Sunday, November 6, 2011

Period Drama Heroines #5: Marianne Dashwood

(Note: I had previously intended to make Marianne #5 in my Period Drama Heroines series, with Molly Gibson as #6. But I decided to switch them so that Marianne could appear in S&S Week.)

"Mama, the more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love."
~Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility 1995)

Marianne Dashwood. Her very name inspires a vivid picture of her personality. She is one of the most real of Jane Austen's characters (not that any of JA's girls are un-real!) and she's a delight to read about. Romantic and high-spirited, passionate and full of feeling, Marianne leaps off the page. Of Jane Austen's heroines, she is the one who grows and matures the most throughout her book. The ambiguous title (is it Sense along with Sensibility or Sense versus Sensibility?) captures Marianne very well. Sensibility, or emotion, defines her. She's never flat or indifferent. As Austen herself said, "She was sensible and clever, but eager in everything. Her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was every thing but prudent." Marianne doesn't sit back and let the world go by; instead, she dances out in the midst of it.

Kate Winslet as Marianne (1995)

Marianne may be Jane Austen's prettiest described heroine. (I'm talking about how Jane Austen wrote about her characters, not how we view them.) Elizabeth is supposedly much plainer than her sister Jane; Fanny is most definitely un-striking (though sweet); Anne Elliot has passed her bloom; Emma Woodhouse is described as handsome, but not many particulars are given; and Elinor, Marianne's sister, pales beside her exuberant younger sister. And Catherine Morland is supposed to be "girlish" and "sweet" but we don't really know how pretty she is. Sir John Middleton frequently describes Marianne as a "monstrous pretty girl". Sir John's use of adjectives is probably not the most appropriate in the world (how many pretty monsters have you seen?) but we get the idea.

Charity Wakefield as Marianne (2008)

Marianne's impulsiveness, though endearing, doesn't serve her well. She gets swept up in her exuberant feelings and often doesn't stop to think; and when John Willoughby comes on the scene, she falls for him like a ton of bricks. (That's an overused cliche, but at the moment I can't think of anything better.) Willoughby is charming, handsome and pleasant, and he reads poetry with great expression. On the surface, he seems to be the perfect one for Marianne. Until, of course, she discovers his true character.

Greg Wise and Kate Winslet as Willoughby and Marianne (1995)

Then there's Colonel Brandon, who's in love with Marianne but doesn't say anything about it because he thinks he's too old for her. He's more concerned with her happiness than with his own. And Marianne, though she likes Colonel Brandon, thinks he's boring and unromantic. She firmly believes in love at first sight, heroes on white horses and the undying love of Romeo and Juliet. (Romeo and Juliet? Ewwww.)

I think S&S has a running theme of "appearances can be deceiving". Obviously Willoughby is not what he seems. Nor is Colonel Brandon--he's ultimately the hero. Edward Ferrars really isn't the shy, stuttering person that Marianne condemns for a lack of feeling. Lucy Steele is most certainly not sweet and charming. (I have to say, though, that I liked her at first. Well, I did. How was I to know how awful she really was? I honestly thought she was just confiding in Elinor, not gloating.)

Charity Wakefield and Hattie Morahan as Marianne and Elinor (2008)

It's Marianne, though, that I'm talking about here. Marianne is impulsive and idealistic, naive and exuberant, governed by her emotions, seemingly a little shallow. But by the end of the book, the reader realizes that Marianne isn't quite what she seems. She's not shallow or flighty; she has a depth of perception that developed over the course of the novel. At first she didn't think twice about Colonel Brandon, but by the time the story ends, she appreciates him for who and what he is. Maybe the Colonel's not the dashing prince she dreamed of, but in the end he is the hero (and Willoughby's the bad guy). Character wins out over charisma.

I love this (unfortunately very short) scene of Marianne and Colonel Brandon--I only wish the movie showed more of their developing relationship. Marianne is finally beginning to realize that her true hero was there all along... and the Shakespeare sonnets make it 10x more romantic, of course. :)

Marianne is eager in everything, as Jane Austen says, and that includes eagerness to learn. And that's what she does: she learns from Colonel Brandon, from Elinor, from Edward, and even from Willoughby himself. She grows and matures throughout Sense and Sensibility--and in the end, the title fits her perfectly. She's acquired some sense, but she hasn't lost her sensibilities. She's toned down a little, but she's still Marianne.

Kate Winslet as Marianne in one of the best weddings ever (1995)

And really... if she weren't, the book might not be worth reading.


Melody said...

Marianne's 'the more I know of the world' quote is one of my top favorites!!! It explains my own feelings perfectly (especially with the 'I require so much!' at the end, like in the book.)
Except, I've looked for it in the 1995 version and never found it. Although it was in the trailer, with voice over. (Odd, that.)

I like Marianne. And in many ways, I am like Marianne. =)

Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

Great post! My favorite Marianne has to be Kate Winslet's. She can be a little over-dramatic, but that is what Marianne is at times.

Marianne's development is one of the things I like about her character. Sure, she makes some mistakes, but she learns from them.

On another note, I know how you feel about Romeo and Juliet. I hated reading that play!

Miss Dashwood said...

Haha... that Marianne quote is one of my favorites, and I could hear Kate Winslet's voice in my head saying it, so I just assumed it came from the '95 movie (in the "To Die For Love" scene) and so I just cited it as from the movie. I may have to go back and add "trailer". :)

Miss Bennet,
Exactly! Kate Winslet makes a Mary Poppins-ish Marianne (practically perfect in every way). Though Charity Wakefield comes closer to my mental image of Marianne (when I was reading the book for the first time).
I haven't actually read the full play of Romeo and Juliet, but from what I have read and already know, it's horrid.

Melody said...

Well, you could just say it's from the book. haha

Alexandra said...

Marianne is my favorite Austen heroine...because I'm just like her. To a "T". :-) I don't think there's another heroine I identify with more than her...unless perhaps it's Anne Shirley. But anyway...

I (hope I have!!!) a bit more sense than her, but that dramatic, passionate part of her is totally me. And that "the more I see of the world" quote is TOTALLY me. :-)

The whole "to love is to burn" speil sounds like something I would say, too. :-P

Anyway. And Kate Winslet played her to perfection. Plus she's gorgeous, of course. Just perfect for the role. :-)

Ella said...

I love how Kate Winslet played Marianne.
I am sometimes emotional like Marianne,but I'm not as romatic as she is.