Lit Crit was More Than You Ever Wanted To Know Was re Answers From Diana See The Wrtings On The Walls etc

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Sat Jun 2 06:18:27 EDT 2001

>OK I'll get on with it.......... I studied Northanger Abbey for O level
>and Persuasion for A level. At the time I found Northanger Abbeyto
>be interesting in concept but pretty dull in execution (all the
>Janeites are gonna crucify me). Still, expecting 15 - 16 year old
>girls to appreciate a novel which, essentially, takes the piss out of
>young girls is expecting a bit much in my opinion. I remember
>getting to the laundry list and wishing it would turn out to be
>something exciting to liven up the thing -- although I could tell it
>wasn't going to be. Oh, and I got the Castle of Otranto out of the
>library because it sounded a lot more fun, but it wasn't.  For me
>and my friends the best bit in NA was when Catherine says "Oh
>these odious gigs!" .............. "Why tis James!""
>because we knew a guy in a band called James ....................
>Anyhow thats why I was surpprised where that quote was from.
>Persuasion is the novel that really made me dislike JA. Based on
>this novel I think she was spiteful, narrow minded, parochial and
>quite lacking in empathy. I've always had a soft spot for Mary you
>see................ Part of the way we were taught Persuasion was to
>divide the characters up into sympathetic,  Anne Elliot, Captain
>Wentworth, the old naval couple and some woman friend of Anne's,
>and unsympathetic, everyone else but especially Sir Walter,
>Elizabeth and Mary (and that silly bint who falls off a wall or
>someething). Wre were also told that tyhe characters were partly
>based on JA herself and some of her family. Well, frankly poor old
>put upon Anne gets up my nose, its having it both ways to
>represent oneself as uncomplaining in a book which does nothing
>but complain about the rest of one's family. And I think only an
>unempathetic, narrow minded and spiteful spinster would have
>diagnosed her sister's problems as a mixture of hypochondria and
>deceit. For heavens sake the poor woman had had three children at
>the turn of the nineteenth century, not very surprising her health
>was ruined.

Argh!  I really *should* be writing an essay, and I really *should* 
leave this to the better-qualified among us, but...   Ok.  I have no 
real basis for saying this, as I've never studied Persuasion or 
Northanger Abbey, only read them numerous times, and you say that 
your teachers were good but - I would want a HUGE amount of trust in 
the teacher to accept that Anne Elliot's family was based on Jane 
Austen's and that Anne was largely Jane herself.  I'm actually very 
fond of Anne as a character, but there is no way that anyone who 
writes in as acerbic a manner as JA could be thought to be like Anne! 
Not to mention the fact that Jane and Cassandra (her sister) were 
extremely close, and there are no other family similarities that I 
could see.  Oh, I suppose except for the fact that JA was a favourite 
aunt in her family.

And about Mary, well, I guess it's always a case of differing 
mileage, but I think it's pretty clear from the book that the whole 
point was that there was nothing at all wrong with her health - she's 
shown time and again to be perfectly full of energy when there's 
something she wants to do. (The demanding to come on the "long walk" 
when Captain W. et al are going, and only getting exhausted when she 
sees that Charles wants to go visit his unacceptable-to-her-cousins 
springs to mind.)  But I do think I take strong exception to the 
string of nasty adjectives ending in "spinster" in your description 
of JA/Anne Elliot.  Not that I qualify myself, you understand - I'd 
be in the category of "fallen woman" probably, as a  divorcee. :)

Northanger Abbey - well it's like TG and what follows on from that in 
a lot of ways, IMHO.  (Thereby neatly - for once! - bringing in an 
ob- etc.)  Satire of a literary style which the author feels has gone 
a touch OTT.  But taking the mickey out of the gothic romances, 
rather than young girls, I'd have thought.

Hallie - hoping someone else will still reply, in a more lucid fashion!

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