Catherine Morland Looses Her Innocence


Lismore Castle, scene of Northanger Abbey

Catherine Morland might have a naive heart but she has a keen eye.  From the stupid girl we met in chapter one, she has truly grown in her use of common sense.  It’s a direct reflection of the jaded nature of becoming an adult.  A sad fictional representation on the melting away of childhood.  I think that’s why I detest Isabella so much as a character.  How dare she be the one to teach innocent Catherine such lessons.  Who does she think she is?  People often remark that my son is innocent for his age.  No matter how this phrase is uttered, I always take it as a compliment.  Yes, he is innocent and I plan on keeping him that way as long as possible.  If you think about a person’s life, we spend less than one third of it in true innocence.  That’s sad and I believe that is why so many people can relate to Catherine Morland.  She’s about to become jaded and deep inside we all despise it.  Who wouldn’t willingly go back to those carefree days?  Spending countless hours in search of nothing but enjoyment.  Making boxes into whatever you desire.  Who wouldn’t want that?  Yet, we are all aware that you can’t hold onto that forever, no matter how hard to you try.  Even into her seventies, if you’d asked my grandma how old she was, she’d always respond that she was sixteen.  She used to tell us that you’re only as old as your heart and mind, she was forever sixteen.

We see Mr. Tilney attempting to slowly guide her through this shock.  His attempts at easing her mind work well with young Catherine but the adult reader is far too wise.  Mr. Tilney knows his brother’s disposition and he’s been questioning Isabella’s for quite some time.  I believe he knows exactly what kind of person Isabella Thorpe is.  It is a testament to his good nature that he’s able to keep his conversation from being alarming to Catherine.  He knows “something wicked this way comes” but he won’t be responsible for causing her heartache, even though he knows it’s coming.  No, he’s old enough and wise enough to allow her anger to be directed where it should and when it should.  It’s always a huge shock when the trust you place in a friend is broken, but it is often the person who tells you that catches the wrath.  Mr. Tilney expertly avoids this scenerio.

Throughout the book we’ve seen snippets and allusions to Catherine’s wild imagination.  However, it’s not until she arrives at Northanger Abbey that we really come to see it manifest.  It is, of course, assisted by the tales weaved by Mr. Tilney.  The scenery laid out before us by Jane Austen helps to really capture the mood.  Austen was a genius at character building and social commentary but I have always felt her scene descriptions were lacking.  I know, I know, all those die hard Austenites out there are going to rip me a new one.  However, besides Northanger and Pemberly, I have never enjoyed a vivid mental image of any of her locations.  Maybe it is the terms she uses or how foreign some of her descriptions are today that is to blame.  I love reading Jane Austen and I have always chalked up this quirk as nothing more than an added dimension of reading her work.  But I digress.  When she talks about the wind whipping the abbey and the distant moans, you want to crawl under those covers with our little protagonist.  Her imagination, understandably so, got the best of her and us as well.  I recall moments of my own younger years when I would dive under my covers in fright.  Here’s what I now can’t reconcile about those moments.  What in the world was my Strawberry Shortcake comforter going to save me from?  Truly, hiding under the covers has never saved anyone that I know of.

General Tilney is another alarming concern.  He runs his home and children with a military precision.  It is the anger and hair trigger temper that is alarming to this reader.  This is a man in serious need of some anger management counseling.  My sympathies have shifted from Catherine Morland to Miss Tilney.  What a wretched life she lives.

Challenge chapters: Volume 2, Chapters 7-10



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