The One Woman Phenomenon That is Jane Austen

tilney

Mr. Tilney, he’s simply Jane Austen’s best written male lead. He’s sweet, kind, funny, and upstanding to boot. We know all of Tilney’s fabulous qualities. He’s just a beautifully written character. His charm and humor ooze from the pages and he knows muslin! I love how that’s a quality that Mrs. Allen finds the best recommendation for his character. Jane Austen is known for her social commentary.  Using her characters to discuss the ridiculous nature of her era.  In chapter 3, we see this perfectly clear in the humorous exchange of Mr. Tilney and Catherine during their dance.  He knows that social etiquette of the day requires him to ask his partner some of the most ludicrous questions imaginable.  Boring questions that will have neither the effect he desires or the lasting impressions he wishes to make on her.  He asks these questions with an air of humor and in the end designs to return to more rational discourse.  It’s a lovely scene that perfectly captures the feeling of his good humor and charming mannerisms.  I could write an entire post on Mr. Tilney alone, to be honest, that was my intention originally. However, Jane Austen again pulls me in another direction. She dictates the keys I push and what words spill forth from my frantically typing digits. And she has pulled me, yet again, in another direction here.

There is this enduring theme in Austen books, that of the quickly made female friendship; the immediate intimacy of two young women. Now, this arrangement has always fascinated me about her books. I ask you, dear reader, why is this? Why are the female characters of Jane Austen novels always quick to make intimate friends with perfect strangers? It’s an intriguing phenomenon, for sure. Here’s what I propose. Let us go forward as a young Catherine looking for our Isabella and make lasting friendships with perfect strangers. Let us share intimate details of our lives with the grocery store clerk, discuss our wanton dreams with the lady standing behind us at the bank, or clap arms with a perfect stranger in the mall and take a walk about the room. See, by today’s standards this is a ridiculous notion and yet in Austen’s world it makes perfect sense. It’s rational and we accept it, even if we cannot imitate it today.

Northanger Abbey, what a delightful book so far. The characters are not flat or fabled. They’re flawed and beautifully real. Catherine Morland is slowly emerging from her cocoon to become a lovely heroine. You want her to succeed; she has to succeed, because if she doesn’t there is no hope in this world for plain almost pretty girls. She has to find her place in the world because if she doesn’t than nobody will. What a delightful book and some of Miss Austen’s best characters!

Book Club Challenge: Chapters 5 & 6 by Thursday 7/4/2013

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