Robert Ferrars Sense and Sensibility

Robert Ferrars: A Study in Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is a timeless classic that delves into the complexities of human nature, relationships, and societal expectations. Among its many memorable characters, Robert Ferrars stands out as a unique portrayal of a young man grappling with his own sense of identity and purpose. In this article, we will explore the character of Robert Ferrars, his role in the novel, and his significance in the overall themes of Sense and Sensibility.

Robert Ferrars, the younger brother of Edward Ferrars, is initially introduced as a frivolous and superficial character. He is depicted as someone who is concerned only with appearances and societal opinions. However, as the story progresses, we discover that there is more to Robert than meets the eye.

Unlike his older brother Edward, who is portrayed as honorable and reserved, Robert embodies the epitome of the Regency dandy. He is fashion-conscious, overly concerned with material possessions, and constantly seeks the approval of others. His actions and behavior are often driven by the desire to be seen as fashionable and admired by society. This portrayal of Robert as a shallow and self-centered individual serves as a stark contrast to the novel’s protagonists, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.

Robert’s character serves as a foil to Elinor and Marianne, highlighting their own sense of sensibility versus his lack thereof. While the Dashwood sisters prioritize genuine emotions, empathy, and moral integrity, Robert is focused on superficialities and social status. His character arc, however, undergoes a subtle transformation as the novel progresses.

Throughout the story, Robert struggles to assert himself and find his own path in life. He is heavily influenced by his overbearing mother, Mrs. Ferrars, who constantly coddles and manipulates him. This dynamic creates an internal conflict within Robert, torn between his desire for independence and his need for his mother’s approval. This struggle becomes apparent when he is engaged to Lucy Steele, who is seen as a suitable match from a societal standpoint, but whom he does not truly love.

Eventually, Robert’s character development reaches a turning point when he meets and falls in love with Miss Lucy Steele’s sister, Miss Anne Steele. Anne, unlike the conniving Lucy, is genuine, kind-hearted, and displays a sense of sensibility. This newfound connection with Anne challenges Robert’s previous notions of what is important in life and prompts him to reassess his values.

In the end, Robert Ferrars emerges as a character who learns from his mistakes and grows as an individual. He realizes the emptiness of his previous pursuits and seeks a more meaningful and authentic existence. While he may not undergo a complete transformation like his brother Edward, Robert’s journey towards self-discovery adds depth and complexity to his character.


1. Why is Robert Ferrars considered a foil to Elinor and Marianne Dashwood?
Robert Ferrars represents the lack of sensibility and genuine emotions, which contrasts with the Dashwood sisters’ emphasis on these qualities.

2. What role does Robert’s mother play in his character development?
Mrs. Ferrars heavily influences Robert, creating an internal conflict between his desire for independence and his need for her approval.

3. How does Robert’s engagement to Lucy Steele reflect his character traits?
Robert’s engagement to Lucy, someone he does not truly love, showcases his focus on societal expectations and superficialities.

4. What prompts Robert to reassess his values?
Meeting Miss Anne Steele, who possesses genuine qualities, challenges Robert’s previous notions and prompts him to seek a more meaningful existence.

5. Does Robert undergo a complete transformation by the end of the novel?
No, Robert’s character development is more subtle compared to his brother Edward, but he does learn from his mistakes and grows as an individual.

6. How does Robert’s character contribute to the overall themes of Sense and Sensibility?
Robert’s character exemplifies the shallowness and materialism that the novel critiques, highlighting the importance of genuine emotions and moral integrity.

7. What does Robert’s transformation teach us about the nature of change?
Robert’s growth demonstrates that change is a gradual process and that even small steps towards self-discovery can have a significant impact.

8. Does Robert’s relationship with Anne Steele have a happy ending?
The novel does not explicitly delve into the outcome of their relationship, leaving it open to interpretation.

9. What are some examples of Robert’s superficiality in the novel?
Robert’s obsession with fashion, material possessions, and societal opinions are all examples of his superficial nature.

10. How does Robert’s character compare to other male characters in Sense and Sensibility?
Robert stands out as a unique character due to his shallow nature, contrasting with the more honorable and reserved male characters like Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon.

11. What is the significance of Robert’s engagement to Lucy Steele in the novel?
Robert’s engagement to Lucy demonstrates the influence of societal expectations and the consequences of valuing superficial appearances over genuine emotions.

12. How does Robert’s relationship with his mother affect his decision-making?
Robert’s need for his mother’s approval often leads him to make choices that align with her desires rather than his own.

13. What lessons can be learned from Robert’s character development?
Robert’s journey teaches us the importance of self-reflection, authenticity, and the pursuit of meaningful connections over materialistic pursuits.

In conclusion, Robert Ferrars is a complex character in Sense and Sensibility, initially portrayed as shallow and superficial. However, his character arc unveils a journey of self-discovery and growth, challenging societal expectations and emphasizing the importance of genuine emotions and moral integrity. Through Robert’s transformation, Jane Austen invites readers to examine their own values and priorities, ultimately leaving a lasting impression on the timeless themes explored in the novel.

Scroll to Top