Classics #1: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Why I Chose to Read this Classic:
I'm ashamed to say that while I profess to by a die-hard Jane Austen fan, I have never read Northanger Abbey..... *ducks head to avoid flying debris* And so it has sat in my mum's library, together with the rest of the gorgeous, mouth-watering Easton Press Jane Austen novels she collected, gathering dust as I read, re-read, then read AGAIN Pride and Prejudice until the binding began to loosen and the pages were stained with makeup smudges from my fingers (I have an awful habit of rubbing my face when I get excited, which then gets transferred to the pages of whatever book I'm reading at the moment).
This was actually Jane Austen's first novel to be completed for publication. Ms. Austen was working on Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice around the same time, but submitted Northanger Abbey for review by a publisher before either of these. Because of issues with publishing, though, it didn't get brought out until after Ms. Austen's death. As a result, it's interesting to see how her earlier writing compares with her more well-known novels.
While there are still prominent Austen-esque themes present in this title, it is very different from her other novels. For example:
- Much Younger Heroine - Catherine Morland, our Gothic novel-reading, imaginative leading lady is much younger then other Austen heroines, such as Emma or Lizzy. This, I believe, is to further accentuate her naïvety and youthful innocence, which is a dominant theme in this title. She is horrible at reading other people's true intentions, which causes a lot of grief and misunderstanding.
- Gothic Parody - Austen herself read popular Gothic titles of her time while writing Northanger Abbey, some of which make it into this book as favorites of the heroine. It's almost comical how Catherine takes what she's read and twists reality accordingly. The reader can tell Austen is poking fun at popular Gothic themes (supernatural mystery, women in distress, and ideas of overpowering/tyrannical men romancing women), but Catherine is completely serious in her Gothic fancies, which makes for a realistic illustration of how over-dramatized materials can affect immature minds. Which is an issue that still runs rampant today, unfortunately... *cough*realityTV*cough* *cough*romancenovels*cough*
I wish I had read this when I was younger. The themes and age of the heroine are very relatable to younger readers. I was reminded of my own experiences in high school while I read about the over imaginative dramas Catherine created for herself as she found her way into society and learned that life really is boring compared to novels...Movies, TV, books, EVERYTHING makes life seem exciting and dramatic and romantic and... not true.
Life is simple. At some point we come to appreciate and crave that simplicity. But at 17, simplicity seems the most horrible thing in the world. Naturally.