Think, Think, Think…

Think, Think, Think…

Think, Think, Think…

You’re probably thinking of Winnie-the-Pooh – and so am I. But I’m also thinking of Catherine Moreland from Northanger Abbey. Let me explain…

I never really liked Northanger Abbey. To be honest, I didn’t get it. I failed to understand and appreciate Austen’s voice, perspective, satire, clever twists… And then I did. I started to understand the genius of the work – it was a lesson for me, wrapped in a lesson for her heroine, Catherine Moreland.

Wake up! Learn from what’s around you and… Think, think, think.

Northanger Abbey starts with a heroine who isn’t very promising.

No one who had ever seen Catherine Moreland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard – and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence, besides two good livings – and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters…

We start off right away with satire for no good Gothic heroine can come from such mundane stability. But, despite this inauspicious beginning, Austen puts adventure in Catherine’s way, along with danger and romance – and we have a heroine!

Adventure comes when she takes Catherine from sleepy Fullerton and drops her in daring Bath. Danger comes in the form of friends — Isabella and, her brother, John Thorpe are certainly a dangerous duo for Catherine. They will tell her pretty lies, and teach her social conventions, manipulations and fully train her in the art of meaningless conversation, gossip and dissembling. That’s one type of education – a dangerous one.

Romance comes, but something else comes first – learning to think. Austen provides Catherine a counterpoint to the Thorpes early in the story. Later he becomes a “romance”, but initially, Henry Tilney offers her no guidance, no conventions to follow, no concrete thoughts at all – he offers dancing and questions. Lots and lots of questions.

Henry pushes Catherine to think about things in a new light. And his questions didn’t always have clear answers for he didn’t necessarily want answers. Comparing dancing to marriage? It would be hard to give a serious, solid answer to that one. In many ways, it’s ridiculous and he knew it. But it worked! It started Catherine thinking and voicing opinions. And it got the two of them into a real conversation, a deeper conversation, and that began the connection between them.

Now, Catherine didn’t learn to think for herself all at once – clearly or it would’ve been a short book. She was constantly sparring with the quixotic Henry. Austen didn’t make Catherine’s education too easy for her or for us. Catherine had trouble breaking old patterns and expectations – breaking her thirst for good gothic drama. Yet, like Catherine, we too can see mystery, pain, subterfuge and drama where it’s only a laundry list. We too sometimes don’t pay attention to what’s around us and make discerning judgments. Instead we judge based on what we want to see or what we are told to see.

So now that I’m starting to think, think, think… I adore Northanger Abbey. What I initially dismissed as a light novel, an early novel, a throw away novel, has now become, once I paid attention, one of my favorites.

I “played” around with it a bit in The Austen Escape – and loved working with twists on “seeing” and expectations and all the blunders and truths that come from them.

What do you think of Northanger Abbey? It’s the one novel, I find, that evokes strong and divergent opinions.

Thanks for dropping by!

… Katherine

 

22 Responses to Think, Think, Think…

  1. Actually I have always liked Northanger Abbey. And I have it on several DVDs. I do understand the satire which Jane Austen gave us in that novel…the reading of those Gothic Novels with maidens attacked and carried off! Delicious and loved how Tilney didn’t drop the acquaintance with her naïve blunders. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Northanger Abbey is the last of Austen’s novels that I read. I kept putting it off for what reason I’m not sure. Now it’s one of my favorites. I like Catherine very much and even though Henry Tilney doesn’t seem to be popular, I favor him and I like the relationship he has with Catherine from the very start.
    I also like the look of your new book. Have added it to my wish list. Just wish it was out sooner.

  3. NA has never been a favorite. When I first read it YEARS ago I was just annoyed with Catherine. I haven’t read it in awhile, so maybe I should give it another whirl. I own the annotated version (though I’ve never even opened it) so maybe that would help.

    • I loathed it years ago so I get where you’re coming from. Then I picked it up again more recently and adore it. If you give it another go, let me know how you fare with it. 🙂

  4. Wonderful post, Katherine! I’m behind in my reading of the classics, I haven’t yet read Northanger Abbey. 🙂

  5. I found Austen through P&P when I was 17. I loved it and read the whole thing in one evening, then picked it up the next day and read it through twice more. After that, I read everything I could find of Austen. I instantly liked S&S, Persuasion, and Emma. I understood them. NA was a huge disappointment, and I was initially very unhappy with it. However, I picked it up again about 15 years later and nearly laughed myself to death. It was so funny! Of course, in the 15 or so years between the two readings, I had learned a great deal about life, family, and the history of gothic novels! Really, I had a great time with it. Hmmm, maybe I’ll have to give MP another try, because that’s really the only one of JA’s works that I still can’t like, despite the interesting historical and social aspects of it…

    • Yay. That was my experience too. Give MP another try — think of it this way. Take Lizzy Bennet’s perfection of wit and wisdom and divide them between Mary Crawford and Fanny Price. Austen doesn’t pull her punches on which she favors. 🙂

  6. I quite enjoyed Northanger Abbey when I first read it back it 2008! Yes, a bit late in life but I was so entertained with it. I do like the points you have brought up, that I hope to read it again. I would say that it is third in line for me…1. P&P 2. Persuasion 3. NA 4. S&S. I will have to check out your newest book too!

  7. To be honest, I only ever got about halfway through it. However, you make a very compelling argument for reading the rest (starting over at the beginning, of course). It calls to mind the first time I read Emma. I couldn’t stand it. At the very grown up and all knowing age of nineteen, I was very confused as to why it was a great work. Then, at some point I can’t recall, I ‘got it.’ Now, I find Emma highly entertaining and intelligent. I have developed a much greater appreciation for Jane Austen’s work over all than I had when I was young and knew it only from the movies. As I said, you make giving Northanger Abbey another read sem like a good plan.

  8. Northanger Abbey is my less favorite than P&P, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. But I agree with you Katherine, that it’s more to it, than one may assume. You made great points, thanks for the great post. 🙂

  9. Being relatively new to Jane Austen I have yet to read Northanger Abbey, but you have raised my interest and you can bet I will keep this article to guide my reading. Thank you very much!

    • Oh goody! As I get closer to publication for The Austen Escape, I’ll chat more about it as I “played” with NA the most for this story. There’s lots to discuss. 😉 Enjoy!!

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