Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’

Alas, we don’t get to see very much of Sophie interacting with her sisters in HMC, which would have been very Jane Austen-y indeed. There’s a vivid correlation with Northanger Abbey, however, which I will mention as soon as I download NA onto my Kindle, since my own copy is nowhere to be found.

Okay, got it.

“[Catherine Morland’s] father,” we are told in Chapter One Page One,

“was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard — and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence besides two good livings — and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters.”

Richard?!? I never thought of that name, which was also my father’s, in terms of respectability. Maybe it’s a Georgian thing.

“Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on — lived to have six children more.”

Catherine’s origins, in other words, are so free of drama and dark destiny that no one could possibly see “heroine” material in her, though she has read every sensational novel she can get her hands on and in general sees her world in terms of ruined abbeys, murdered wives, and dangerously attractive men who bear both physical and emotional scars. The novel goes on to place Catherine far from home in just sort a situation. Will Real Life live up to Catherine’s wildly overstimulated imagination?

Sophie’s own expectations are not of adventure but of failure. In Ingary, “where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist,” fairy-tales are not merely novels written for the entertainment and edification of middle-class young ladies. Instead, it appears, they are non-fiction. They are “true,” as non-fiction is said to be. They are history.

I can remember many such tales, though I can’t think of one in particular, where the oldest of three goes out to seek his fortune — it’s generally a young man — and when he encounters the Big Test, he promptly fails it by refusing to kiss the frog, befriend the ugly dwarf, answer the conundrum, etc. Whereupon the frog, dwarf, or conundrum kills him. Then the second son — as I said, it’s generally a young man — comes along. He may be slightly less impatient and rude, but he ends up dead too, or at least pretty well maimed.

But the third and youngest child is sweet, submissive, patient, and willing. He passes the Test, wins the Princess, earns fame and fortune, and may even end up becoming King one day.

Poor Sophie.

“She was not even the child of a poor woodcutter, which would have given her some chance of success.”

Her parents are well-off, her stepmother is not cruel, and her father not only doesn’t lock up his daughters, he sends them to the finest school in town. But here’s the rub.

“Sophie was the most studious. She read a great deal, and very soon realized how little chance she had of an interesting future.”

Like Catherine, she has a brain crammed with books. Unlike Catherine, who despite a lack of raw materials could become a heroine, given the right circumstances, Sophie has given up the quest before it can even begin. She’s already under a curse, and it’s a curse of her own making.

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