Jane Austen does not give us physical descriptions of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood at the beginning of Sense and Sensibility. We get a picture of the sisters by the descriptions of their behaviour and the way in which they deal with their father's death cleverly showing the 'sense' of Elinor and the 'sensibility' of Marianne in chapter one. It seems Elinor is the only female in the household who can find the strength to carry on with her normal duties putting aside her feelings and emotions in order to get on with greeting her brother and sister-in-law who arrive to take over Norland Park. Marianne and Mrs Dashwood give in freely to their feelings while poor Elinor has to get on with the business of the day.
Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister's sensibility; but by Mrs. Dashwood it was valued and cherished. They encouraged each other now in the violence of their affliction. The agony of grief which overpowered them at first, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, was created again and again. They gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increase of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it, and resolved against ever admitting consolation in future. Elinor, too, was deeply afflicted; but still she could struggle, she could exert herself. She could consult with her brother, could receive her sister-in-law on her arrival, and treat her with proper attention; and could strive to rouse her mother to similar exertion, and encourage her to similar forbearance.
My painting shows Marianne and Mrs Dashwood encouraging one another in their grief whilst Elinor can be seen in the background having to receive her guests.