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|Parody or not?
Written by Deborah Y
(4/23/2006 7:39 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, 'gothic' (focus), penned by Reeba
I have the same kind of question. Are we supposed to see General Tilney's behavior -- sending a 17-year-old girl on an 11-hour trip with no money, no escort, and no time to alert her family and friends, merely because he's disappointed that she isn't the heiress he took her for -- as the real-world equivalent of Montoni-like Gothic abuse? Or are we supposed to see the general's rudeness, inhospitableness and fortune-hunting in a more comic/satirical light? Is JA saying, "There are horrors in our world as bad as anything Mrs. Radcliffe could invent, but we have become so accustomed to them that we no longer see them as horrors?" Or is she saying, "See how ridiculous were Catherine's fantasies -- in the real world, instead of murder and rape, the worst she's menaced with is the inconvenience of a long ride on an empty stomach"?
The way we answer this question will, I think, inform our interpretation of Henry's speech a few chapters ago about how Catherine's fantasy of his father as a murderer doesn't comport with life in Christian England. If we think what his father eventually does to Catherine is, in its own way, as bad as what she falsely imagined him as doing, then we presumably see this speech as JA making fun of Henry's complacency about his social world. But if we think what the general eventually does to Catherine is, really, not that serious, then we presumably see Henry's speech as embodying JA's own point of view.
Personally, I can't make up my mind. I find support for both positions in the text. On the side of the general-as-very-bad, we have Eleanor's anxiety about Catherine's safety and Catherine's shock at realizing how nearly she has come to setting off with no money, and how bad that would have been. On the side of the general-as-not-so-bad, we have the relatively muted reaction of the sensible Morland parents, the lack of any serious problems during Catherine's trip, and the fact that Catherine ends up being the general's daughter-in-law after all (which presumably her parents would not have allowed had they thought he was a virtual Montoni!)
What does everyone else think?
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