The Value of Money in Matrimony as seen in Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”

The Value of Money in Matrimony as seen in Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”

In Sense and Sensibility and among other works of Jane Austen, marriage is either considered for love or financial reasons. Lucky are those who have the best of both worlds like Elizabeth and Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice

He chose to be with Miss Sophia Grey with fifty thousand pounds — a choice between that or nothing at all.

What struck me in reading Sense and Sensibility is how money matters just as much as love does. Oftentimes it shows money bearing a matter of much significance than the other. John Willoughby did not abandon Marianne Dashwood entirely because of his will but due to his financial straits. He chose to be with Miss Sophia Grey with fifty thousand pounds — a choice between that or nothing at all.

Jane Austen was sharp on the matter of wealth, considering how the talk of money began right at the beginning. Before Henry Dashwood succumbed to death, he talked to his son, John Dashwood, who would inherit Norland Park. It was during his final hours that he asked his son to take care of his stepmother and half-sisters. John promised he’d do anything to make them comfortable. That was until his wife, Fanny Dashwood, intervened and muddled his thoughts into giving them barely anything. From then on wealth tends to be talked about, either paragraph long or a brisk exchange of dialogues.

This gives the readers a perspective of how Austen perceived “enough” money in order to get through everyday life — which is to say wasn’t particularly much.

Jane Austen didn’t shy away from the topic of money but rather emphasized how wealth has to do with anything. At one point, she wrote, “They were neither of them quite enough in love to think that three-hundred fifty pounds a year would suit them with the comforts of life,” pertaining to Elinor and Edward’s relationship. With a meager amount of money, the “comforts of life” such as shelter and food, which are necessities, would be difficult to sustain. These difficulties could lead to arguments, among other things, which could then result in their relationship’s ruination.

In chapter seventeen, Marianne asked what does wealth or anything grand have to do with happiness. “Grandeur has but little,” said Elinor, “but wealth has much to do with it”. Marianne then argued that two-thousand pounds a year would be enough, though, for Elinor, just a thousand would suffice. For both parts, the amount of money is specified. This gives the readers a perspective of how Austen perceived “enough” money in order to get through everyday life — which is to say wasn’t particularly much, just adequate to live with the comforts of life.

What Jane Austen was trying to show wasn’t the luxury that money brings but the stability that comes with practicality. She didn’t mean to focus on splurging on unnecessary wants. It’s not about being materialistic but having a reasonable economic basis just enough for a couple to live by without the stressful possibility of staggering debts.

Ada Pelonia

Ada Pelonia (she/her) is an article writer for The Walled City Journal. Her works have appeared in 101 Words, Porridge Magazine, Philippines Graphic, Capsule Stories, Pulp Poets Press, The Brown Orient, Germ Magazine, among others.

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