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Discuss Northanger Abbey 2010 > Catherine Morland -- with Spoilers

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

What are your thoughts on Catherine Morland? Is she a rather atypical Jane Austen heroine? Do you like her? Tell us what you think?


message 2: by Leshawn (new)

Leshawn | 25 comments I like her immensely! She makes me laugh which I always value in a literary character. I am also very sympathetic with her because she suffers from a lack of perspective which is one of the foibles that affects us all at some time or another. I only wish that I had the excuse of her ignorance and youth to explain away my own incidents of failing to place things in perspective. She reminds me of how easily one can be swept away with a notion without exploring the idea and searching for truth first.
And she berates herself for failing to exercise good sense when she discovers that she has done just that. What a valiant girl!
She also strives to see the good in those she esteems, even when they push her effort to the breaking point like Isabella did.
Finally, she never pretends to be something she is not and that in and of itself is admirable!


message 3: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Metz | 112 comments Leshawn wrote: "I like her immensely! She makes me laugh which I always value in a literary character. I am also very sympathetic with her because she suffers from a lack of perspective which is one of the foibles..."

I agree. She is rather innocent. I think she stands out in that way from the other heroines. She doesn't seem to see anything negative in anyone ~ excepting of course what she imagines about the General and his wife.


message 4: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (last edited Mar 07, 2010 11:59AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Jeannette and I somehow got a discussion going about Catherine in the other thread [ok, I am ALWAYS guilty of that! :)]. We might bring some of our comments into this thread, but basically were discussing how we each perceived Catherine.

I know some of the things I saw in her were:

She has intelligence and spark, but not confidence.

Her family had determined her "plain" throughout her youth, but I think she probably rebelled against being too proper or girly. I agree Jeannette that she would not have taken to too many lessens or been very accomplished.

She definitely lacked experience and possibly had not seen or at least recognized manipulative or greedy behavior in life.

She does fall to believing the best of Henry. I see this as typical for any girl of 17 who is falling in love, but maybe she does do this with more innocence than many would? More comments on this?

Those maybe are some better explanations of what I was saying earlier. Jeannette, please restate some of your points if you would like.


message 5: by Arnie (new)

Arnie I agree with all you say, there, Sarah, which is all the more reason why I believe there is good reason to worry for Catherine after she marries Henry. Just think, Eleanor's mother married the young General Tilney thinking he was great stuff, too, right?

THAT'S Jane Austen's main point--love and romance can cloud a woman's judgment, and undermine her confidence and resistance to oppression.


message 6: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (last edited Mar 07, 2010 12:34PM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Arnie, I appreciate and respect your scholarship of looking into the subtext of Jane's writings. What I gather from Austen, for me personally, it isn't necessary to look into the subtext.

The way I see it, during the first 20 years of the 19th century, Austen gave us fiction that portrayed men and women having conversations together and dealing with each other -- overcoming understandings, dealing with experiences together, etc. This aspect is what many of my conclusions of Austen spring from. Not saying this is exclusively what I gain from her novels -- we have talked about many, many other things in this group alone.

Love and romance do not unquestionably cloud a woman's judgment -- they may cloud the judgment of BOTH men and women or falling in love can bring life into a crystal-clear state never before known until that time. It can also boost a person's confidence like nothing else.


message 7: by Arnie (last edited Mar 07, 2010 01:30PM) (new)

Arnie Sarah, thank you for your civil reply. I have a hypothetical question for you.

IF (a big "if", I am sure, for you, at this moment, having not had the opportunity to see my full argument for the presence of shadow stories in Jane Austen's novels) you were to be shown what you found to be sufficient evidence to indicate that Jane Austen did indeed intend for her readers to perceive alternative interpretations of her novels, under which the heroes were not so heroic, what effect do you think that would have on your approach to her novels?

I.e., if it were demonstrated by credible evidence that there was subtext placed in the novels by Jane Austen, do you think you'd still say it isn't necessary to look into the meaning of the subtext?


message 8: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Again, Arnie, I think you might be mistaking my statements.

As Jeannette has pointed out in the other thread, I would rather focus this thread back to Catherine and welcome some other member comments and perhaps start back discussing Catherine's qualities and her reactions within other parts of the story.


message 9: by Arnie (new)

Arnie go right ahead.


message 10: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Metz | 112 comments Sarah wrote: "Jeannette and I somehow got a discussion going about Catherine in the other thread [ok, I am ALWAYS guilty of that! :)]. We might bring some of our comments into this thread, but basically were di..."

I think Catherine seemed to not only idealize Henry ~ but almost everyone she liked/admired. She extended it even to the General when she reasoned that he would not ask her to sit with Henry if it wasn't proper ~ even though the Allens had told her it was not respectable and she had agreed to avoid the practice.


message 11: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Yes Lee, she had a hard time even thinking Frederick Tilney had been toying with Isabella. Henry says to Catherine, "your mind is warped by an innate principle of general integrity..." that was pretty much as I saw it too!


message 12: by Arnie (last edited Mar 08, 2010 10:08AM) (new)

Arnie ..and I wonder if she got his joke--I don't think she did, and so his implicit praise was "born to blush unseen"......by her!


message 13: by Badlydone (new)

Badlydone I was wondering if, since Northanger Abbey was meant to be a parody of gothic novels in general and Udolpho in particular, Jane Austen may have deliberately portrayed Catherine to be quite dissimilar to a heroine in gothic novels. Not having read Udolpho, I checked out the Wikipedia description of Emily St. Aubert, the heroine of Udolpho and here I quote from Wikipedia:

"Emily St. Aubert: The novel's protagonist. Much of the action takes place from her point of view. She is unusually beautiful and gentle with a slight, graceful figure, fond of books, nature, poetry, and music. She is described as extremely virtuous, obedient, resourceful, brave, sensitive, and self-reliant."

Rather different from Catherine! The opening sentence of Northanger Abbey which states "no one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine" adds to this.

Perhaps someone who has read Udolpho can further enlighten us?


message 14: by Puck (new)

Puck (gentlepuck) | 159 comments Does anyone really see someone in her infancy and go, "she's a heroine!" Unless of course you're Natalie Merchant but that was for a song,

Naive. Painfully and ignorantly naive. Painful for the pbserver, not the character. Everytime I read/ listen to this book, I have sympathy pains for her.
She has read about all kinds of heroes and villians but she never consider she could be duped by someone whom feigns friendship.
I love her. I want to protect her from people like the Thrope, even her dumbass brother. (EEK!! Am I allowed to say that?) Pardon my French but what a cad!! He treated his sister poorly for a stupid twit of a girl. I am amazed she didn't approach him at all for his treatment of her.
Catherine has to be one of the luckiest girls too. She gets everything she needs in the most interesting ways. You would think that she was blessed and cursed at the same time - like Joseph in the Bible.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Sarah wrote: "Does anyone really see someone in her infancy and go, "she's a heroine!" ..."

I think that kind of thing is supposed to happen in fairy tales! Catherine is very innocent and maybe "gullible" in believing in both how horrid, and how kind, people can be. She makes up villains, but misses the real ones she encounters in Bath.


message 16: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I think Catherine is pretty much standard for a young girl her age. At my age, I know some things to watch out for AND I live in an time when we are exposed to a lot more (or maybe I should say more of a lot!). But this is her first time out of a small village and experiencing a mixture of people. And they are a sneaky lot too.

Not to mention that she probably feels like she has James' "endorsement" of these Thorpes, another reason she wouldn't be on guard. And maybe just proof that James didn't have much experience in life either. Could they have just been brought up simply and innocently? -- I still say it might have been her parents who were the "plain" ones.


message 17: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Metz | 112 comments Sarah wrote: "I think Catherine is pretty much standard for a young girl her age. At my age, I know some things to watch out for AND I live in an time when we are exposed to a lot more (or maybe I should say mo..."

I think you may be on to something here. I remember reading about how she hadn't experienced love because of their lack of society. That might explain this as well. If you were only always surrounded by family and close friends you may not expect the kind of sneaky, selfish conduct that the Thorpes displayed.


message 18: by Shayne (new)

Shayne | 49 comments I agree with the comments about Catherine's lack of experience mixing with people. From Chapter 10, a conversation between Henry and Catherine:

[Henry:] “Here you are in pursuit only of amusement all day long.”

[Catherine:] “And so I am at home — only I do not find so much of it. I walk about here, and so I do there; but here I see a variety of people in every street, and there I can only go and call on Mrs. Allen.”

It seems there weren't any other families of gentlefolk within easy visiting distance for Catherine, and since the Allens are childless, the only other girls she mixes with are her own sisters.


message 19: by Puck (new)

Puck (gentlepuck) | 159 comments There's something about Catherine that reminds me of Molly Gibson from Wives and Daughters.
Molly loved the idea of a sister so much that she didn't trust her instincts concerning Cynthia. She didn't stand up to her and let herself be slandered for Cynthia's trouble while Cynthia got to runaway to London to hang out with a rich uncle.
I guess it's having a false friend that helps teaches us the hard lessons of trusting instincts over high hopes.


message 20: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I like your comment. Was that a good book?


message 21: by Samantha (new)

Samantha (samanthan) | 25 comments I love Catherine Morland! She is one of my favorite heroines in any novel. I find I can relate to Catherine because I am a teenage girl with a love of novels like she is. I love how humorous and honest Catherine is. I love reading about her adventures in Bath and the mysteries she unravels at Northanger Abbey. She and Henry are perfect for each other, I loved their happy ending!


message 22: by Puck (new)

Puck (gentlepuck) | 159 comments Sarah wrote: "I like your comment. Was that a good book?"

Oh yeah. I really like what I have read by Gaskell so far. Molly is so good and every character reminds you of someone who you already know.


message 23: by Shayne (new)

Shayne | 49 comments Samantha wrote: "I love Catherine Morland! She is one of my favorite heroines in any novel. I find I can relate to Catherine because I am a teenage girl with a love of novels like she is. I love how humorous and honest Catherine is..."
Samantha, it's lovely to see the reaction of a reader a similar age to Catherine! And I think you're spot-on when you refer to Catherine's honesty - it's one of the things that differentiates her so strongly from Isabella.

There's a clarity and lovely innocence about Catherine; an emotional honesty. She's quite incapable of hiding her feelings from Henry, and she's rewarded for this by being loved by him in his turn.

I was just re-reading the final few pages last night, and was struck by how straightforward and unpretentious Mrs Morland is, as well as how infused with quiet affection the Morlands' household is. She raised her daughter well.


message 24: by Samantha (new)

Samantha (samanthan) | 25 comments The Morlands are a very nice family as far as Austen's literary families go. I think the Morlands are the family I would most like to be a part, of out of the various families of Jane Austen's novels.


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I think the Morlands were loving, sensible and down to earth. They cared for and about all of their many children!


message 26: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Maybe the Morlands didn't truly understand their daughter Catherine. They might not have been equipped to deal with such an imaginative child who didn't completely fit the girly mold.


message 27: by Puck (new)

Puck (gentlepuck) | 159 comments What mother really does;)


message 28: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Sarah wrote: "What mother really does;)"

Yes, another of those parent-child issues we were speaking of.


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Especially with eleven children to care for! (Or did the Morlands only have ten?) :)


message 30: by Puck (new)

Puck (gentlepuck) | 159 comments I want to say ten


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

My sister has 11, so I get them mixed up. :)


message 32: by Puck (new)

Puck (gentlepuck) | 159 comments Wonderwomb!


message 33: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) It is 10: "A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number." :)

I can, unfortunately, really identify with Catherine in her naivete toward new acquaintances. I tend to always assume that people have good intentions and think the best of people when I meet them. And, like Catherine, I have found myself unintentionally in sticky situations because I have assumed that someone not only has good intentions, but also is looking out for what is best for me. So, even though I am probably too old to still be able to identify with Catherine's naive interactions, I can :)


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

And Catherine, by marrying Henry Tilney, rather than John Thorpe, will retain much of her belief in the goodness of people, which you have retained. Many of us will, fortunately, always believe in the good intentions of people and are often rewarded for it. We have to put up with the downside of mistaken intentions, but it's worth it, imo. :)


message 35: by Joy (last edited Apr 06, 2010 10:42AM) (new)

Joy (joylnorth) True! And, in this comparison, I definitely married a Henry Tilney and not a John Thorpe (although I probably dated one or two).

What is also interesting to me is that Catherine's naivete is endearing and not annoying. With some naive characters I find myself so exasperated with their inability to properly navigate through life due to lack of experience or judgment, but Catherine is different for me. Perhaps its because her intentions are always so true and because she is so honest, with herself and others, of her deficiencies. In fact, I don't think she gives herself enough credit in her abilities.


message 36: by Puck (new)

Puck (gentlepuck) | 159 comments I totally agree with you Joy.
Nice summary.


message 37: by Shayne (new)

Shayne | 49 comments That's a lovely description of Catherine, Joy.

Catherine's belief in the goodness of people is perhaps something she learned from her parents. From the final chapter:

"[Henry's:] pleasing manners and good sense were self–evident recommendations; and having never heard evil of him, it was not their way to suppose any evil could be told. Goodwill supplying the place of experience, his character needed no attestation."

They think well of people unless given reason to think otherwise. Even of the General, Mrs Morland says nothing worse than, "he must be a very strange man".


message 38: by Joy (last edited Apr 06, 2010 01:32PM) (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Sarah wrote: "I totally agree with you Joy.
Nice summary."


Thanks Sarah! And I completely identify with the "sympathy pains" you mentioned that Catherine evokes. I had such a visceral reaction to NA when I re-read it a few weeks ago.

p.s. I love Gaskell! I have only read Cranford and Ruth so far, but I love the Wives and Daughters BBC miniseries :) I am looking forward to reading more!


message 39: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Shayne wrote: "That's a lovely description of Catherine, Joy.

Catherine's belief in the goodness of people is perhaps something she learned from her parents. From the final chapter:

"[Henry's:] pleasing manners..."


Thanks Shayne, and I think you are right on the money. Perhaps that is why Catherine is an unusual Austen heroine; she actually had a kind, supportive and functional family!


message 40: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum One of the reasons I love Catherine is that she's sweet. Not cloying and teeth-decaying sweet, but genuinely the kind of person who draws others to herself. My best friend as a teen-ager was that kind of person, and the good news is that she kept that sweetness all of her life -- so I have a strong belief in Catherine's life-long happy-ever-after!


Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB  | 4 comments I am 75% completed with Northanger Abby- and I must admitt it took time to get into- I love the references to "current" authors- and it prompted me to buy The Italian - but I do wish there was more dialogue- but a worthy book for James Mason'ers


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

I think the dialogue between Catherine, Eleanor and Henry is perfect! He says such outrageous things about the intelligence of women!


Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB  | 4 comments Jeannette wrote: "I think the dialogue between Catherine, Eleanor and Henry is perfect! He says such outrageous things about the intelligence of women!"

thats true- he can be biting- Isabella is a very multi-dimensional character too- leading James on- and yet seems to have a thing for Henry's brother!


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi Rick! I didn't realize you were in this group, too! Took me a second to figure out where I was posting. Glad you didn't give up on this book. :)


Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB  | 4 comments nope! about 25% to go- I wonder if her satire on Udulpho is one of good nature- or one of derision- does anyone know if Austen was fond of the gothic books she pokes fun at here? reminds me of Bob Hope's My Favorite Brunette- where he pokes fun at the detective film noir (with a great cameo by Alan Ladd)


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Rick wrote: "nope! about 25% to go- I wonder if her satire on Udulpho is one of good nature- or one of derision- does anyone know if Austen was fond of the gothic books she pokes fun at here? reminds me of Bob ..."

My understanding is that Austen was a voracious reader and read everything she could lay her hands on. I have no doubt that she devoured all of the latest novels and poetry as it became available. I don't know if it is at all clear that she liked, or 'approved,' of all that she read, but then that makes her just like the rest of us, doesn't it? Personally, I tend to believe that her satirical treatment of 'Udolpho' was in good fun. Cheers! Chris


message 47: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Great to see you Rick! We're discussing Udolpho now on the group, as you've seen. My respect for this book is growing. I think it has its attracting qualities and Austen may have thought so too, as Chris suggests. It IS kind of fun and I am starting to get stirred up by the wicked aunt M. Cheron!


message 48: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (last edited Apr 09, 2010 02:02PM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) For those who are interested in what Jane Austen read, here's an interesting essay I found on JASNA's website about Austen's reading habits while living at Chawton. The article has quite a bit about the possible influences that other novels had on Austen as she wrote Northanger Abbey, as well as some of her other novels.

Here is the link http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-l...

Enjoy! Also, I wish all of you a wonderful weekend! Cheers! Chris


message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

Same to you Chris! We are finally getting good weather again! :)


Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB  | 4 comments I am just at the end- where Catherine was sent packing for mysterious reasons- dont give it away!!!


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