By Patricia Menon (auth.)
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Those who don’t are given the impression they are welcome to sit this one out. Austen certainly demonstrates her authorial desire to be appreciated, but if she feels a need either to be loved or taken seriously, she keeps it hidden, an attitude that contributes to the appeal of the novel. But if lack of seriousness in this regard is part of this appeal, it also contributes to this being a less substantial work than her others. In setting Catherine up with considerably more freedom of choice than that possessed by heroines such as Richardson’s Harriet or Burney’s Evelina, Austen does increase Catherine’s moral responsibilities.
She voluntarily rejected the whole city of Bath, as unworthy to make part of a landscape,” comically sums up just how crude the results of the instructional process are. In the case of important matters such as marriage, she knows as well as he does what is entailed, although she feels no need and has little ability to frame her awareness in witty comparisons to the dance. Austen is clearly no more bent on serious instruction of a specific nature than is Henry or the narrative voice. That the Austen of Northanger Abbey enjoys an audience is clear.
So why do so many readers accept Austen’s “revision” and are so easily persuaded to forget Darcy’s ill 32 Austen, Eliot, Charlotte Brontë and The Mentor-Lover manners, converting them into a tactic in a witty competition? That Elizabeth’s charm is enough for both doesn’t seem to be an adequate justification. The explanation lies in Austen’s relish in making explicit the physical attraction between Darcy and Elizabeth – his sexual response to Elizabeth effectively concealing his deficiencies of character and giving a superficial impression that he engages in a “merry war”.
Austen, Eliot, Charlotte Brontë and the Mentor-Lover by Patricia Menon (auth.)