The romance novel is a literary genre in which the primary focus is the relationship and romantic love between two people, “and must have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” It is believed that every genre has a purpose and according to Daniel Chandler, “How we define a genre depends on our purposes.” Romance novels have long been defined as a literary genre who’s primary focus is on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have “an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” Contrastingly, a tragic novel is one in which there is so much sadness and disappointment and usually end in disaster for most of the characters. Chandler also states that, “There is often considerable theoretical disagreement about the definition of specific genres.” Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility could arguably be characterized by both genres.
The first very apparent emergence of romance and tragedy in Sense and Sensibility is in the very beginning. Mr. Dashwood had had two wives in his lifetime. With his first wife he had a son named John, and with his second wife he had three daughters named Elinor Marianne and Margaret. When Mr. Dashwood was on his deathbed, he had asked John who was his only son to take care of his half sisters. However, John had a very selfish wife, Fanny, who persuaded him that he had no obligation to “those girls”, so the Dashwood women were left with nothing. They had to look for another place to live. This is a tradgedy to me because imagine losing what was once your home, all because an in-law was able to persuade your family member against you.
The second emergence of tragedy and romance is when Elinor had fallen in love with her half-brothers brother in law, and Fanny’s brother, Edward. When Fanny heard of this she makes it clear that their mother, a wealthy widow, wants her son to marry a woman of high rank and great estate. It must be extremely unnerving to love someone and have their family member hate you. Elinor went through countless encounters where she was belittled and treated as though she wasn’t even a human being. She constantly had to keep her composure, which she was very good at, because even though she knew Edward loved her in return, sometimes it was hard to tell. The two marry shortly after they had a misunderstanding which brought them to the realization that they can’t live without each other.
One day Marianne had gone out for a stroll and got caught in the rain and sprained her ankle. This handsome man named John Willoughby saw the accident and took care of her. They dated for a while and he was going to propose to her, but then his aunt had heard of this and decided to send him away to London. This was devastating for Marianne who had loved him and was prone to becoming love sick. Eventually John runs off with another woman who is rich and had great status. Marianne is devastated and gets sick. After talking to her sister about how death because of sickness in love is suicide, she vows never to love another. Despite her efforts to keep her promise, she then falls for Colonel Brandon. Over the next two years, Marianne matures and, at the age of nineteen, decides to marry the 37-year-old Colonel. The Colonel's house is near the parsonage where Elinor and Edward live, so the sisters and their husbands can visit each other often. This is definitely the ending of a romance novel, however it is not so characteristic of a tradgedy.
This novel shows why it is impossible to have a concrete definition of a genre. So many different things come in to play when analyzing a work of literature that nothing can be so final.