Sunday, February 28, 2021

Online Book Club - Wrapping Up February: An Emphasis on Love

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I've joined in with some blogging friends for an online book club, and we are wrapping up this week. By the way, all our readers are invited to join in as well. Each month we'll have a theme to build our book picks around, and our February theme was Love. 

In the Literature class I teach at our co-op, we are currently reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I chose this for my Online Book Club selection as well, because the two sisters in the novel face crises in their love relationships. The literature course examines the crises that characters face and how those crises shape the plots and change the characters. In Sense and Sensibility, sisters Elinor and Marianne both experience heartbreak and romantic love, but their attitudes and approach are very different. Elinor is prudent and uses common sense, while Marianne is ruled by her emotions (or, in Austen's day, her sensibilities). 

By the way, our co-op class is using the textbook Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson. For more information about this curriculum, see my review here: Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review) (Write 28 Days - Predicament)

 Here's the story in a nutshell - The story centers around two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. After their father passed away, they and their mother and younger sister have to leave their family home and the move into a cottage provided by a relative. Before they left their home, Elinor had formed a friendship with Edward, the brother of her step-brother's wife. It was assumed that Edward and Elinor were heading towards engagement but both were very reserved and even Elinor wasn't sure how Edward felt about her. She had thought it best to be cautious and not wear her heart on her sleeve, especially since they were recently bereaved and their future was uncertain.

Shortly after moving into the cottage, the hopelessly romantic Marianne meets Willoughby, and handsome young man who shares all her feelings and opinions and the two of them are soon together all the time. Marianne is extravagant and quite heedless in her affection for Willoughby, and they behave quite improperly, giving rise to the assumption that they will soon be married. Elinor counsels Marianne to exercise some prudence and have a care for reputation but Marianne won't hear it. Meanwhile, a family friend, Colonel Brandon, seems to have fallen in love with Marianne, but she dismisses him as too old and too serious. Then one day, Willoughby abruptly returns to London and Marianne is inconsolable. 

They meet two young ladies who are guests at the estate, and Elinor discovers that one of them, Lucy, has been secretly engaged to none other than Edward for four years. Elinor remains quiet about this and suffers her loss and broken heart privately, but when Marianne finds out that Willoughby has married another woman and has a known reputation for being a seducer, she is devastated.

Edward's mother finds out about his secret engagement and disinherits him, but Colonel Brandon offers him a position as vicar. Lucy breaks the engagement, freeing Edward to pursue Elinor, which he does. They marry and move into the parsonage. Eventually Marianne comes to appreciate Colonel Brandon's character, falls in love with him, and they marry. 

Each sister finds true love after heartbreak, and although their situations are in many ways similar, their responses are very different. Elinor keeps her emotions under careful control, which helps her avoid embarrassment and impropriety, but she finds that she must allow some expression of grief and affection in order to find healing and comfort. Marianne puts no check on her emotions, and is reckless in her behavior. She's what we might call a drama queen, romanticizing all her emotions from grief to infatuation, and throwing herself heedlessly into a romance without paying attention to any warning signs or appeals to slow down. As a result she feels publicly shamed and even makes herself ill and puts herself in danger. She learns a hard lesson about governing her passions and using her head as well as her heart. 

Both of these characters experience love, although they express it in very different ways. It's probably safe to assume that Marianne's fling with Willoughby was not really love, but an infatuation or obsession that she mistook for love. What a lesson for young people! Real love is not all about the raptures of how good-looking someone is and the heart-pounding excitement of being with someone that you think is "the one". It might start out that way, to be sure! But we can be fooled into thinking the butterflies and the warm fuzzy feelings are love if we don't also think wisely about a person's character. Love is much more than what we feel with our emotions - it is how we think and how we act. In the end both sisters build romantic relationships that demonstrate the love we're told about in the Bible:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~I Corinthians 13:4-7

I love how Jane Austen shows this distinction without ever being preachy. She was able to emphasize these good qualities in her characters, and the goodness of enduring and godly love by telling a wonderful story with endearing and humorous characters. 

Visit Hopkins Homeschool to find out more about the online book club, and visit all the participating bloggers to see what they've read as part of this theme!

This post is also part of the Write 28 Days Blogging Challenge hosted by Anita Ojeda. Find all my posts for the challenge here: Write 28 Days Blogging Challenge - Disappointed

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Lori - At Home: where life happens said...

Oh, I enjoy Sense and Sensibility! And my oldest has enjoyed the Sharon Watson literature curriculum. Very good choices!

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