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Comparison of “Sense and Sensibility”, Jane Austen and “Frankenstein”

Outward forms exactly project or portray inward feelings’ (Tanner: 84).

According to Tanner, it was a society which “forced people to be at once very sociable and very private.” (Tanner: 88) Society within the world of Sense and Sensibility is one of balls and parties, invitations and picnics. A world were ladies where asked if they could have a private audience in advance, which meant that a marriage was to be proposed. All ladies were expected to behave in a certain manner that complied with society’s rules and expectations. Their thoughts and mannerisms should be similar and it was not expected that any woman should stray away from these. Elinor and Marianne are in fact complete opposites in their ideas, thoughts, feelings and actions.

Marianne, as Tanner suggests “demands that outward forms exactly project or portray inward feelings.” (Tanner: 84) This means that whatever is said or done is exactly what the person is thinking of saying and doing. Marianne’s behaviour does show this, as she isn’t able to speak politely if she doesn’t deem it necessary. It is almost as if she defying and going against what society wants from her. Elinor withdraws herself from society in order to reflect. It is Marianne who draws on this stark contrast by stating “Our situations then are alike. We have neither of us anything to tell; you, because you do not communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.” (Austen: 163)

During the eighteenth – century when expressing emotions in the correct manner and being sensible to the beauty of nature and literature were seen as virtues, Austen was writing a novel to support sense and moderation. Elinor and Marianne are representative of these two opposing views. Throughout the novel, sensibility is mocked, whereas sense is highly commended. By the end of the novel, sense is triumphant as Marianne makes a practical match for marriage in Colonel Brandon, not based on love, but for respect, friendship and security. Elinor marries Edward for love.

Marianne is criticized for her excessiveness of emotions which have no moderation. This is shown in her excessiveness of her requirements for a marriage suitor: “I could not be happy with a man whose tastes did not in every point coincide with my own. He must enter into all of my feelings; the same books, the same music must charm us both” (Austen: 15). Marianne does not, like Elinor, appreciate Edward for his moral virtues, but cares foremost about his sentiments; in her opinion, he does not read with proper emotion. Jane Austen may have used this idea as

Romanticism is concerned with involving the imagination. This imagination allows a person to inhabit new worlds but without parameters. Marianne feels that Edward’s lack of imagination through his reading means that he has very little imagination and therefore his ideas of love are very different.

Marianne’s emotion and willingness not to conceal anything but making her feelings heard make society extremely trivial for her. It is almost as if it is a game which she will not play to the rules. “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.’ (Austen: 118) It is Elinor who plays’ to the rules of society and covers up for Marianne.

It is ironic that Elinor is very good at screen painting, for it is she “who is always trying to smooth and harmonise potentially abrasive and discordant occasions” (Tanner: 85) When her art is insulted by Mrs. Ferrars, Marianne refuses to screen’ her anger and goes on to tell Mrs. Ferrars of her contempt for such malicious manners’. Elinor represents the characteristics associated with eighteenth century neo classicism, including rationality, insight, judgment, moderation and balance. She never loses sight of propriety, economic practicalities and perspective as when she reminds Marianne that they could no longer afford a horse or that it was inappropriate for her to go alone with Willoughby to Allenham. In contrast, Marianne represents the qualities of embracing romance, imagination, idealism, excess and a dedication to beauty and nature.

Frankenstein also shows that the idea of “outward forms exactly project or portray inward feelings” extremely well. Like Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, Viktor and the monster are opposites. Frankenstein is more like Marianne in the way that he gives no thought to the consequences of his actions, and the monster being in some ways rather similar to Elinor as trying to live a virtuous life.
It was from his childhood that Victor’s compulsion to explore nature and science began. He had a great yearning for books written by the great scientists such as Agrippa, Magnus and Paracelsus, “Here were men who had penetrated deeper and knew more. I took their word for all that they averred, and I became their disciple.” (Shelley: 38) If it weren’t for these books,

which were only read because of a flash of lightning, Victor would never have had a passion for science and would not have created the being in this novel, which means that the entire purpose of the novel can be traced back to a single bolt of lightning a marvel of nature to young Frankenstein’s eyes. This part of the book shows Victor’s enthusiasm for what is still merely a harmless game, “I had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly and ignorantly I had repined.” (Shelley: 38) It is preparing the reader for what is to come, but the sheer volume of Victor’s interest is unstoppable.

Victor is socially reckless, obstinate and extreme in his actions throughout the novel’s plot. His carelessness shows through many times in his feelings towards his creation. Whilst in the process of making his creation, Frankenstein is so caught up with it and his yearning to be remembered for ever as a great scientist he does not stop to think what may happen once his creation is alive. He is consumed by his ambition that he goes for days without food and sleep, and his family is neglected. Once his creation his alive, he refuses to accept his responsibility of being the creator to his creation. He wants nothing to do with it, and is truly disturbed by its appearance. Frankenstein was “unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bedroom chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep” (Shelley: 60).

Frankenstein has different opinions at different points in the novel regarding the monster. At the beginning, he lives for the monster, he only cares about it and forgets everyone around him and everything that he had before. His creation is anatomically correct and his obsession to create a perfect being, meant that every part of the creation was perfect. This concentration in making the monster live is direct contrast to his later wish to kill the beast. He travels with the sole purpose of hunting and slaying the creature once again depriving himself of food and sleep. The idea of wandering is extremely significant. It is as if Frankenstein is punishing himself and excluding himself from society because pf what he has done. The creature also wanders, he is an outcast from society and his wandering shows this. However, his wandering makes him human and therefore, the reader feels as sorry for him.

While his creator,

Victor Frankenstein, shrouded himself in secrecy to avoid his fellow scientists, family and friends, the Monster drifted toward civilization to find comfort and fellow feeling. However much he wanted to have and to be a friend, community was unimaginable. His hideous disfigurement obliged the Monster to live as a clandestine observer of humanity. The monster actually has rationale behind his thinking. The creation knows nothing when he is first created and learns how to walk, talk, read and write on a very short space of time. His kindness is indicated by the supplying of wood to the De Lacey family, it seems as though he feels obligated to help the family as he is using their house as a shelter. He stops taking their food when he sees that it causes them to suffer.

Victor is no saintly scientist in his attempt to dodge responsibility for his creation. Never learning self-criticism, Victor believes that the Monster is an ill-fortuned mistake and not a reflection of his own character or misjudgement. Confirming his lack of reflection, he dies saying: “During these last days I have been occupied in examining my past conduct; nor do I find it blameable….” The creator shares the same rhetorical eloquence as his creature. In relinquishing responsibility for their personal choices monster and man become monsters at the margin.

Victor hides away from society and screens his mistake, much like how Elinor screens occasions that are deemed unacceptable. William Godwin, Shelley’s father, may have had some input into the novel. He was a utilitarian and his moral theory can be said to have played an influential part in the history of the utilitarian ideal. Godwin argued that the government was a corrupting force in society, perpetuating dependence and ignorance but that it would be rendered unnecessary and powerless by the spread of knowledge. Godwin realised that society was being exploited by the capitalist state, and part of his ideal, was that those who earned more money than they needed to live in comfort, should share the extra that they have with people less fortunate than themselves.

The society that deems the creature a monster in Frankenstein are very much like Marianne, they make their emotions known by screaming and running away. The monsters were simple, in harmony with nature, it was not until his encounter with a society which held nature in reverence and saw the grotesque as unnatural. “I arrived at a village . . . But I had hardly placed my

foot within the door before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted . . . The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me, until, grievously bruised by stones and many other kinds of missile weapons, I escaped to the open country”(Shelley: 119).

The feelings of a person within the society that engulfed the characters within the two novels Sense and Sensibility and Frankenstein was to be very sociable and very private. Elinor and Marianne are two extremes of this as are Viktor and the monster. Elinor is very private to the point where she does not express herself at all, Viktor is almost the same but he locks himself away and his outward forms of his inward feelings is his creation. Ironically, his creation wants to portray his inward feelings but cannot do so because of his appearance.

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Austen, J., (1994) Sense and Sensibility. London: Penguin Books

Claire, W., (1989) The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family. London: Faber and Faber

Johnson, C., (1995) Equivical Beings: Politics, Gender and Sentimentality in the 1790’s: Wollstonecraft, Radcliffe, Burney, Austen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Marshall, P., (1984) William Godwin. London & New Haven: Yale University Press

Marshall, P. (ed.) (1986) The Anarchist Writings of William Godwin. London: Freedom Press

Mellor, A., (1988) Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, and her Monsters. London: Methuen

Philip, M., (1986) Godwin’s Political Justice. London: Duckworth

Spark, M., (1988) Mary Shelley. New York

Stokes, M., (1991) The Language of Jane Austen. London: Macmillan

Tanner, T., (1986) Jane Austen. London: Macmillan Press

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