Lit Crit was More Than You Ever Wanted To Know Was re Answersn from Diana See the Writing's On The Walls etc

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Wed Jun 6 12:19:56 EDT 2001

Phew.  Essay posted.  Back to the Austen discussion. :)


>I wrote
>>  >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. 
>>  >
>>  >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.................................snip..............................
>>  > We were also told that the 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.
>  and Hallie replied
>>  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 -
>To clarify, I'm too fond of my teacher for O and A level English to
>describe her as anything less than good, but she was something of
>a plodder. Her teaching methods led me to a love of Shakespeare
>and Donne and an appreciation of Chaucer but, yes, plodding
>through nineteenth century literature, page by page, is an
>excruciatingly dull way to do it. Somebody (whose post I have just
>tried and failed to find) pointed out how the fault often does not lie
>with the individual teacher but with the accumulated layers of the
>education system pace YOTG.
>-I would want a HUGE amount of trust in
>>  the teacher to accept that Anne Elliot's family was based on
>>  Austen's and that Anne was largely Jane herself.
>Hold on I said "partly", not largely, and I'm sure they mentioned
>this in the publicity for the recent TV adaptation! As I understood it
>the resmblance between Anne and JA was one of situation rather
>than, strictly, character. Like JA Anne is an unmarried woman who
>is forced to leave a much loved family home and  go to live in Bath.
>Moreover according to the TV publicity she may have had a
>hopeless romance in her early twenties, like Anne. As to the rest
>of the family I'm quite sure I read or was told that Mary was a
>portrait of one of JA s married sisters.

Sorry.  When you said that you disliked JA because of Persuasion, and 
then gave your reaction to Anne's character, I assumed you were 
talking of a character resemblance.  ("Recent tv adaptation"?  How 
did I miss this?  Who?  Where?  When?)

>   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!
>This was sort of my point.
>>  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.)
>This comes down a bit to where one thinks the author is standing.
>As she is presented everything you say about Mary is true. I'm
>taking issue with authorial predjudice here (well, what I suspect is
>predjudice). As I said I always had sympathy for Mary, but I must
>now declare an interest, insofar as I suffer from a chronic medical
>condition myself. I'm used to gritting my teeth to comments like "I
>see you're not too ill to go to the pub/on holiday/write to your dwj
>list" I'm making the last one up btw! I don't exonerate Mary from
>using her illness to get out of unpleasant things   (I don't blame her
>much either) but I do think she may have been genuinely ill. The
>question is whether she perfectly full of energy when there is
>something she wants to do or whether she wants to do things
>when she has the energy. Her disinclination to waste what energy
>she has on things like duty visits to her husband's relations seems
>quite reasonable to me .............

I can actually relate to this quite well, because I spent a fairly 
sizable chunk of my adolescence feeling that I should have lived in 
Regency times - a JA novel, to be precise.  The understanding that, 
suffering from very frequent headaches, extreme near-sightedness, and 
bad teeth, I probably wouldn't have been a very happy character in 
said novel sat quite uneasily with this desire. :)  (I *have* 
outgrown this desire, btw.)

Although there's probably no point even arguing the bit about the 
"duty visits", I can't quite let it go - maybe because I'd hate to be 
associated with this unempathic, etc viewpoint.  :)  Mary thrives on 
visits to Charles' parents (especially, of course, when there's extra 
company, like Cap. W.).I've just reread this scene to be sure about 
the details I'd remembered, and it is specifically his aunt whose 
house she refuses to enter, choosing to sit on a rock in sight of the 
house instead, solely because she feels these relations are beneath 
her.  If there was any doubt as to her motivation, she tells Captain 
W. that it is very unpleasant having such connections, and assures 
him that she's never been in the house more than twice in her life.

It's more flagrant snobbery than I can stomach.


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