Discovering Eleanor Tilney – Austen Foils Part III

Discovering Eleanor Tilney – Austen Foils Part III

“Northanger Abbey” was the first novel Jane Austen completed in 1803. However, it was not published until after her death in 1817.

The main character is Catherine Moreland, a young girl from a small town. From association with her wealthy neighbors the Allen’s, she is invited to Bath to partake in the winter season. There, she cultivates friendships with two families, the Thorpes and the Tilneys.

Catherine may be young, but she has a good head on her shoulders. She rejects the advances of the conniving John Thorpe and falls for Henry Tilney.  Henry Tilney is charming, smart, attentive, flirtatious and just plain fun to be around. In fact, if you ask me, he is Austen’s most appealing male protagonist. Another asset Henry has is his sister, Eleanor. Eleanor’s main functions in the story is to act as a conduit between Catherine and Henry. Through Cathy’s friendship with Eleanor, she is able to learn more about Henry and grow closer to him.

Beyond that, Eleanor Tilney’s development in the story is minimal. While being kind and empathetic to Cathy and her brother Henry, the only other way Eleanor comes to light is when Austen eludes to her being trapped by a tyrannical father who does not allow her to marry the man she loves. This thwarted love affair of Eleanor’s is a parallel to Henry and Catherine’s budding romance that is first encouraged by General Tilney, then is abruptly and cruelly discouraged when he discovers, because of John Thorpe’s jealousy and lies, that Catherine is not heir to the Allen fortune.

Of course in typical Austen fashion, in the end, everyone has a happily-ever after and goes off into the sunset with the desired mates.

But while Eleanor has only a supporting function in the novel, Austen hints there is more to this girl. Through conversations with Cathy, the reader gets a glance of a sad and lonely girl. She watched her mother suffer from the effects of not only illness but of a loveless marriage. Being away from home when her mother passed, she was never able to say good-bye. And now that she at last has found love, this man who crushed her mother’s happiness is crushing hers by not letting her marry.

So in taking Eleanor Tilney from foil to protagonist, there was already much to work with. Much like writing about Mrs. Dashwood in my novel “Mrs. Dashwood Returns,” I felt Eleanor needed some happiness. In my upcoming novella (working title “The Tilney Heir,”) which is set in 1832, Eleanor has grown into a strong, independent woman who, through the wishes of her brother, has taken over Northanger Abbey now that the General has passed away. She has had many years of happiness with her husband, and now wishes to make her unhappy childhood home the joyous place it never was with the help of Henry and Cathy, who are now the parents of seven children. She becomes a strong matriarch who proves she is capable of weathering any storm. When she plans a family reunion, only to be thwarted by a series of mysterious events, she is strong and steadfast, staying in control of the situation, all the while remaining the compassionate and caring woman Jane Austen suggested she was.

I’m working fast and furious to finish Eleanor’s story and am aiming for a May 1 release. In the interim, catch up with me next month when I continue to talk about the character of “Northanger Abbey.”

“Northanger Abbey” was the first novel Jane Austen completed in 1803. However, it was not published until after her death in 1817.

The main character is Catherine Moreland, a young girl from a small town. From association with her wealthy neighbors the Allen’s, she is invited to Bath to partake in the winter season. There, she cultivates friendships with two families, the Thorpes and the Tilneys.

Catherine may be young, but she has a good head on her shoulders. She rejects the advances of the conniving John Thorpe and falls for Henry Tilney.  Henry Tilney is charming, smart, attentive, flirtatious and just plain fun to be around. In fact, if you ask me, he is Austen’s most appealing male protagonist. Another asset Henry has is his sister, Eleanor. Eleanor’s main functions in the story is to act as a conduit between Catherine and Henry. Through Cathy’s friendship with Eleanor, she is able to learn more about Henry and grow closer to him.

Beyond that, Eleanor Tilney’s development in the story is minimal. While being kind and empathetic to Cathy and her brother Henry, the only other way Eleanor comes to light is when Austen eludes to her being trapped by a tyrannical father who does not allow her to marry the man she loves. This thwarted love affair of Eleanor’s is a parallel to Henry and Catherine’s budding romance that is first encouraged by General Tilney, then is abruptly and cruelly discouraged when he discovers, because of John Thorpe’s jealousy and lies, that Catherine is not heir to the Allen fortune.

Of course in typical Austen fashion, in the end, everyone has a happily-ever after and goes off into the sunset with the desired mates.

But while Eleanor has only a supporting function in the novel, Austen hints there is more to this girl. Through conversations with Cathy, the reader gets a glance of a sad and lonely girl. She watched her mother suffer from the effects of not only illness but of a loveless marriage. Being away from home when her mother passed, she was never able to say good-bye. And now that she at last has found love, this man who crushed her mother’s happiness is crushing hers by not letting her marry.

So in taking Eleanor Tilney from foil to protagonist, there was already much to work with. Much like writing about Mrs. Dashwood in my novel “Mrs. Dashwood Returns,” I felt Eleanor needed some happiness. In my upcoming novella (working title “The Tilney Heir,”) which is set in 1832, Eleanor has grown into a strong, independent woman who, through the wishes of her brother, has taken over Northanger Abbey now that the General has passed away. She has had many years of happiness with her husband, and now wishes to make her unhappy childhood home the joyous place it never was with the help of Henry and Cathy, who are now the parents of seven children. She becomes a strong matriarch who proves she is capable of weathering any storm. When she plans a family reunion, only to be thwarted by a series of mysterious events, she is strong and steadfast, staying in control of the situation, all the while remaining the compassionate and caring woman Jane Austen suggested she was.

I’m working fast and furious to finish Eleanor’s story and am aiming for a May 1 release. In the interim, catch up with me next month when I continue to talk about the character of “Northanger Abbey.”

3 Responses to Discovering Eleanor Tilney – Austen Foils Part III

  1. I have always like the Henry and Eleanor Tilney. Thanks for this post regarding an upcoming story.

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