Northanger Abbey Ch. 4: Don’t go searching for boys

4 Jan

Chapter 4 will stand the test of time as long girls and guys are around. Haven’t you felt this one before? Whether it was following a date or a simple meeting of destiny, the guy disappears and you expect to run into him everywhere. I’ve definitely done this before, and of course the age-old wisdom applies: Don’t go searching for him. If he wants to find you, he will.

So of course Catherine is eager to see him, and of course he isn’t here.

But of course the next best thing happens: finding a new and interesting girl friend. After a breakup, as I’m dealing with right now, you always need your girl friends (or just any friends) around to cheer you up. Isabella Thorpe helps to distract Catherine, at least momentarily.

Isabella as a foil: Here we meet our second “heroine” character of the novel. Jane often likes to set us up with two female characters to show comparison and contrast in the characters. Those of us who have read this before can watch how Jane sets up Isabella’s manipulative and artful character. At first, it’s tough not to like her, though I get easily annoyed when you see how she talks to people. With Isabella four years older (and probably prettier) than Catherine, it’s easy to see how this happens. Catherine admires her from the window at the end of the chapter and doesn’t know to be jealous or annoyed just yet.

At the same time, I think about times when I probably acted like Isabella as a teenager to get what I wanted. Did Jane have a girl friend who acted like this and perhaps “got in the way,” or did she recognize a bit of this in herself as well? The best part about her characters is that we (or at least I) can relate to both Catherine and Isabella at different times in my life.

Mrs. Allen vs. Mrs. Thorpe: It’s a quick side commentary, but I love Austen’s image here of the two women who like to talk but only to talk about themselves. I’ve certainly seen this happen before, so it’s great to read how it continues through the ages. Austen often uses this set up of a mom who talks relentlessly about her children and has no life outside of them. There are plenty of “helicopter parents” like that in our time as well. It definitely makes me stop and think about my own conversations. Do I tend to monopolize them? Do I allow for give and take, and do I truly listen? I try to keep it in check. Thanks for the reminder, Jane.

Final paragraph: Jane’s commentary on her peers’ novels is humorous, once again. The brief details about Mrs. Thorpe is “intended to supercede the necessity of a long and minute detail from Mrs. Thorpe herself … which might otherwise be expected to occupy the three or four following chapters;” which we see time and time again. Jane knows how to stick to her story.

I do find some tangents in novels useful and entertaining, but when does it go too far?

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3 Responses to “Northanger Abbey Ch. 4: Don’t go searching for boys”

  1. Austenite78 January 6, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    This chapter deals a bit with serendipity (my favourite word in the whole world): if it is your destiny to find that guy, you will find him, but don’t go looking for him because it is not worth the effort. Things happen for a reason.
    I have always despised Isabella Thorpe. I think she is completely selfish and self-centered, and she just looks for Catherine’s friendship to get her purposes.

    • Carolyn Crist January 6, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      I also love the word serendipity! Surprise, surprise. I like the movie with John Cusack, too, which I watched recently with my mom. My roommate saw him in a restaurant in Chicago when she visited Dec. 30-Jan. 2. I was quite jealous! Ha ha.

      But back on topic, I’ve been trying to remind myself that destiny can still be quite relevant in my life. It’s so easy to turn to the “control” mindset, where I try to plan my life out for the next few years, but I never thought last year that I’d be in this job or talking to all of the new people I know. I need to sit back and allow life to happen sometimes.

      • Austenite78 January 6, 2012 at 10:54 am #

        One of my students is constantly repeating: “sit back, relax and enjoy” 😀 Yes, we should do it more frequently.

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