Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Northanger Abbey - Chapter Twenty-Seven



Chapter 27 - the very short version After a letter from Isabella, Catherine displays her new-found good sense in calling Isabella a whore. In polite, early 19th-century terms, of course.

Chapter 27

Isabella sends an extremely entertaining letter to Catherine, trash-talking Captain Frederick Tilney while demonstrating that she's pining after him, and asking Catherine to please smooth things over with James Morland.

Such a strain of shallow artifice could not impose even upon Catherine. Its inconsistencies, contradictions, and falsehood struck her from the very first. She was ashamed of Isabella, and ashamed of having ever loved her. Her professions of attachment were now as disgusting as her excuses were empty, and her demands impudent. . ..

. . . "So much for Isabella," she cried, "and for all our intimacy! She must think me an idiot, or she could not have written so; but perhaps this has served to make her character better known to me than mine is to her. I see what she has been about. She is a vain coquette, and her tricks have not answered. I do not believe she had ever any regard either for James or for me, and I wish I had never known her."

"It will soon be as if you never had," said Henry.

Catherine goes on to question Henry as to what on earth his brother had been thinking, chasing after Isabella like that. When Henry basically says that Frederick was in it for the sport, and hadn't cared about Isabella, Catherine's pretty offended. Sure, Isabella was a heartless cow, but what if he'd made Isabella fall in love with him? Henry's answer was that Isabella would have needed a heart in order to fall in love:

"But we must first suppose Isabella to have had a heart to lose -- consequently to have been a very different creature; and, in that case, she would have met with very different treatment."

"It is very right that you should stand by your brother."

"And if you would stand by yours, you would not be much distressed by the disappointment of Miss Thorpe. But your mind is warped by an innate principle of general integrity, and therefore not accessible to the cool reasonings of family partiality, or a desire of revenge."

First, bravo to all these points, and an extra bravo with a "wow!" for Henry's flattery of Catherine at the end.

Second, if you go back and read the entire conversation between Henry and Catherin in this chapter, I think that you'll find (as I did) that they are starting to sound far more like parties on even footing, and less like teacher/student or master/grasshopper. Henry's still more experienced than Catherine (as he ought to be - he's like, seven years older than she), but thanks to his earlier tutelage and a bit of life experience outside the bubble of her hometown, Catherine's a lot more savvy than she used to be. Thank you Henry, and thank you hard knocks Isabella.

Tomorrow - What do you mean, "get the hell out?"

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