The Evolution of Jane Austen – Chapters 11 & 12


It’s hard not to feel pity for Catherine Morland.  She truly has horrible luck.  To wait all morning and pray for the rain to stop just to be have your day destroyed by the vile John Thorpe.  It’s enough to make a reader cry.  However, our protagonist showed some moxy in that carriage.  She was finally purely and unapologetically rude to Mr. Thorpe.  She let him know exactly how upset she was with him.  The girl had finally been pushed too far.  He had told her a lie (or rather he was finally caught in a lie), had made her miss a day with Mr. Tilney, and he insulted her brother.  Some of the old naive Catherine, of course, came through but this is the first time in the entire book that she has allowed her displeasure to come on out.  This reader gave her a “you go girl” for sure.

I have stated my irritation with the Thorpe family many times before, so I will not repeat the process today.  I would rather spend time looking closer at Austen’s genius and her ability to create complete characters.  In the millions of books in circulation very few have complex characters.  Writing a multitude of complex characters is, well, complex.  It’s a difficult task that only should be trusted to a true master.  Austen does a brilliant job of slowly building her characters.  They reveal themselves in a slow natural progression.

John Thorpe, for instance, has gone through a continuous metamorphosis throughout the first twelve characters, and I am going to venture to guess that we haven’t seen the worst of him yet.  In the beginning you could easily excuse him as good-natured but long winded.  His poor language, or potty mouth as I call it, could be seen as nothing more than ignorance.  However, chapter eleven reveals something more to his character.  While your brain has allowed you to play down his poor qualities so far, this single scene really sets a person’s mind against him.  There’s nothing in this world I hate more than a liar and a manipulator.  I despise those people who are only nice to someone as long as they can get something.  Even if their perception of what they can get has nothing to do with truth.  My stomach churns at people like that.  However, there is one universal truth that is inevitable with these people, eventually they’ll screw up.  John Thorpe, thanks to Jane Austen, just had one of those classic slip ups.  Catherine has suspected him of stretching the truth before but she has just caught him.  We also clearly see his money grubbing ways.  He seems to hold a lot of resentment to the fact that he has very little money and therefore he must stretch the truth to make himself appear more important than he actually is.

This slow evolution can be seen across the board.  Which character do you think, so far, has shown the biggest evolution?

Challenge Chapters: 13 & 14


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