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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sense and Sensibility: Throwing Shade Edition + Giveaway from Laurie Viera Rigler!

Laurie Viera Rigler's been around these parts a time or ten. And she always brings something amazing to the table, like that time she helped us figure out if we'd be able to cut it during Austen's time (spoiler: probably not), or when she shared her absolute favorite moments from both the book and film versions of each of Austen's works. And of course, all of those silly, random, awesome Janeite Conversations we've had over the years...
Today, she's taking a look at some of the shadier elements of this year's Read Along, Sense & Sensibility. And you know a book that contains both Fanny Dashwood and Lucy Steele is bound to have some shade...

Sense and Sensibility: Throwing Shade Edition…and a giveaway

We who love Austen often long for the civility of her world—or at least our romanticized idea of it. But what about the flip side of all that social restraint and enforced politeness?

Can you imagine having to hold your tongue just about all the time? In the world of Austen, you’re never allowed to tell people off, not really. You can’t ever talk back to your parents, even if you’re an adult. You’re forced to socialize with all manner of disagreeable, narcissistic, or downright evil beings, and spend whole days or even months with them, with fake smiles plastered on your face. (Wait a minute, that sounds like how some of us feel about holiday visits with relatives, so maybe things haven’t changed all that much?)

Or maybe it sounds like Sense and Sensibility, which is this year’s Austen in August group read. [SPOILERS AHEAD.]

The Dashwood girls can’t say a real word of protest to Fanny Dashwood, the evil queen who takes over their house before the body of their father is cold. Nor can they confront their half-brother for not giving them a penny, despite his promising their late father to do so. Edward Ferrars is forced to maintain an engagement to the conniving girl he foolishly promised to marry when he was very young**. And Elinor has to pretend that said girl is a friend rather than a grinning sadist.

Even the boundary-pushing rebel that is Marianne feels compelled to observe a modicum of restraint. As she observes bitterly after being pressed to have yet another excruciating visit to Barton Park, "The rent of this cottage is said to be low; but we have it on very hard terms, if we are to dine at the park whenever any one is staying either with them, or with us." Her solution is mostly to withdraw in silence or ignore others, leaving all the painful offices of civility to poor Elinor. Or, in the case of a close friend such as Edward, her idea of openness is to shame him for being reserved during his visit to Barton Cottage. Which makes us want Marianne to conform to politeness standards just a bit more. (Jane Austen sure is clever that way.) Nevertheless, Marianne does have a couple of bona fide public outbursts regarding that horrible dinner with Mrs. Ferrars, which we applaud her for.

I did a word search of all of Jane Austen’s works. The words “confrontation” and “confront” aren’t there. Nevertheless, confrontation is one of the most satisfying things about the Austen canon. Not confrontation of others, but rather confrontation of oneself. Austen’s protagonists may get a jumpstart from their nearest and dearest, as does Marianne from Elinor’s gentle confrontation, but ultimately they must confront themselves in order to achieve true happiness. Which is the best lesson we can ever hope to learn from this brilliant author.

And yet, being a twenty-first-century girl, I sometimes want to shout at the page or throw popcorn at the screen because my heroines are obliged to put up with the most heinous people and have to keep their mouths shut. But let’s face it, this level of emotional involvement is all part of the fun of being a reader and a viewer, because hey, this is Austen, and things are always going to work out in the end.

So…here are a few things that I wish my favorite characters could say.

You know the part where Lucy asks Elinor if Elinor knows Edward Ferrars’s mother? Just before Lucy drops the bomb?

Lucy says to Elinor, “I hope you will do me the justice of believing that I do not mean to be impertinent."

To which Elinor, rather than making the “civil reply” the novel refers to, would say,
“My dear Miss Steele, I would rather eat glass.”


Then, Lucy does the big reveal. In the novel, Elinor hides her devastation with every ounce of self-command she possesses. She cannot at first even believe it is true: "Engaged to Mr. Edward Ferrars! …I beg your pardon; but surely there must be some mistake of person or name. We cannot mean the same Mr. Ferrars."

Wouldn’t it be nice if Elinor could then add:


How about the part where Colonel Brandon and Elinor talk about Willoughby’s crimes?

Elinor asks if Brandon has met with Willoughby, and he replies, “…we met by appointment, he to defend, I to punish his conduct. We returned unwounded, and the meeting, therefore, never got abroad."

Brandon’s words are so cryptic to our twenty-first-century ears that it’s easy to miss the fact that he actually challenged and fought Willoughby in a duel! (Which should ease the mind of anyone who fears that Marianne got shortchanged by marrying a flannel-waistcoat-wearing guy who’s “on the wrong side of five and thirty.”)

Anyhow, what if Brandon’s saying no one got injured was just to ease Elinor’s delicate female mind?

The is what the Brandon of my imagination says:


“That is just as it ought to be,” replies Elinor.

Then there’s that excruciating scene where Edward calls on Elinor, and finds the woman he has to marry sitting with the woman he wishes he could marry. Surely he’s thinking the following; if only he would just say it:


What do you wish your favorite Austen characters could say out loud? Do tell!

GIF images are from my favorite adaptation of the novel, directed by Ang Lee, with an Oscar-winning screenplay by Emma Thompson, and starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Greg Wise, and the inimitable Alan Rickman.

Which brings us to the giveaway. One lucky winner will receive all of the following:
  • Sense and Sensibility: The Screenplay and Diaries by Emma Thompson. If you love film, and you love Austen, and you’ve ever wondered what goes into adapting a beloved novel to the screen and what it’s like to actually make that film, this book will exceed all wishes. Emma Thompson’s diaries are hilarious, touching, and illuminating. The screenplay is a huge bonus. If you haven’t seen the film, do!
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict (both signed). Culture shock and romantic chaos ensue when two young women, one from Regency England and the other from 21st-century L.A.—each reeling from a break-up, and each devotees of Jane Austen—inexplicably switch bodies, time periods, and lives.

** re Edward’s maintaining his engagement: In this case, forced politeness has the law on its side, for in Jane Austen’s world, men could be sued for breach of promise. Not to mention that whole gentleman’s-code-of-honor thing. Even a gentleman who didn’t actually propose could find himself in trouble if he openly paid so much attention to a lady that all her friends and relatives assumed they were as good as engaged. See Persuasion, Vol. II, Chapter XI, when Captain Wentworth explains his realizing that he might have been stuck with a certain young woman for life. So why didn’t that apply to Willoughby, you might ask? The key word is “gentleman.”

One (1) lucky winner will receive copies of Sense and Sensibility: The Screenplay and DiariesConfessions of a Jane Austen Addict (signed) and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict (signed), courtesy of Laurie Viera Rigler!
Ends September 10th at 11:59 pm EST
US only!
Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author:

Laurie Viera Rigler’s novels Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict (Dutton US; Bloomsbury UK) could have been considered semi-autobiographical, were it not for all the time travel and body-switching. Laurie’s short story Intolerable Stupidity can be found in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It (Ballantine). She has recently completed the third novel in the Jane Austen Addict series and is writing a pilot script adapting the series for television. She is currently at work on a new novel. In her off-hours she is an avid reader, bread baker, cello player, yoga student, and Netflix binger.

Return to the Austen in August Main Page by clicking here for more Janeite goodies!


  1. Apart from the "Please kill me now" I think Elinor wants to say "Are you serious???" or "Are you kidding me??"

  2. Oho, I love this exercise of letting the characters let off a bit of spleen. How about when Anne Elliot has to listen to the Musgrove sisters fawning all over Wentworth or when her sister is being a jerk to her. Oh yeah, I would love to have heard Anne tell Wentworth he was an idiot if he was interested in such simple girls flirting or that Anne might gag hearing Louisa talk about how she's all that b/c she's stubborn and won't give in. Oh and she can give older sister Elizabeth the finger and tell her to kiss off. Yeah, that would be fun.
    And poor Fanny Price, now wouldn't that be worthy of epic excitement to see her snag Aunt Norris by her hair and 'wipe the floor' with her as she lets her know just where she can stow her request to get the basket from her house in the heat.

    So many scenes. Thanks for the laughs, Laura!

    1. I can see you are really having fun with this! :) LOL re Fanny Price and Mrs Norris

  3. Ah, I LOVE it! I do wish someone of the male persuasion would call out John Dashwood and take him down a peg or three. There are plenty of characters I'd love to see be treated with more honesty and less civility, but I'm not nearly as clever in retorts as Ms. Austen herself was. It would also be nice for the female protagonists to get a chance to just say no, once in awhile. Always being polite and obliging, never allowed to draw a hard line....how exhausting!

    1. YES! A good No! or just a moment of flat-out honesty and confrontation would be SO cathartic!

  4. I think there would be a few times that Elinor must have thought "I'm in hell!!" or "Life is so unfair."

    1. Oh yes. That poor girl! Am so happy that Austen made everything turn out well for her.

  5. This isn't shade exactly, but in the 1999 film of Mansfield Park, when Fanny walks in on Maria and Henry in a...compromising...position, I think she was probably internally screaming, "My eyes! MY EYES!!!!!" (Pretty sure we were all thinking that.) Of course, in the novel the affair is not found out in nearly so dramatic a fashion!

    And yes, "please, kill me now" has got to be exactly what was going through Edward's head in that moment XD

    Btw, I'm assuming the giveaway is US only?

  6. I love these gifs (and really miss Alan Rickman, *sigh). The point about the absence of confront and comfort is fascinating. I wonder if the latter ever pops up in the other novels.

    1. Nevermind. I just reread and realizes it was a word search of all the novels. Now I am wondering what kind of language appears in scenes involving confrontation and comfort.

    2. mollands.net is a great resource for searching through the novels. Enjoy! The words I searched for were "confront" and "confrontation." It's really fascinating to explore how much language has changed since Austen's time. Everyday words we take for granted had different meanings or were used in different contexts than we are used to.

  7. I don't think there is anything I'd love to hear my favorite characters say more than seeing Brandon punch Willoughby in the face. Just. Once.

  8. I have thought many times that Elizabeth should just tell Caroline where to stick it. Although Elizabeth does to a fair job of getting her point across. Oh and Mr. Collins why Darcy just doesn't tell him to shut up is beyond me. Oh then there is Elinor Dashwood she should tell her brother to grow a pair!!!! There is so many more that I just can't name them all.

  9. Of all the masculine characters, Darcy can often be very "wimpy." I would love to hear Colonel Fitzwilliam say to the moping Darcy who is deep in his cups: "I imagine it must be quite easy to relieve yourself now that you left most of your marriage tackle in Hertfordshire. Come on Darcy. Grow a pair and marry the girl!" posted by Don Jacobson

  10. Tres risqué! I always felt bad for Colonel Fitzwilliam, who would rather marry Elizabeth himself.

  11. I've always wondered why Mrs. Dashwood NEVER questioned John Dashwood after her husband's death. Surely he must have discussed how he would "help" the girls. Oh how I wish she would have created a scene and said, "I KNOW that my husband would have provided for the girls. What are you trying to pull?" "If you don't come up with the cash, we're all staying right here at Norland Park." LOL!!

  12. This has been great fun. Thanks to all who commented and entered! Huge thanks to Misty for hosting Austen in (mostly) August. I love this event.

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