Today we are wrapping up our discussion with Volume 2.
This part of the story focuses primarily on Catherine with the Tilney family at Northanger Abbey.
To me the book felt like two completely different stories. Volume 2 not only changes our setting, but the focus of Catherine. She goes from trying to navigate society to being obsessed with her imagined mysteries.
There are two things in this volume that sat with me when I was done with the book. First, how much Catherine wanted to be in her own gothic novel, but was unable to understand people’s real motivations. She doesn’t see through the Thrope siblings true designs or that the General is just a jerk. She wanted to discover the murder of Henry’s mother, but it is all in her imagination. It is truly something she creates in her imagination with minimal information from Eleanore. To be fair to Catherine, I would have done the exact same thing at 17. Even now I often prefer fictional stories to the real world. I did the haunted tour in San Diego and was disappointed when we weren’t haunted on it AT ALL! I still look through the pictures hoping to glance even the slightest dust mite that I can swear is a ghost.
Second, how much Catherine is manipulated by the men around her. Even Isabella, who attempts control over her fate, is at the mercy of Fredrick and James. Catherine has no idea what John Thrope is doing behind the scenes to hurt her. Both his elevation of her status and then tearing her down to the General are done outside of the narrative.
Does Catherine come through all of this for the better? In my opinion, yes. She is clearly more mature and aware of how people behave. She puts Isabella aside as a friend and forgives Eleanore for having to be the one to send her home. The last few chapters really seem rushed though. The story really isn’t the romance story, but is a coming of age story with romance tacked on. The narrator rushes us through the proposal, the consent of parents, and all of the fun stuff many readers like. As a first time author, it pleases me to know that even Austen matured in her writing over time. It makes me feel more comfortable with any flaws people may find with my own first novel.
What about you? Did you want more romance? Do you want to hire someone to kick John Thrope’s ass? Want to write that fan fiction? Would you have been like Catherine when you were a teenager?
On Monday I will do a big wrap up of the entire book and what comes next.