Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Close Reading Questions for Austen's Northanger Abbey, Chs.23-31
(above: a still of Catherine from the new version of Northanger Abbey, to be aired on PBS this Sunday, February 14 (Valentine's Day)! On Monday I will post my own response to the adaptation, and hope you will respond to my response with comments.
Answer two of the following...
1. Re-read Henry’s speech which follows his discovery of Catherine’s snooping (on page 186): “If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to—Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging us from?” How do you read this passage? Is this sense shocking her into an awareness of her overworked sensibility? Or does this speech have ironic implications that only the narrator (and perhaps the reader) can appreciate? Does English society “prepare us for such atrocities” (186)?
2. Somewhat related to the above, is General Tilney the true “monster” of the novel? Is he similar to Manfred—a real man working real “evil” amidst the Gothic terror and imagined prodigies? How does Catherine understand/account for his actions in the novel? Does she find them “Gothic”—or of a much more mundane nature?
3. In the last chapters, we get an interesting view of life in the Morland home—particularly in the interaction between Catherine and her mother. How does Austen depict this domestic world? How is Catherine understood here, and do you feel Austen’s portrait is sentimental or critical?
4. In her Introduction to Northanger Abbey, Marilyn Butler writes, “Austen’s compact with her readers is never puritanical. Traditional stories end with satisfied desire; surprisingly often this encompasses the desire for goods. Happiness comes in Northanger Abbey as a sitting-room with a window down to the floor, and a view of apple trees” (xlvii). Is she suggesting here that marital bliss is still tied to class and possessions? Despite Catherine’s sensibility, does Austen ultimately reward her heroine with a sensible match—a man of property and comfort? Do we think her sensibility will continue to thrive in this setting—or is Austen no longer interested in that?