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|GR: General Note - Pleased 2nd Time Around
Written by Rebecca Nix
(3/30/2003 4:18 p.m.)
The first time I read this novel, I found it dull and really lacking in the depth of character and story that I found so charming in JA's other books. I didn't like Catherine at all, and I found her tiresome friends and would-be lover very obnoxious, indeed. I finished NA and then put it away on my shelf. Last week was the first time I had picked it up in - literally - 5 years.
I am SO happy that this GR persuaded me to give it another go.
In particular, I wanted to comment on Catherine a bit:
1.) My memory of Catherine as a silly and unintelligent girl was really an incorrect impression, I think. Upon this reading, I am finding her to be a very unaffected, genuine, and exceedingly sensible young lady. Though her affections for Miss Thorpe are, in my view, misplaced and unwise (I recall detesting Isabella Thorpe my first trip through the book), it is very like a teenager to grasp onto the first youthful company given over to her when she has spent the whole of her visit to that point in the company of a very silly and very matronly chaperone.
Aside from her choice of company in the young Thorpes, I think Catherine is an example of just the sort of woman Jane Austen admired. She is educated enough to be tolerable, she has enough breeding and manners to make those around her easy, and she has enough strength of character to be honest and true to her own opinions.
2.) That brings me to my 2nd point, which is that I believe Catherine is virtually defined by her lack of self-confidence. She is aware that she is not a great beauty; she knows herself to be a country bumpkin surrounded by members of a more "cultured" community; and she is sensible enough to realize that she is not as educated in matters of the world as many of the others around her.
Her level of self-awareness defines most of the choices that she makes, and she has the ability - because of her lack of pride - to really think through things before speaking or acting. She doesn't throw her own inclinations out the door by any means, and she doesn't pretend to be a empty-headed girl when she really has something to say. On the other hand, she never just assumes that she is right without weighing the merits of the opposing viewpoint. It is by this characteristic that she separates herself from the average silly teenage girl and really shines as a potential "heroine" to me. She is humble and sensible. Both of those qualities are very rare in a girl her age (or even one several years her senior, as evidenced by Miss Thorpe's behavior), and I adore her for having them.
Though I pity her for not knowing how wonderful and unique she truly is, I am glad for her reserve. I believe that it is her self-doubt that will help her grow up and make good decisions.
I do not remember the particulars of how the story ends, but I'm sure that my newfound appreciation for Catherine Morland will continue to grow as I read.
I'm just delighted with her.
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