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|Funny Voices -- Adventures in Reading Aloud
Written by Mary Ellen
(4/6/2006 12:45 a.m.)
I read the first eight chapters to DH as we zipped northward to Sacramento to have tea with other Pemberlians. I had noticed during the Persuasion GR that the voices of the characters are important in the reaction that DH gives them.
The first voice we encounter is the narrator. I urge everyone to read aloud the first chapter. So much more of the humor comes out. I think we are a group of fast readers that can zoom past the good lines without really noticing. The first paragraph of Ch 3 is also much funnier read aloud to a companion rather than just read to oneself. The narrator has a bit of a precise clipped voice, with at least the trace of a British accent, however much she tries to shake it coming from a throat in America. But she is not a soft or tender reader. Her voice goes up and down, grows softer and louder. The sentences are long, but the clauses are short; parenthetical comments are frequent. The narrator clearly has her own opinion about many things. The narrator even refers directly to herself on two occasions; once to assure us of her feelings about novels in Ch 5 and once to hope that Catherine did not dream of Mr. Tilney too earnestly in Ch 3.
Mrs. Allen's voice is soft and perhaps a little more tremulous than would be expected at her age. She is well meaning, but a bit vague. The narrator's following comment about Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe got a good laugh: "Their joy on this meeting was very great, as well it might, since they had been contented to know nothing of each other for the last fifteen years."
Catherine's voice is soft and a bit innocent. I'm not really sure that I have her voice right. It is clearly different from the slightly strident voice of her best friend, Isabella.
John Thorpe has the most distinctive voice in the first 8 chapters. It is loud and boisterous and busy and says "D---" at least 10 times per hour. Surprising to me, this character was not one of DH’s favorites. Despite the distinct voice, DH finds Mr. Thorpe exactly the sort of person that he would pointedly avoid in real life, and furthermore would prefer not to dwell on in literature.
Even DH has fallen under Henry Tilney's spell. DH finds Mr. Tilney to be witty, intelligent, funny, and shockingly flirtatious. The dialogue about the journal was declared to be very funny. At dinner last night DH actually snatched the novel out of my hand so that he could read aloud the following: "I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him-seems a most extraordinary genius-hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say." His voice went deep, low, and quiet on the 'hope I may know more of him'. My favorite sentence of Mr. Tilney's was, "That is artful and deep, to be sure; but I had rather be told at once that you will not tell me."
The winner of the prize for 'character you love to make fun of' goes to Isabella. Chapter 6 is full of Isabella's voice. Her voice is not as soft as Catherine’s. It is a bit deep and somewhat strident. And it jumps up and down like a crazed bunny rabbit. Her question, “And which way are they gone?” got a LOL from DH.
From the first eight chapters, I think that Northanger Abbey has a more dramatic and theatrical air that makes it more fun to read aloud than Persuasion. The characters are more exagerated and even over the top.
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