Are You an Elinor or a Marianne?

The other day, I was walking around my new neighborhood, admiring all the little Craftsman houses and lusting over the billions of hydrangeas. (I’m 100% getting some next year – did you know they come in DARK PURPLE?) 

Right when I was passing what I’m pretty sure is Miss Havisham’s Atlanta outpost – the wrought-iron gate and house are covered in vines and the yard is delightfully overgrown and full of chickens and ducks, for some reason), a massive thunderclap cracked. And then it just hung in the air, probably because the 120% humidity was functioning like an echo chamber.

Instead of running back to my house like a normal person, I flung my arms wide and skipped a few steps. And I thought, “is there anything more glorious than this.” At which point, I congratulated my inner Marianne on fighting her way to the surface, while my inner Elinor got my feet moving fast back in the direction of my house.

So, are you an Elinor or a Marianne?

This is when I out myself as a massive Jane Austen fan. I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when I was nine. I’m sure I didn’t understand half of what I was reading, but I loved the bits that I did pick up. I have all the movies, individual books, and at least two omnibus collections of all her work – one that’s all hardcover and gilt, one that’s paperback and battered from travel and wear. 

If you’re not an Austen mega-fan, no worries. I’m gonna lay this all out in fairy-tale terms.

Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are sisters and the protagonists of Austen’s masterpiece Sense and Sensibility. Elinor is dependable and responsible. When the Dashwood family loses their father and their home, Elinor figures out where they’re going to live and calculates a budget. She comforts her sister and her mother, and when she falls in love, she shoves her feelings into the back of the deepest closet because of honor and prudence.

In a nutshell, Elinor is sense. Or, in fairy-tale terms, she’s kind of a Snow White (of “Snow White and Rose Red,” not the fairy tale “Snow White.”) She’s quiet and a little guarded and she thinks before she speaks.

By contrast, Marianne is passionate and Romantic (and romantic, too, for that matter.) She wears her heart on her sleeve and plays dramatic and depressing music on the piano. She doesn’t believe in hiding her feelings, and when she falls in love, she goes for it

Marianne is sensibility. She’s emotional and a little wild, a poem come to life. She’s Rose Red, Snow White’s bold sister, a creature of movement and energy and feeling.

I’ve always been an Elinor.

This may come as something of a surprise. I have a PhD in fairy tales and started a magical folklore school on the internet. These things do not scream sense.

But I’m terminally responsible. When I was a kid, I’d come home from school, unpack my bookbag, and sit down to do all my homework at the kitchen counter right away because I wouldn’t be able to relax and enjoy my evening until it was done. Put another way: I’m a quadruple Virgo, and I act like one. I’m practical, logical, and diligent AF. (Seriously, Brittany will back me up on this.)

Marianne used to drive me NUTS. She was so flighty! She just…did stuff, without thinking through the consequences first! She got snubbed at balls because she didn’t take a minute to stop and read the room before flinging herself at this slimy rake she was obsessed with!

But the older I get, the more I appreciate, and even admire, Marianne. I’ve realized that I’ve kept my inner Marianne locked down under Elinor’s key. Because it’s scary to be passionate, uncomfortable (at least for me) to follow my heart…even as I’ve done it, but always with my metaphorical teeth gritted, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I envy that Marianne isn’t waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even if her instincts aren’t always right, even if her impulses sometimes backfire. 

So now I practice channeling Marianne. I’ve always been good at trusting my gut, and I’ve always loved poetry, both very Marianne, but what I admire most is her fearlessness. 

We could all stand to be a little more fearless about what we love, right? 

So really, are you an Elinor or a Marianne? A Snow White or Rose Red? What do you admire about them both? I’d love to hear from you.

Comments

  1. Suzanne Steward

    Oh, I’m 100% Elinor. I was more like Marianne when I was in my twenties, but then life got in the way and turned me into an Elinor.

  2. Linda M Willson

    When I was young, I was a full-blown Romantic like Marianne. Now that I am old, I have become Elinor (not that I would turn down Hugh Grant if course. I wish he would call on me some time. However, he said on television that he is now married and has children!) I think in the middle years I had qualities of both sisters ( I was Marianor) So for decades I was conflicted. Should I throw caution to the winds or be sensible? At this stage of my life I lack the energy to throw caution to the winds. I think I’ll watch the movie again. Or read the book again. Love, Elinanne

    1. I’m always 100% in support of re-reading or re-watching (and I do think the 1995 Sense and Sensibility really is one of the absolute best Jane Austen adaptations!)

    2. Michelle

      Yea, I think I am something of a Marianor. All of the impulsiveness and unfortunate flightiness aggravated by neurodivergence. I actually aspire to mediate those tendencies with a strong dose of Elinor. And I prefer Alan Rickman any way.

  3. Lisa

    I’m Marianne to a “tea”. Heart on the sleeve.
    I catch myself saying things before thinking them out.
    I am passionate to a fault…kinda.
    Very impulsive.
    Secretly crave Elinor qualities quite a bit…..but adore my Marianne side more than I’ve ever known.

    1. “Secretly crave Elinor qualities quite a bit…..but adore my Marianne side more than I’ve ever known.” I completely understand this, even though I’m coming at it from the other side 🙂

  4. Jeanne

    Elinor in the streets, Marianne in the sheets.

    Most folks saw me as practical, problem solving; a good listener and a bad gossip. I never gave unsolicited advice. TBH, I rarely gave advice even if asked. Diligent student, sensible shoes. No drama. Used clothes, used books. (I did splurge on stationery…still do.)

    The few friends who saw my room were bemused by all my fairy tale and folklore books. (They were not surprised at the mysteries, science, and how-to.)

    Then I fell in love. For decades. Who knew I would be starry-eyed, mushy, experimental, dramatically in love? We were that PDA couple, holding hands, really liking each other. Appreciating each other’s puns for 34 years. My best friend, my husband, knew my passionate self. I am fortunate that I had someone who knew and loved my Elinor and my Marianne. I have been a widow for six years now. Grief goes with love, and I know, passionately, how lucky I am. I can measure my gratitude because it fills the well carved by my tears.

    1. Kathleen Prophet

      What a beautiful hearttouching tale, Jeanne! I do so hope you write it. This wisdom: grief goes with love… .moves me to tears.

      1. Dana A James

        External Elinor, internal Marianne. I’m 54, and I want Marianne to come out and play!

  5. Helen Patrice

    While I’d like to think I’m a Marianne, I’m a triple Capricorn Elinor. Don’t even come to me with excuses about the budget.

  6. Lisa

    I’m actually a little of both, there are times when i’ve needed to be sensible, act like the lady, do the right thing, and take care of others, but I’ve always also been the dreamer, the optimist, the one who seeks magick, soul and starlight…

  7. Kristy

    Ohh I’m Elinor, with random reckless Marianne moments (that generally turn out terrible and only serve to reaffirm my Elinor-ness). I’ve been slowly reaching for a sort of balance there 😅

  8. Juli Anna

    I love this post! I feel like Marianne and Elinor are constantly duking it out in my heart. I was definitely more of a Marianne when I was younger (aren’t we all?), right down to carrying a tiny volume of Shakespeare’s sonnets in my pocket during high school to memorize between classes and exchanging locks of hair with my love. I’m more staid in my grown-up life and spend far more time tending to my loved ones’ needs than nursing my own feelings, but I still relish a good sonnet. As a lifelong Austenite, I loved this post!

    1. Kathleen Prophet

      ahhhh even youth, Juli! Shakespeare, I would say is the most beautiful weave between the two.Love this part of your tale. Time to pull out those volumes and swoon!

    2. I’m so glad you loved it! I also had a tiny volume of Shakespeare’s sonnets, some of which are still seared into my memory 🙂

  9. Rima

    I am a combination of both. That does not necessarily mean that I am well balanced. I can easily seesaw from one to the other.

  10. Kathleen Prophet

    I have lived and expressed almost all of my 63 years as a Marianne. As an artist, a writer, dancer, poet… as a lover! I would never be anything other by choice. But now, alas, just as that wildly weird magician Carl Jung predicted, as we age, the hidden, underdeveloped side of ourselves comes forward to seek its expression. And thus, my now studiousness with numberless degrees and certifications and did I say BOOKS (that I’ve actually read!) and a garage that is FINALLY cleared and organized (after over a decade of effort, but done artfully now!). And did I say WRITING books, which requires Elinor to come in after Marianne has spilled herself over the page to organize it all, put it in ORDER to be make words are not left out with footnotes and research! (eeeeegad!) Thank goodness for a quarantine that forced me to sit still rather than save the world or go on another adventure. I do think, like the sisters, they really do serve each other in wondrous ways, and even these two will eventually find themselves breaking on through to the otherside and filling out to what they have naturally eclipsed.

    i love all that you write and your prompts! They invite in such PLAY and yes… haha, that is always in the center of my heart. Thank YOU!
    p.s. Looked to see if there are California native hydrangeas, and there are! You inspire me so! gratitude!

    1. Kathleen Prophet

      hahaha! I LOVE the subconscious… leaving out words. Beautiful touch to my flow, the tao of Marianne.

    2. “I do think, like the sisters, they really do serve each other in wondrous ways, and even these two will eventually find themselves breaking on through to the otherside and filling out to what they have naturally eclipsed.” Beautifully said! And thank you so much for your kind words about Carterhaugh – we appreciate it more than you know!

  11. Terri Maracle

    I am a bit of both. My Elinor is quick to surface (after all, I am a mom and grandma!) but my Marianne is never too far behind! 💕

    1. Since the book is “Sense and Sensibility” not “Sense or Sensibility,” I think you’re probably on the right track! 🙂

  12. Gina

    I’m an Elinor who wishes very much to be a Marianne, more so the older I get! LOVED this post.

  13. Jere

    I’ve always been and wanted to be Marianne. Even have the online quiz to prove it! I still adore Marianne and it kills me every time I watch her heart break. (And the loss of Alan Rickman, how unthinkable! 🥺😩)
    In my midlife and as a parent I’m thinking more of Elinor. It would be good to cultivate those qualities. I might try..
    Is there a Bronte vs Austen camp, kinda? xx
    Still team Marianne

    1. I absolutely adore Austen and the Brontes (especially Charlotte) but I do think that’s a similar question!

  14. Susan

    Snow White and Rose Red has always been my favorite fairy tale. I have never understood why the tale wasn’t called Rose Red and Snow White. And I grow purple hydrangeas. So I guess I know who I am.

  15. Collette Cumella

    I’m still Marianne, after heart aches and some victories. I do see a Elinore bin me too… a balance hopefully…the passion backed by sense. thank you

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