Northanger Abbey Ch. 2: What’s important for women to know?

2 Jan

Jane continues to describe Catherine and her circumstances before she departs. After all, we must know what we’re getting ourselves into, right?

What sticks out the most is how Jane inserts herself, acknowledges the reader, and gives details with self-deprecating humor.

“It may be stated, for the reader’s more certain information, lest the following pages should otherwise fail of giving any idea of what her character is meant to be, that her heart was affectionate;”

Questions about Jane’s style: Why does she choose to insert herself and the reader in this way? Is this another lovely form of her humor, and is she poking fun at the long-winded descriptions usually denoted in other novels? At the same time, she includes the description anyway because it is perhaps necessary to understand the way Catherine will act and react in upcoming chapters. In a way, Jane is hinting that Catherine’s point of view is naive and somewhat unreliable. Is Jane also trying to control how we view Catherine here? Instead of showing Catherine to us and allowing us to make judgements, she’s telling us directly.

Mrs. Morland: This is a nice moment for the reader, and it’s a great way for Jane to explain Catherine’s inexperience and lack of emotional frenzy and sensibility often associated with females in novels at that time. Mom doesn’t talk about the birds and the bees and doesn’t offer any much-needed advice. It’s a nice piece of foreshadowing for Catherine’s future struggles. I wonder what Jane’s experience with this was in her own life.

I always pause here and think about my own experience with all of this. I won’t delve into it here, of course, but I always think about the advice that my mom has given me over the years and what has helped and what I’ve had to learn on my own. I’ve also learned more about my mom’s past relationships and why she dished that advice. At the same time, I look forward and think about some of the tips I’ll try to give my (possible) daughter someday and hope that she’ll listen. Are there any top tips that you someday hope to tell your children about love and relationships?

Travel and shopping: Jane avoids any Gothic-style details with the travel, and the shopping is rather normal as well. We get a glimpse into what Mrs. Allen prizes, and I can’t help but tick off names of past friends who are like this as well. All in all, we can see that Mrs. Allen will be pretty harmless but not particularly helpful in our heroine’s adventures. We also get some nice flavor and scene-setting with details about making acquaintances, dancing, crowds, and people-watching.

Ch. 2 wraps with Catherine’s first compliments as a “pretty girl.” Jane has a nice touch here of illustrating how  girls often react to their first positive notices. I can definitely relate to this, and I wonder if Jane means anything in particular by it. Is it good or bad, or is she simply stating that this happens, and this is how Catherine reacted?


3 Responses to “Northanger Abbey Ch. 2: What’s important for women to know?”

  1. Austenite78 January 6, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    As you say, Carolyn, Jane Austen doesn’t let us have our own opinion of Catherine because she tells us directly. I think it is one more example of her fine and subtle irony; it is part of the parody. It is like saying, “ok, here it is, my heroine, you think you know her, but she may develop along her adventures and maybe she hides more than what I am telling you”. It is a challenge. Do you take for granted that Catherine Morland is just as Jane Austen introduces her to us, or do you accept the challenge to discover if she can develop into a real heroine? Jane Austen novels are full of this kind of tricks and it is something that I love.

    • Carolyn Crist January 6, 2012 at 10:28 am #

      Cinta, that’s exactly what I appreciate, and that’s why I pose so many questions (without really giving an answer). With Jane, you can really argue anything and it could be correct. Let’s take the challenge!

  2. Irene January 24, 2012 at 2:36 am #

    I liked this chapter even more than the previous. Mrs. Morland is quite funny and her only concerns are health and money. She reminds me of my grand grandmother: health and money were the recipe for happiness… and obviously health manifest itself with a vigorous appetite!!! 😀
    As we know better Mrs Morland, we can better understand Catherine. Maybe naiveté is hereditary!
    Mrs Allen… Mrs Allen seems an early form of Mrs. Bennet (I’m sorry, I can’t help but compare N.A. with P&P). Mrs. Allen is not so calculating as Mrs. Bennet will be, but sometimes she is very tactless. In this chapter Mrs,Allen is the intended victim of Jane humor… and this character appears completely inadequate for being Catherine guide in Bath. (Is this another form of naiveté from Mrs. Morland to entrust her doughter to Mrs.Allen?)
    If compared with Mrs. Allen, Catherine seems accomplished, sensitive and she behaves in an appropriate way. Maybe that’s why Jane makes such fun of Mrs. Allen. She wants her heroin to stand out.
    For what concerns Jane’s style, actually I think she wants to influence our opinion about her characters. Probably this is the less mature aspect of her style. In the following novels she’ll keep suggesting what to think, but she’ll do in a more subtle way.
    Does what I wrote make any sense?

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