Monday, 2 December 2013

Sense and Sensibility

'That sanguine expectation of happiness which is happiness itself'
Photo from Ruby Photgraphy, thought it suited the Jane Austen theme
I recently finished reading Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. I've had it downloaded on my kindle for ages and assumed I had read it, until my mum and I were trying and failing miserably to remember what happened in it. I read the first page or two to jog my memory, then read the first few chapters, then about half way through I came to the conclusion I had never read it because I didn't recognise any of it!

Book cover images from Google
I do love literature but I can't deny that sometimes reading can feel a bit dull. Our lives nowadays are so full of moving pictures with loud noises and bright colours and constant distraction that sometimes reading does feel almost too quiet and slow.

But then reading captures my imagination and stimulates my emotions more than any movie or TV programme ever will. There's something truly wonderful about reading a story written hundreds of years ago with characters that you can relate to, their heartbreak, their secret desires, their conformity to society's expectations or their lack of it.

Technology is ever-changing and the way we live our lives keep altering almost exponentially, each generation more technologically advanced than the last. But reading makes you realise that, although the way we live our lives is constantly altering, the things we live for are strikingly unchanged.

My favourite thing about the Kindle is that whilst reading you can 'highlight' words and quotes which then get stored in a little folder called 'my clippings'. If I read a word I'm not familiar with I can highlight it and the Kindle will give me the dictionary definition, then later on I write down all the words I highlighted and the definition so that hopefully the next time I come across it I will remember what it means.

Best of all, when I finish a book, I can read all my favourite lines and descriptions again and get that overwhelming feeling of both sadness and happiness that I am a part of humanity and there are intrinsic emotions innate to us all, deep desires we all feel and always will feel...

For example. this description of Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood reminded me of my own dramatic temperament, how when I am sad my mind becomes set on the idea that it is the end of the world and I shall never be happy ever again:
'They gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increase of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it, and resolved against ever admitting consolation in future'
I think many people can probably relate to this too...
'Mama, the more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love'

Marianne sarcastic response after her sister criticises her for being too open and earnest when talking to men...
'I see what you mean. I have been too much at my ease, too happy, too frank. I have erred against every common-place notion of decorum; I have been open and sincere when I ought to have been reserved, spiritless, dull and deceitful - had I talked only of the weather and the roads, and had I spoken only once in ten minutes, this reproach would have been spared'
Who would have thought that 200 years later we would still be making dull, yet seemingly compulsory chitchat of the weather and the roads!? And people were still complaining about the slow laziness of the builders...
'...after experiencing, as usual, a thousand disappointments and delays from the unaccountable dilatoriness of the workmen.'

And finally... Marianne and Elinor talking about their old home and the trees there that they can no longer see since moving...
"Oh," cried Marianne, "with what transporting sensation have I formerly seen [the dead leaves] fall! How have I delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they...inspired! Now there is no one to regard them. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off and driven as much as possible from sight."
"It is not everyone," said Elinor, "who has your passion for dead leaves."
"No; my feelings are not often shared, not often understood. But SOMETIMES they are." 
I think this has to be one of my favourites. It makes me laugh so much, because I share her feelings, I understand them. All those years ago Jane Austen wrote that dialogue and here I am relating to her character's enthusiasm for dead leaves. I've even written about them here, here and here!

There were plenty of other quotes but you'll just have to read it yourself! And each person that reads it will probably highlight something completely different, lines and words that they can relate to!

Next time you're sat watching another repeat of some American sitcom, try picking up a book instead. Even if you only read a couple of pages each evening, by the end you feel as if you have met new people and learnt about new lives. You learn new words and new ways to reflect on your own life. Increase your sensibility and learn something new?! It just makes sense really.

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