The Novels of Jane Austen: An Interpretation by Darrel Mansell (auth.)

By Darrel Mansell (auth.)

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Catherine's introduction to the real Henry and his brother begins the movement away from Bath to Northanger Abbey; a movement that is going to confront her with the central symbol in the novel of all the false aesthetic attitudes that Henry Tilney has summarily displayed, and that are going to have to surrender to hard facts. The Abbey and its owner subsume, and stand for, them all. The crude sensibility of the Thorpes is in the Abbey: it is John Thorpe's exaggeration of Catherine's fortune that causes the General to invite her there (p.

This causes a 'ray of commonsense' to dawn (p. 193)- and she goes forward to make the same error again. If the General's wife is not in chains, at least she was murdered; and Hemy has to tell her that his mother passed away of a bilious fever (pp. 19o-6). This time the 'visions of romance were over' and Catherine can make the solemn resolution 'of always judging and acting in future with the greatest good sense .. ' (pp. 199, 201). But, like Emma Woodhouse, who makes mistakes, resolves 'to do such things no more' (Emma, p.

I cannot go on. - I will not go on. -I must go back to Miss Tilney'; 'Let me go, Mr Thorpe; Isabella, do not hold me' (pp. 87, 101). Jane Austen's favourite moral writer in prose was Samuel Johnson, 24 and there is some24 [Henry Austen], 'Biographical Notice .. 25 Dancing, walking, riding, Catherine is made to thread her way among configurations of Thorpes and Tilneys arranged in insignificant social situations that gradually become for her the significant moral choices in the novel. Henry Tilney asks her to dance, and she must refuse because she has promised John Thorpe; she wants to go to the Pump Room to meet Eleanor Tilney, but the Thorpes insist that she go for a drive with them; while she is dancing with Henry, John Thorpe tries to claim her; when she has engaged to go for a walk with the Tilneys, the Thorpes and her brother take her away toward Blaize Castle; when she renews the engagement with the Tilneys, the Thorpes try to take her away again.

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