“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine.” – Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
If it is possible to define oneself by a Jane Austen novel, I believe I can safely and succinctly say that I am a Northanger Abbey (NA) type. I quickly scampered my way through the novel (to conclude it on Jane Austen’s birthday, December 16th) and just in time to read Jane Austen’s World post about Northanger Abbey and Ripple Effects post on Jane Austen’s Bath. What can I say, I loved it and to borrow a quote from Woody Allen (as love does not even properly define my relationship with the novel) I “lofe” it, I “lurfe” it.
The novel is humorous, witty, and a delightful commentary that touches on a multitude of themes from 19th Century England.In many ways, NA is similar to Austen’s other novels. We have the seventeen year old Catherine Morland from a happy and pleasant if not wealthy family, and she ultimately falls in love and (assumedly) lives happily ever after. However, Austen infused the novel with so much brilliant satire and mirth – all I keep thinking is, “If only I had read this first! I would never have doubted my appreciation for Austen.”
One of my favorite aspects about the novel is that Austen or the omniscent narrator regularly parallels the novel’s heroine Catherine with the idea of a heroine from 19th Century literature. Austen teases and pokes fun at the romantic and whimsical plot lines of novels by cultivating Catherine through conceivable actions and circumstances.
Some of my favorite discussion in the novel is about novels and people’s perceptions of the novel (and keep in mind the added irony that the author is a novelist). The pompous Mr. Thorpe accuses that “Novels are all so full of nonsense and stuff; there has not been a tolerably decent one come out some Tom Jones, except the Monk; …but as for all others, they are the stupidest things in creation” (980). In contrast, the endearing Mr. Tilney argues “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid” (1013).
The latter portion of NA is ripe with comparisons to Gothic novels.In addition to the lively commentary on the novel Austen touches on dancing, alcohol, government, contemporary female writers, etymology and so forth. NA is ripe with knowledge and provides a dazzling candor into themes of the period. I must admit that I very much want to get my hands on a book by Mrs. Radcliffe. The conclusion of the novel, and a nod at the Campbell “hero” cycle, is short and sweet and is thus far the only conclusion that I was not entirely sure on the outcome.
Other opinions: ChainReading, Girl Detective, Rebekah’s Book Review, A Work in Progress, Trish’s Reading Nook, Back to Books, Reading Room, Deliciously Clean Reads, Fifty Books, Mommy Brain, Library Queue.