I desperately want to begin this first post by asking you what you love about Austen and this novel. It is pretty outrageous on my part because maybe you don’t like her and don’t get it.
But if it is OK with you, I am going to start this way.
Here are three things I love (and I need you to know this is difficult for me because there are at least 8 things I want to say!)
This is a clumsy way to say this, but I love how Austen is pitting her novel’s heroine against heroines of romantic literature. In Chapter One, Austen has our heroine’s parents say, in very unromantic fashion: “Catherine grows quite a good looking girl,-she is almost pretty today.” Heroines are supposed to be uncommonly beautiful!
I will try to tone this down.
I love this opening paragraph to Ch. 2. (I copied and pasted this from The Gutenberg Project, and I would urge anyone who wishes to share a passage to do the same.)
In addition to what has been already said of Catherine Morland’s personal and mental endowments, when about to be launched into all the difficulties and dangers of a six weeks’ residence in Bath, 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; her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affectation of any kind—her manners just removed from the awkwardness and shyness of a girl; her person pleasing, and, when in good looks, pretty—and her mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is.
Austen gently mocks her protagonist, but somehow, despite the wry humor (a term my colleague Kirsten Komara just used about Austen) there is such a sense of kindness about Austen, a deep humanity.
And finally, I love Tilney. I love his sense of humor. I love his kindness towards Catherine. And, I’ve argued in my past as a graduate student that Austen is a feminist and was influenced by Wollstonecraft (more on that much much later.) I love this phrase by Tilney in Chapter 3 when he and Catherine are arguing about accomplishments and aesthetics. “Excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.” He is perfect! He’s the one!
OK. I am now being a little silly.
What did you enjoy?
What do you make of her tone?
Did anything throw you off?
Did you read this and wonder once again why it is that everyone loves Austen and she just leaves you cold?
Let us know what you think.
If you can stand a final thought, I realized as I was reading last night that I had a constant smile while reading these chapters. Austen touches and creates such delight in me.
I’m eager to hear what you think.