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Both Elinor and Marianne are the protagonists of the novel. In fact, Jane Austen had originally entitled the novel Elinor and Marianne, since the novel mostly deals with the life of both the girls. Later, she revised the novel and changed its title to Sense and Sensibility, based on the qualities her heroines possess. Both Elinor and Marianne are wooed by the men of their choice, but later they are let down by these men. As a result, they both face disappointments and rejection. However, Elinor lets her good sense guide her, and she is ultimately united with her lover. Marianne gets carried away by her sensibility (emotion) and becomes despondent. She is ultimately rewarded with a competent husband when she recovers her sense of judgment.
The problem that Elinor and Marianne face during the novel is for each of them to find a proper husband.
Lucy Steele is Elinor's chief antagonist, for she stands in the way of Elinor marrying the man she wants. Lucy becomes engaged to Edward during the days when he is under the care of her uncle. Even though Edward does not love her anymore, he decides to marry her to fulfill his commitment. In truth, he is attracted to Elinor, but he suppresses his love for her because of his loyalty to Lucy. Lucy is, thus, the obstacle between Elinor and Edward.
Willoughby is the chief antagonist of Marianne. He plays with her emotions and makes her believe that he is in love with her. However, when he meets Miss Grey, a wealthy girl with fifty thousand pounds, he becomes engaged to her without giving a second thought to Marianne. He, thus, acts as the antagonist, ruthlessly casting Marianne aside for his self interest.
For Elinor, the climax occurs when Edward arrives at Barton Cottage and proposes to her.
For Marianne, the climax occurs when she recovers from her loss of Willoughby and her subsequent illness and accepts the proposal of Colonel Brandon, who has loved her all along.
The novel ends happily, in comedy, with two couples united in marrage.