A Book Club for Jane Austen’s Novels, Part 1: Sense and Sensibility

A Book Club for Jane Austen’s Novels, Part 1: Sense and Sensibility

I live in a retirement community where the connecting buildings house over a thousand residents. The management encourages us to start clubs or activities. I started a club devoted to reading Jane Austen’s novels. Although I want the discussion to be able to go in any direction, as long as it is about the novels, I supply a list of questions to get people started.

We are reading the books in order of publication, which had us start with Sense and Sensibility. For every book, I have some generic questions:

  1. Did you like [Whichever Novel Being Discussed] Why or why not?
  2. Is there any scene that you enjoyed more than others? Explain.
  3. Is there any scene that you disliked? Explain.
  4. Is there a quote from the book you enjoyed?
  5. Is there a character you liked more than others? That doesn’t mean liked as a person, but as a character. For example, Lucy Steele and Mr. Wickham might be considered good characters but not good people.

Sense and Sensibility

  1. Did you sympathize more with Elinor or Marianne?
  2. Was Elinor unrealistically mature and sensible?
  3. Was Marianne charming, a spoiled brat, or something else?
  4. Some critics think Colonel Brandon and Edward Ferrars were both depressed. Were the symptoms of depression a result of their temperaments or their circumstances?
  5. On paper, Colonel Brandon seems like a romantic hero. He has a romantic past, he’s a man of action, he is a good person, he is sensible, he is generous, and he has traveled. Yet, many think he is stodgy. What do you think of him?
  6. Is it fair to judge Willoughby’s relationship with Eliza Williams, who was sixteen at the time, by today’s standards?
  7. Can you forgive Willoughby?
  8. Why were Colonel Brandon and Sir John Middleton friends?

My co-author, Summer Hanford, recommended I mention I was a teacher. To please her, I am doing so.

You may notice that I did not ask anything about symbolism or literary techniques, such as indirect speech. That is because I was a math teacher, not an English teacher. I’m quite happy with mathematical symbols, but literary ones must be explained to me.

Summer and I met in an online writing class, where our teacher criticized my work by saying not everything is plot. My main interest is plot, but characters and dialog must be consistent with the plot. Jane Austen makes her characters behave in a way that is believable. Therefore, my questions emphasize characters. Sense and Sensibility is hard to understand without understanding both the characters and the time in which they lived. A modern reaction would be to arrest Willoughby for statutory rape and to tell Marianne to get over it. When she doesn’t, she’s sent to counselling. I am inclined to want to tell both Elinor and Edward that they do not need to keep their word to Lucy Steele, although I respect both for their integrity.

What other questions should I have asked? Alternatively, pick a question and answer it. As this isn’t math, your responses will not be graded.

10 Responses to A Book Club for Jane Austen’s Novels, Part 1: Sense and Sensibility

  1. I used to want to participate in book clubs but never joined as I like reading what I want and never seem interested in the books chosen. Now one devoted to Jane Austen is one I wouldn’t mind participating in.

  2. 1) I sympathize with Elinor and the eldest sibling syndrome
    2) Yes: She carried the weight of the family on her shoulders
    3) A spoiled brat thinking only of herself and her imagined feelings and emotions
    4) yes: CB due to circumstances: EF due to both circumstances and his temperament
    5) Stodgy??? What movie version were they watching? Rickman rocked as Colonel Brandon
    6) Yes: by any standards. That girl was not our yet and he should have respected that. That adult who was supposed to be watching them should have been more careful for a young girl not out yet. And Willoughby certainly shouldn’t have seduced an innocent by any standards. Grrr!! That sets me up to answer the next question.
    7) NO! Not in this lifetime!!
    8) CB and Sir JM served in India together and Middleton looked after him after his disappointment. Mrs. J was afraid CB might have done himself harm if not for Middleton. They lived near each other so I could assume they were neighbors.

    This was a fun post. I hope your group was successful and you have others that now enjoy JAFF stories. It is hard to be by yourself in enjoying a genre.

    • I enjoyed your answers

      as to #5, I loved Rickman as Colonel Brandon.

      One of the advantages of Austen Authors is that you get to interact with others who also enjoy the genre.

      I am fortunate enough to live in a community large enough to have Jane Austen fans, but there were only six of us for Pride & Prejudice and I suspect many won’t finish Mansfield Park.

  3. I wouldn’t say the Colonel and Edward were depressed, I would say they were both resigned to having to either live alone (Brandon) or live with someone they didn’t care for (Edward). Is resignation and depression the same thing in this case?

    • I think you are correct, but I’ve seen the comment about depression in more than one source. Brandon didn’t think he could fall in love again and Edward began to realize what kind of woman Lucy was and that he could love someone else.

  4. I like Colonel Brandon!(especially played by Alan Rickman) I think he is romantic and probably protects very much those he loves.My two favs are
    Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Wish we had anxiously where I am!

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