Northanger Abbey Ch. 5: Jane’s rant about novels

5 Jan

In Chapter 5, we find Catherine on the search again. Did she not listen the first time? If you search for a mate, you’ll be disappointed. That’s my mantra right now. Revel in friends. Revel in yourself.

Isabella is there to play the appropriate girl friend role — support her, tell her that the guy likes her, all of that good stuff. You wouldn’t be a good friend if you didn’t do that.

And then there’s the matter of Tilney being mysterious. What is it with the cool ones being enshrouded in shadow, anyway?

“This sort of mysteriousness, which is always so becoming in a hero, threw a fresh grace in Catherine’s imagination around his person and manners, and increased her anxiety to know more of him.”

I’ve always been a sucker for the mysterious ones, the brooders, the intellectuals. Is it because you can imagine what you want in your hero, and you never know for sure?

Keep up the mantra. If you have fun and improve yourself, the right person will come along. At the same time, how do you stop yourself and distract yourself?

Oh yeah, you read books. That’s what I do, too, so thanks again for speaking to my heart, Jane.

She does a nice homage (at the same time parody, probably) of the Gothic, romance, and manners novels of the time. When I took a Romantic Literature class during my senior year of college (where I met the ex, actually. Ahem.), we read several of the Cecilia/Camilla/Belinda novels, and they all have their interesting points. I will say that I appreciate Jane’s rant about novels and sticking up for them when other novelists didn’t. She argues that they have plenty to contribute to thought and society by studying people, conversation, and a “thorough knowledge of human nature.” Novels are more lifelike and real, and she certainly appreciates that they include “the greatest powers of the mind” and “the liveliest effusions of wit and humour.”

Imagine how much has changed in the attitudes toward novels. In some crowds, they’re still not treasured, but by others, they’re cherished and collected. Think about Jane’s bravery in becoming a novelist and her ability to both draw on the trend of her time and write about “matters of the heart” (also note that she used heroine names for a few book titles) but also put her own spin on the subjects.

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2 Responses to “Northanger Abbey Ch. 5: Jane’s rant about novels”

  1. Austenite78 January 6, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    I think that Jane Austen was really brave at her time. The words “woman” and “novelist” in the same sentence weren’t very well considered at her time, a time when women were considered mere decorative objects, only devoted to their houses and families. It didn’t help either the fact that she never got married. Spinster was a dreadful word at her time, and a much feared word for most women. But she was determined to fulfill her dream of becoming a novelist, and she succeeded. I greatly admire her for that. In a way, I consider her as one of the first great feminist authors. So novels were very important for her, and Northanger Abbey is a “novel about novels”, where we can find many references to other works, especially works written by women (coincidence? I don’t think so). It is both a homage to novels and a parody of Gothic novels, and it is part of its charm.

    • Carolyn Crist January 6, 2012 at 10:49 am #

      A novel about novels. Absolutely. I’m glad you brought that up. That’s another theme I want to carry through the posts. Thanks!

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