“Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it. Neatness and fashion are enough for the former, and a something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the latter.”
– Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey.
Nothanger Abbey published in 1817 with Mansfield Park in a four volume pack is the first novel Jane Austen completed which she started when she was 15. A classic piece of juvenile writing, this novel is the story of Catherine Morland, a naive young woman who leaves her sheltered country life and travels to Bath, a busy hub of fashion, activity and high society for seeking adventures.
I must confess, the first time i heard about Northanger Abbey,I wasn’t quite impressed. Catherine struck me as a very odd name for a Jane Austen heroine, but my aim to read all of Austen’s novels lead me on to prevent one of the biggest mistakes i could have made! Catherine is not your typical heroine, infact even Austen insists on her being unlike any heroine you have ever read about. Catherine, a tomboy at the age of 10 loves playing boy’s games, rolling down grassy slopes at the back of her house, does not mind being dirty and muddy and hates reading anything connected with studies. However at the age of 15, she grows pretty, develops an affinity for neatness and grows refined. At the age of 18, a fortunate incident leads her to Bath where the novel proceeds. There she meets intelligent, witty and amusing Henry Tilney, a clergyman whose ancestral house is Northanger Abbey (which is the location for the second part of the novel). She also forms an acquaintance with the high spirit, cunning gold digger Isabella Thorpe who influences her to read horror novels, particularly Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho. Isabella’s brother and Catherine’s brothers’s friend John Thorpe flirts with Catherine who does not understand his intentions. (clever Catherine! :P). Fortune’s favourite child Catherine soon bags an opportunity to visit Northanger Abbey where the rest of the novel continues.
Because of The novel’s unique plot line, un heroine like heroine, a witty hero and some hilarious characters, the novel ranks second on my Favourite Jane Austen books list. Catherine’s naivety and Tilney’s worldly wisdom makes a complete match although One wishes to see more of Henry during the novel. Some say that Catherine’s character is based on Jane Austen. Brought up in a household of boys in a parsonage, Jane was a complete tomboy who improved in manners as she grew up. She too loved rolling down the slopes at the back of her parsonage. Her parents too were simple and naive like the Morlands. One of her earliest pieces of writing, N.A. helps in detailing Austen’s childhood.
I saw the 2007 tele series and it was awesome! There are of course a movie version too which i hav not seen but the 2007 one is better , so i have heard. The series just had a few changes with Cathy (she has a big name, my fingers are almost paining!), being more cleverer than in the novel, Tilney as usual, amusing and funny, Thorpe…irritating, Isabella cunning, Mrs’ Allen hilarious and James morland….dumb! I would totally recommend you watching this one even if you have not read the book.
Coming up- Persuasion! 🙂