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Sense and Sensibility



Classic novel is rich in romance and humor.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Sense and Sensibility, like all of Jane Austen's novels, offers information about ways of life among the upper classes in late-18th/early 19th-century England, such as methods of transportation and communication, medical practices, forms of entertainment, and social mores and attitudes. This book especially explores gender roles, and the limited prospects of women who could not support themselves.

Positive messages

Though some of the moral lessons indicated in Sense and Sensibility are outdated by centuries, teens may benefit from the book's warnings not to give too much away emotionally in a romantic relationship before really getting to know the other person. This book also cautions against the evils of gossip; discretion is the better part of valor in many of Austen's most admirable characters.

Positive role models

The stoic but warmhearted Elinor is one of Austen's most beloved and admired characters. A woman of her word, she shows discretion, loyalty to her family and friends, intelligence, thoughtfulness, and grace under pressure.


Some of the men in Sense and Sensibility are sportsmen, so it is mentioned that they have guns and hunt.


Characters kiss affectionately, but the only actual sex takes place "off-screen." Viewers learn through Brandon's explanation about two young women who resort to a "life of sin," resulting in each bearing a child out of wedlock.


The word "bitch" is used in reference to a female dog.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Wine is consumed with meals and at social occasions, and is used medicinally to aid those in emotional or physical distress.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, is an enjoyable novel of manners, full of romance, humor, and beautifully realized characters. The old-fashioned language might be alienating to modern readers at first, but it's well worth the moderate patience it may take to become totally engrossed in the plot. Social attitudes of the characters are antiquated, particularly concerning gender roles, but this can make an excellent point of departure for discussion. Sense and Sensibility includes a sad story about two women who become pregnant out of wedlock. Also, characters drink wine and shoot game for sport. This novel has been made into several films, including the Academy Award-winning version starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet and the modern urban interpretation From Prada to Nada.

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What's the story?

Jane Austen's first published novel, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, tells the story of the elder Dashwood sisters, reasonable Elinor and her impulsive sister Marianne. These two young women, with their mother and youngest sister, Margaret, must leave their family estate, Norwood, after their father's death; the property has been left to the girls' half-brother, John. Before the Dashwood women leave Norwood, John and his wife, Fanny, arrive, along with Fanny's brother, Edward Ferrars, who develops a close connection with Elinor. With a very small income left to them, Mother and daughters decamp to a Devonshire cottage owned by a distant cousin, where they become acquainted with the proper Colonel Brandon and charming John Willoughby, among others. The sisters' romantic prospects take numerous twists and turns as the girls navigate a social world where not every landed man they meet is truly a gentleman.

Is it any good?


Sense and Sensibility is a richly rewarding story of manners from one of the world's greatest novelists. Full of feeling, humor, and beautifully realized characters, this book is treasured by teens and adults who enjoy a complex romantic page-turner. For two centuries, readers' hearts have broken for naive Marianne and long-suffering Elinor, and the book will surely find devoted readers for centuries to come.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about gender roles in Jane Austen's world. How are the characters' lives limited by then-accepted notions about women's place in society?

  • Have you seen any of the film versions of this book? How do they differ from the novel?

  • What does the title Sense and Sensibility mean?

Book details

Author:Jane Austen
Genre:Literary Fiction
Topics:Book characters, Brothers and sisters, Friendship
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:W. W. Norton & Co.
Publication date:January 1, 1811
Number of pages:352
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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