“Sisters are usually important in Austen's books, although they're not always close, and are usually in the background. This book is unusual in having two contrasting heroines in Elinor and Marianne. Unlike say Elizabeth and Jane of Pride and Prejudice the two Dashwood sisters here both grow and learn from the other and are of equal importance to the story. The book is interesting in its themes of prudence versus passion for which the sisters make perfect exemplars and foils.
If this sounds dry--well, almost no Austen novel is without a large leavening of humor--just look at the second chapter where by degrees, their sister-in-law convinces their half-brother not to help them so that finally she has him convinced their needs are so modest they "will be much more able to give you something." That's typical of Austen. The sharp characterizations that are so funny because they're timeless in their illustrations of human foibles and how being scrupulously polite and socially correct can cover pettiness, cruelty while being of itself at times comic and ridiculous.
I'll admit Elinor is my favorite. The one in the family who is sensible in a family of sentimental romantics. Who doesn't have much room to assert her own feelings because someone has to be the grownup. But I feel for Marianne too. I don't, like some, feel she "settled." I think she simply grew through her experiences to appreciate qualities that would have been lost on her earlier.
That's the way of the Austen novels and rather why I love them. Love isn't something that solves problems and brings on the happy ending but an experience that, even when you're disappointed, widens and deepens you so you become wiser and so more capable of happiness. At least if you blend a bit of a romantic sensibility with a modicum of sense.”