In the novel, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen portrays the adversities of two sisters by emphasizing one's impulsiveness and the other's cautiousness. The two sisters, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, have contrasting, yet complementary qualities. Elinor being the disciplined one, is cautious about all aspects of her life, especially her love for Edward Ferrars. Marianne is the impulsive one. She does not sit back and wait, she goes after what she wants.
Elinor Dashwood, the eldest daughter, is expressive and loving but also disciplined. She surpasses her mother and sister in her ability to manage her emotions. She acts as the "sense" of the family. Her disciplined nature keeps her from acting on her feelings toward Edward. "I do not attempt to deny that I think very highly of him---greatly esteem, that I like him," (p. 17, Austen). Elinor is unwilling to just confess her deep feelings for Edward to Marianne. He has not yet confessed the way he feels about her, therefore, she does not want to assume that he cares for her anymore than a friend. Elinor stays realistic in fear of being disappointed. Her serious personality is the exact opposite of her sister, Marianne's.
Marianne Dashwood is the middle sister. She shares Elinor's kind and caring nature, but acts only with her heart and emotions. She is very honest but also impulsive and vulnerable. She falls head over feet for a young man named John Willoughby. She knows him for only a short period of time, yet is swept away by him. "It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others," (p.51, Austen). Marianne does not think that her short acquaintance with Willoughby is improper. She is more than willing to confess her love for him almost instantly. Jane Austen describes her as "anything but prudent," (115, Austen).