3. MARIANNE DASHWOOD
The seventeen year old Marianne is musically talented, with striking figure and a face, says the narrator, “so lovely, that when in the common cant of praise she was called a beautiful girl, truth was less violently outraged than usually happens”(p.41). Throughout most of the narrative, Marianne’s characteristics are directly opposed to those of her sister. Fiercely individualistic and impatient of those who do not come up to her high standards in cultural enthusiasm and taste, she is impulsive, indiscreet and imprudent. Passionate in her affections, she does not suffer fools gladly and can be impatient and even rude to those she does not care for. She has an openness and transparency in her dealings with others that may well appeal to present-day readers; contrasted, however, with the discretion and unfailing courtesy of Elinor, such openness can be seen as inappropriate, even dangerous, behavior for a genteel young woman of that time. When rebuked by Elinor fo her indiscretion in driving alone with Willoughby to look over his relative’s house, however, she makes a candid claim to an innate sense of virtue: “if there had been any real impropriety in what i did, i should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong”(p.60)
Her violent emotions an her exaggerated sensibility make her appear slightly ridiculous at the beginning of the novel: on leaving Norland, for example, she indulges in a solitary rhetorical farewell to the house and trees, anding with the solipsistic, “But who will remain to enjoy you?”(p.23). Her opinions on matters of taste are not to be questioned: she withholds admiration for Edward because he does not have what she considers to be correct enthusiasms. She believes in the validity only of first love; “second attachments”, as she calls them, can never have her approval.
4. MARGARET DASHWOOD
The reader hears a little of thirteen year old Margaret, who is peripheral to the action, but useful as an information gatherer about the courtship between Marianne and Willoughby. At the close of the novel, she is moved into the position vacated by Elinor and Marianne, as a pleasing young woman who will help to enliven activities at Barton Park. Thus, she is a reminder, perhaps beyond the loose ends that Austen ties up-that, just as some girls are settled satisfactorily in her literary world, there will always be another needing to be found a husband.
5. JOHN AND FANNY DASHWOOD
Although they are the source of much comedy, Mr ans Mrs John Dashwood are as hard-hearted a couple as any the reader is likely to meet in Jane Austen’s novels. Their greed is matched only by their hypocrisy. In chapter 2, where Austen’s mastery of revealing dialog is evident, John and Fanny ere introduced or, rather, uncovered, to the reader. By the end of the private conversation, Mrs Henry Dashwood and her daughters are cheated out of their inheritance, as Fanny persuades her only too amenable husband that he need to offer no financial assistance to his stepmother and half-sisters. John begins by proposing to give an ungenerous thousand pounds to each of his sisters, which would be much less than his father intended, but useful none the less. With an ingenious range of arguments, and apparent deference to her spouse, Fanny demolishes her husband’s diminishing proposals of assistance in turn, until they are able to agree that their obligations would be more than adequately fulfilled by occasional gifts of fish and game.
Not only are John and Fanny unwilling to part with even a tiny portion of their considerable wealth, but they are completely satisfied with their self-justifications. Fanny is even jealous of what little Mrs Dashwood has in the way of silver plate and good china. John Dashwood, “rather cold hearted, and rather selfish” (p.5), is also rather stupid and his insensitivity and mercenary attitudes – particularly to marriage are the source of much amusement.
6. MRS FERRARS
Fanny’s rich mother is another of Austen’s really nasty creations. This minor character is etched in acid by the author: small and sour looking, “Her complexion was sallow; and her features small, without beauty, and naturally without expression; but a lucky contraction of the brow had rescued her countenance from the disgrace of insipidity, by giving it the strong characters of pride and ill nature”(p.196).
With no personal merit, she is important in the narrative because her grasp on the purse strings makes her lack of good will a formidable barrier to Edward’s marriage.