Elinor Dashwood
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Elinor Dashwood

Sense and Sensibility

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About Her

Grew Up... happily, with her parents and her two younger sisters. The wealthy family lived on the luxurious Norland estate, and Elinor was especially close with her sister Marianne.  

Living... in the meager Barton Cottage in Devonshire. When their father dies, Elinor’s half-brother takes over his estate, leaving the Dashwood women with only a tiny allowance. They are forced to move into a small cottage in the country, where they live in comparative poverty.

Profession... unmarried woman. In Elinor’s era, the biggest responsibility for women of the landed gentry was to find suitable marriage partners. On top of aiding her mother in managing their household, Elinor is aware she must one day marry well if she wants financial stability.

Interests... reading, embroidering, and drawing. Elinor dutifully engages in many of the pastimes suitable for upper-class women, but for the most part she has little time for hobbies. Instead, she’s mostly concerned with ensuring her family lives within their tiny budget. Elinor constantly reminds her mother, “We must economise.”

Relationship Status... single. While she has feelings for the unassuming Edward Ferrars, Elinor would prefer not to get her hopes up in case he doesn’t return her affections. When her mother tells her to listen to her heart, Elinor replies, “In such a situation, Mamma, it is perhaps better to use one’s head.”

Challenge... taking care of her family. With Marianne inclined to romantic fantasies and her 13-year-old sister Margaret too young to help, much of the burden of managing the family falls on Elinor. That means everything from supervising their finances to ensuring Marianne doesn’t embarrass them with her penchant for melodrama.  

Personality... practical, strong, responsible, gracious, and stoic. Elinor is remarkably selfless and quick to put the needs of others before her own. Her logical sense balances Marianne’s emotional sensibilities. Some may think she’s cold-hearted or indifferent, but Elinor does feel strongly; she simply prefers to keep her emotions in check and present a polite face to the world. Though Elinor cares deeply for Edward she can only describe her feelings to Marianne by saying, “I do not attempt to deny that I think very highly of him, that I... greatly esteem him... I like him.” That qualifies as gushing for Elinor.

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