Northanger Abbey Ch. 6: Girls’ obsessions — boys versus books?

6 Jan

Chapter 6 brings us back to reading. The gals delight over the Gothic novels of their time, and I’ve always wanted to read Mysteries of Udolpho. I own another Ann Radcliffe book or two, but I haven’t read them, actually. I know Jane is tipping her hat, but is she making fun of Radcliffe, too? Tell me below.

Does the fascination with the Gothic show the twisted side of these girls? Is it merely a fad at that time (as is Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight now), or is Jane also trying to make a commentary about girls’ imaginations in general? Is there a reason why we become so engaged in these books? Is that good or bad? Is that how Jane hopes we will become engrossed in her novels?

If anything, this chapter certainly sets up our understanding of Catherine’s imagination and how she draws her conclusions near the end of the book.

Then we get to my notion of Books vs. Boys. Throughout the chapter, Isabella turns the conversation toward boys, teasing, and flirting techniques, while Catherine turns back to the book talk. Is this merely an age difference, or relationship experience difference, or personality difference — or all three?

My thoughts wind back to Isabella’s personality. She says she has “no notion of loving people by halves.” She knows this about herself. Is it good or bad, and does Isabella pride herself on it? It seems manipulative in a way, but if you think about it, Marianne tends to have the same temperament and many people tend to like Marianne OK. I’ve heard or read somewhere that Jane saw herself as a Marianne – so does she relate to Isabella as well? What about you — are you more of a Catherine or Isabella, and what do you think about this notion of feelings toward people?

There’s also the typical teenager double talk of loving someone and then putting them down almost immediately. Isabella can’t stop praising Miss Andrews but then puts down her personality in favor of Catherine. How does this foreshadow how Isabella will manipulate guys and Catherine down the road?

And of course, my favorite lines. Jane’s at it again with her interesting chapter endings that conclude with a bit of humor – the book talk ends as they “don’t” pursue the gentlemen. :

“I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no notion of treating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil them.” (Isabella)

“Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning; and therefore, to show the independence of Miss Thorpe, and her resolution of humbling the sex, they set off immediately as fast as they could walk, in pursuit of the two young men.”

I’ve definitely done the fake not interested bit. You? What about this notion of how to treat the opposite sex and whether to “spoil” them? There’s a huge conversation waiting to happen.

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One Response to “Northanger Abbey Ch. 6: Girls’ obsessions — boys versus books?”

  1. Austenite78 January 6, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    I think what Jane Austen is doing here is warning us against being too carried away by imagination. I think she is not making fun of Ann Radcliffe, but of the people who became obsessed with Gothic novels. I think it is like nowadays, when people make fun of people who like Harry Potter too much.

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