By Michael Williams
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Additional resources for Jane Austen: Six Novels and their Methods
Likewise there is a claim, for the 'perfect' future happiness of the hero and heroine, that can only belong to the fictional world. As a final joke at the expense of the reader, in the closing words of the novel's last sentence a spurious debate is initiated about what this novel can be said to 'recommend'. 3 Sense and Sensibility: Ideas and Arguments 'At my time of life opinions are tolerably fixed. ' (Marianne Dashwood on first attachments) Sense and Sensibility is a very different enterprise from Northanger Abbey.
The example of Fielding's Amelia is useful here. The reader who approaches it after joseph Andrews or Tom jones is likely to be struck by a significant change in tone. Most noticeably, Fielding's narrator is much less in evidence. It is not that the novel is without paradoxes and ironies, but that these are often presented directly and without much intermediate commentary. Even the first chapter, though it is given over entirely to the narrator, has nothing like the boisterous satirising of Richardson and Colley Cibber at the start of Joseph Andrews; and there is none of the obvious and deliberate playing with the reader's expectations, as in Tom Jones.
This, though, is as nothing to what happens when Marianne enters and, at once the maker of comedy and one of its targets, works with her usual forthrightness, and by the light of an untruth which she not unreasonably takes to be true, to illuminate, dazzlingly and unwittingly, the untruths and less-than-truths by which the other three, with more or less compliance, have been operating. 19 Marianne engages and disengages our sympathetic interest, and, just as there is a conflicting urge to laugh at and to censure her extremes, so we can also find ourselves pitying her, and sympathetic to some of her attitudes.