to newcomers. The boy was taken intentionally to be “one subject always to be recurred to by the ladies in case of extremity. On every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse.” And his mother was surprised to see that boy was “so shy before company, as he could make noise enough at home.” Later Jane Austen introduces all four children Middleton, when Misses Steele were on a visit to the Middletons. The children behaved very badly, they were noisy and bad-mannered, but their mother was blind to their drawbacks. So the guests admired and chanted the praises to the children in order to insinuate into her confidence.
Mrs. Middleton has a sister, Charlotte Palmer, whom the reader meets when she bears a child. Child’s birth became an important event for its relatives. Mrs. Palmer encompassed her boy with excessive care and attention and refused to listen to the reasonable arguments feeling alarm at the least thing. Her mother, Mrs. Jennings, says about her: “.., I found Charlotte quite in a fuss about the child. She was sure it was very ill—it cried, and fretted, and was all over pimples. (…), my dear,’ says I, ‘it is nothing in the world, but the red gum (…). But Charlotte, she would not be satisfied, so Mr. Donavan was sent for.”
Sense and Sensibility is a book describing emotional stress of adult heroes, so the children are present here on occasion, when the author talks about their families. The author doesn’t idealize the children; she depicted them as they are: spoilt, as the Middletons’ children and impetuous, as Margaret Dashwood, reflecting their education and parents’ attitude to them.
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