Sometimes, it’s fun to throw it back by reading classics with your book club! If your group has picked Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, then we’ve got your Sense and Sensibility book club questions right here, along with a Sense and Sensibility reading guide and some major themes to discuss.
A Sense and Sensibility Reading Guide
Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first published novel, and it explores how the lives of the Dashwoods are changed forever when their father dies, leaving them with very little money. Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret move into Barton Cottage rather than stay on at their home of Norland Park, which is now owned by Mr. Dashwood’s son from a previous marriage and his odious wife Fanny. The novel follows the two older sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they acclimate to their new lives — and new positions in society — and each experience a chance at romance and happiness, if they can successfully navigate the emotions and sensibilities of their time.
Themes: Family, loss, class, navigating emotions, emotion vs. reason, romantic attachments
Tips for Reading
Readers unfamiliar with reading novels written in the early 19th century might be unused to the flow and language. It’s important to try and pace yourself — don’t expect that you’ll read this book in a single sitting! — but also make sure you give yourself plenty of time when you pick up the book to allow yourself to be immersed into the world and get used to the style. This is not a novel that is easily read ten minutes at a time.
It might also be useful to understand before you begin reading that society at the time valued sensibility over sense — that is, strong emotions, feelings, and instinct reigned over reasoned thinking. Keep this in mind as you read, as this perspective will reveal Austen’s intent and message in this novel.
Sense and Sensibility Book Club Questions
Discuss the tenuous position of ladies within society, and how the entailment on Norland put the Dashwood ladies into a precarious position. Do you believe the men in their lives could have done more to provide for them? Do you believe that Fanny acted unfairly toward the Dashwoods?
Discuss the role of money in this book — how is it used to reveal character?
Which sister did you gravitate towards the most? Which did you consider to be the heroine of the novel? Or did they both share that duty?
Discuss how Elinor and Marianne each embody the essences of sense, and sensibility. Do you think that each could have benefited from being more like the other?
What were your first impressions of Edward Ferrars? Willoughby? Colonel Brandon?
Did you think that Colonel Brandon’s attraction to Marianne was realistic? Did you think that he and Elinor were, on paper, more suited to each other? Did you find the age difference between Brandon and the Dashwood sisters hard to get past?
Politeness in society was valued over honesty during this time period. Knowing that, what did you think of the Middletons and Mrs. Jennings, and their meddling actions in the Dashwood sisters’ love lives?
What did you think of Lucy Steele? Did you trust her at first, or were you suspicious of her eagerness to befriend Elinor?
Discuss the power of secrets within this novel — both the secrets that are revealed, and the secrets that are kept. How do secrets dictate Marianne and Elinor’s actions?
What did you think about the practice of secret engagements? Are they a result of sense, or sensibility?
Which sister seems to change the most over the course of the novel? Discuss Elinor and Marianne’s character development and growth. Do you think their growth is realistic?
What did you think about Willoughby’s apology? Did you feel sympathetic towards him? Whether you feel sorry for him or not, discuss the societal constrictions he faced as well.
Margaret is often the overlooked younger sister in this novel — what do you think of her role in this novel?
Do you think Marianne and Colonel Brandon will be happy together? Elinor and Edward Ferrars? Lucy and Robert Ferrars? Do you believe that their marriages are a result of sense or sensibility? Based on your answers, do you think that Austen was making a statement on the foundation of marriages?
Was this your first Austen novel? How would you compare this book to her other work? Does knowing that Sense and Sensibility is Jane Austen’s first published novel alter your impression or opinion of the book at all? Will you read another Jane Austen novel?
Find More Books For Discussion
Want more great book club discussions? Check out our best book club books of 2020. And if you’re looking for something specific for your next book group meeting, sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that send you books you’ll love to read.
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