Thursday, March 10, 2016

Northanger Abbey Read-Along: Week 2

Today we are discussing chapters 4-10. Hop on over to Amber's blog at Seasons of Humility and check out what others are saying about the book! Also enter into the contest that Amber is having on her blog.  Here are this week's discussion questions:

1. Is Isabella a friend or a "frenemy"? Do you think there's the seed of a genuine friendship between her and Catherine, or is Isabella only loyal to her own ambitions?

I don't think I would classify her so harshly as a "frenemy," But, I do think she is out for her own ambitions and she has set her eyes on Catherine's brother! I also think she is very self-centered and reminds me a bit of Mrs. Allen. Also Isabella seems very contradictory. She says one thing, then goes and does the exact thing she says she wasn't going to do. Are her actions to suit the circumstance or is she really that vapid that she has no idea what is coming out of her mouth? I think she is out to catch a man and she has set her eyes on Catherine's brother, but she will drop the whole friendship if someone richer comes along. So in a way she is probably the mercenary one instead of Tilney as I first thought!

2. Let's talk about John Thorpe, whose presence is obviously a problem! How would you advise Catherine in her interactions with Mr. Thorpe?

Sadly I am afraid she is going to have to be very blunt with him because he is a boorish man! Ugh! His talk of horses...snooze snooze! His arrogance! Ack! He has nothing to be arrogant over yet his ego is bigger than he is! I don't think that even if Catherine ignored him he would pay attention(dance scene in chapter 10), he has set his mind on her for some reason. This is another reason that I am wondering if he and Isabella think they are hitching their wagons to a star. Are they the mercenaries? And what is the draw to the Thorpe's that they are trying to attach themselves to them?

3. Do you agree with Mr. Tilney's comparisons between dancing and marriage? And do you consider dancing an important component of romance?

I believe more in what Catherine said. "People that marry can never part, but must go and keep house together. People that dance, only stand opposite to each other in a long room for half an hour." So yes Mr. Tilney is correct in that there is a commitment, but it is a limited commitment as compared to a lifetime commitment of a marriage.

No, I do not consider dancing an important component of romance. Especially nowadays. Maybe in the era that Jane Austen wrote in because the dances were much more elaborate and partners had to carry on some sort of conversation. So in that case it was a part of the courtship process. Now, if I had to rely on a dance to further my romance when I met my husband then I would have been up a creek! I was raised in a home that said "dancing is a sin" so needless to say, my dancing skills are very lacking! So at the risk of showing my age and upbringing I would say that yes, it furthered the romance in the Victorian era because it provided a safe place to court and get to know a person but in today's society no, dancing cannot further a romance because seriously, how can you even get to know someone with music playing so loud you can't hear yourself think let alone hear what someone is saying? 

Quotes that caught my attention as I read:

"He(Tilney) was nowhere to be met with; every search for him was equally unsuccessful, in morning lounges or evening assemblies, neither at the Upper or Lower rooms, at dressed or undressed balls was he perceivable; nor among walkers, the horsemen, or the curricle-drivers of the morning." Poor Catherine, it seemed she searched high and low for Mr. Tilney and he was MIA.

Upon meeting the Thorpes: "but in which there was scarcely ever any exchange of opinion, and not often any resemblance of subject, for Mrs. Thorpe talked chiefly of her children, and Mrs. Allen of her gowns." Again I think we see Jane Austen's wit and observations of humankind.

I totally found the discussion of the gothic reads of the day interesting and had to look up some of the titles. Some of them are definitely still in print. I will have to check them out and see just how scandalous reading a gothic tale in that day was!

"I will read you their names directly; here they are in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warning, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time. Yes; pretty well; but are they all horrid? Are you sure they are all horrid? Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them."

Here is an example of Isabella's contrariness:

"I wish you knew Miss Andrews...I think her as beautiful as an angel, and I am so vexed with the men for not admiring her!"

then a few moments later:

"for I must confess there is something amazingly insipid about her."

Singing Miss Andrews praises in one breath and then cutting her in the next.

Oh, and Catherine is currently reading Udolpho at the time of the gothic book conversation.

Again showing Isabella's contrariness and Jane Austen's wit:

"She(Isabella) was so far from seeking to attract their notice(a couple of men), that she looked back at them only three times."

"only" three times! This just killed me!

Mr. Thorpe when Catherine tried to come up with some conversation to be had with him:

"Novels are all so full of nonsense and stuff! There has not been a tolerably decent one come out since Tom Jones, except The Monk; I read that t'other day; but as for all the others, they are the stupidest things in creation."

Again Mr. Thorpe shows what a jerk he is:

"On his two younger sisters he then bestowed a equal portion of his fraternal tenderness, for he asked each of them how they did, and observed that they both looked very ugly." 

When Catherine finally starts to see Isabella and her brother's true colors:

"Her own family were plain matter-of-fact people, who seldom aimed at wit of any kind; her father at the utmost being contented with a pun, and her mother with a proverb; they were not in the habit, therefore, of telling lies to increase their importance, or of asserting at one moment what they would contradict the next." 

"as it was, she could only lament her ill-luck, and think over what she had lost, till it was clear to her that the drive had by no means been very pleasant, and that John Thorpe himself was quite disagreeable."

So to wrap up this week's discussion my impressions are a bit turned as far as Tilney goes. We see just a bit more and so I like him just a bit better. As far as Isabella and her brother John, I am thinking that Catherine is going to regret this association. Feel free to hop into the conversation and leave a comment with your thoughts. And of course I am looking forward to next week's discussion!


  1. All that comes to mind when I think of John Thorpe is ick, ick, ick! And one minute Isabella is nice and the next she's being catty. Definitely not fans of the Thorpes! I agree with you about the dancing; totally not a big deal these days but back then it was huge.

    I enjoyed reading your answers today, Julie!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Miranda! This is so fun! I'll be by your blog in a bit to check out your post :)

  2. The Thorpe's are just awful! I am not impressed at all. I feel for Catherine because she's simply too innocent to realize what's really happening. I hope she figures it out before getting seriously hurt.

    Austen's wit is definitely noticeable in this book! All the sly little asides and anecdotes from the narrator continue to make me laugh. :)

    Great answers!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Kara! Yes, Catherine is so innocent there is a definite fear that she will be hurt. And I can't tell you how many times I snort- laugh over Austen's wit!

  3. We share a common background on dancing! ;)

    I agree with you that the Thorpes think they might be hitching themselves to a star, especially with the questions Mr. Thorpe started asking Catherine about The Allens' money and heirs.

    I, too, can't help but snort over Austen's wit. :) I'm starting to love her more and more! I really think I might have to make my way into another of her books when I'm finished with this one.

    1. Oh oh oh, you must pick Pride and Prejudice ;) My absolute favorite of all time! Although, I think most people prefer Sense and Sensibility more. Hmmm, I'd still go with P&P :) Thanks for stopping by! Isn't this fun?!

  4. Love your reaction to Thorpe's conversation: "snooze, snooze!" Haha - so true!

    You make a really great point about dancing in Austen's day. As shown by Austen's books, they really could converse much more and further their acquaintance with someone, rather than have it be purely a physical connection. Music today can be rather loud! ;)

    I hope the question didn't make everyone uncomfortable! Like I wrote on Miranda's blog, I probably put too much of my own experience into asking that question. I really enjoy dancing and often associate it with romance in my mind - but I totally understand that things are much different in general nowadays than they were in Austen's day. :)

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! It's so fun to read your observations on all the characters as the chapters continue.


    1. Haha, no discomfort here concerning dancing. I say if you want to dance you go for it! I cut loose around my house all of the time ;) and I think that was a valid question for the period the book was written :)