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Essay on Gossip and Its Social Role in Sense and Sensibility

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What role does gossip have in society? What significance does it have in the formation of both disputes and disclosures? Gossip is commonly believed to be a cause of conflict between individuals in society; however, one can assert that it can also be beneficial via means of influence. In being influenced, people can harness the gossip for their benefit. Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility approaches gossip in a way that shows how it can both resolve and initiate conflicts within the novel’s plot. By exemplifying gossip from this approach, Austen’s novel encapsulates it’s both detrimental and beneficial uses. Gossip exacerbates emerging conflicts because of the both positive or negative influences it has on characters’ perceptions of each other. I will argue that the novel uses conflict-causing and conflict-resolving properties of gossip as a device for moving and turning the plot, demonstrating that to understand the novel, we have to also understand that social conversations, even the most idle and frivolous ones, are what push the plot; the things that are most important in Austen’s world — reputation, marriage, social relationships — are extremely vulnerable to influence by gossip. In this essay, I will analyze three moments of gossip that exemplify consequences of conflict-causing, conflict-resolving, and both, respectively.
In Lucy Steele’s confession to Elinor that she is engaged to Edward Ferrars, we can see how the novel illustrates gossip as a cause of both internal conflict, in Elinor, and external conflict, present between Elinor and Lucy. Elinor becomes jealous because of Lucy’s boastful gossip about her life, placing the two into a conflict over romance. When the two meet, Lucy divulges in her relationship with Edwa...


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...r gain insights, which both significantly cause them to mature throughout the storyline. Though, gossip tends to be labelled as a cause for problems in society, Austen’s novel tends to argue against that notion. Sense and Sensibility places gossip in a light that does not reflect the common notion that society holds, delineating how, even though it may be detrimental in some cases, it also holds merit. The examples I have used are significant in my approach to what gossip performs in the novel because they exhibit the dynamic nature of the effects that it has in society. The novel successfully argues against the negative connotation that gossip holds, categorizing it as a tool with unpredictable consequences that heavily depend on how it is responded to.



Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. Ed. Rosalind Ballaster. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.


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