A contrast of two personalities in similar circumstances, with humor and feeling.
Jane Austen's first novel sketches the characters of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, in their respective romances and contrasts the one's "sense" with the other's "sensibility" - that is, great feeling. Each undergoes pain and disappointment, and Austen shows the importance of both sense and sensibility.
Elinor, who is more the main character than Marianne, has the highest morals and is generous, kind, and understanding. Marianne's passionate feelings often lead her to be the exact opposite of Elinor and she can be ungrateful and imprudent, but these actions are not condoned. Their mother has Marianne's strong feelings and can also be very imprudent, but she loves her girls dearly.
There are instances throughout the book of other characters acting in immoral ways (such as flattering a person in order to be accepted; satisfying one's own wishes instead of acting honorably; and the like), but these are contrasted by other characters' good and right behavior. Mrs. Jennings, a neighbor of the Dashwoods, is very fond of gossip and causes some pain by her stories; but she is portrayed as well-meaning and goodhearted, all the same.
One prominent character, Edward Ferrars, is said to be "taking orders" (going into the Church to become a clergyman). Marianne once refers to "religion" as a support to her, undoubtedly talking of Christianity.
There are illnesses in the story, but no instances of actual violence.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Wine is regularly consumed at meals, and at one point Elinor suspects a man of being intoxicated (when in fact he is not).
Marianne, as aforementioned, is often imprudent in her love; Elinor is very discrete. There are some engagements and breaking offs of engagements; one character's past misconduct is brought up several times, dealing with an immoral affair. A divorce is referenced. One very annoying character, Miss Steele, says that married people don't have beaus, because they have better things to do. One character is accused of having an illegitimate daughter, when they do not.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
Marianne exclaims "Good God!" and other such ejaculations when startled; another character, Willoughby, mentions the devil several times in a flippant manner; and Mrs. Jennings inserts the exclamation "Lord" repeatedly into her monologues.
"Sense and Sensibility" is one of Austen's slower novels to get started, but though the style is a little different from her later works, it is still well worth reading. The contrast of sense and sensibility in the characters of Marianne and Elinor are interesting, amusing, and sometimes even convicting. The spirit of selfishness that Marianne often displays can be irritating, but it makes the spirit of generosity in Elinor clearer, and the lessons they both learn are wonderful. In addition, "Sense and Sensibility" has a colorful cast of characters in such people as Mrs. Ferrars, Willoughby, Colonel Brandon, Miss Lucy Steele, and the irrepressible Mrs. Jennings that are either easy to relate to or easy to hate. It is a wonderful lesson in selflessness and a great Austen romance.