Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Northanger Abbey discussion: Volume 2, Chapters 9 – 16

We finish the book with this section. “And they lived happily ever after” is a little simplistic, so add your thoughts in the comments!

"To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty-six and eighteen, is to do pretty well..."


Dwight said...

There is a lot going on in this section, but I’ll only discuss a few and leave plenty for Barry and others to cover…

Catherine receives a letter from Isabella in Chapter 12, and we see a marked growth in Catherine’s judgment and demeanor. This, in combination with her shame in front of Henry (I’ll mention that later), appear to “complete” Catherine’s growth. But the incident that highlights her continued inconsistency is her journey back home in Chapter 14. All this time Catherine has been alert to dangers that didn’t exist, and here she is nonchalant about spending half a day in a public conveyance—a young girl traveling alone. Such a trip, in either 1798 when written or 1817 when released, would have been a very dangerous undertaking. Catherine’s obliviousness to such, especially after the false perils she imagined, is meant to highlight her being “too wretched to be fearful.” To some extent (for me anyway) it highlights her inconsistent growth.

I found it interesting that the revelation that John Thorpe had misled General Tilney had some foreshadowing in Chapter 16 of the first Volume: “They retired whispering together; and, though her delicate sensibility did not take immediate alarm, and lay it down as fact, that Captain Tilney must have heard some malevolent misrepresentation of her, which he now hastened to communicate to his brother, in the hope of separating them forever, she could not have her partner conveyed from her sight without very uneasy sensations.” A very enjoyable passage effectively echoed later in the book.

The resolution at the end leaves little room for modern-day readers to like General Tilney—he acceded to Henry marrying Catherine only after Eleanor married “a man of fortune and consequence.” Or rather it was that event that allowed the General to listen to the true state of the Moreland’s estate. Knowing she was bringing three thousand pounds “contributed to smooth the descent of his pride.” Not someone we would like today, but obviously the poverty of the Moreland family that Thorpe had painted was a stumbling block for that age. However, it is as if the scary world of Catherine’s gothic fantasies is replaced by a reality that is just as dark in a different manner—especially when looking at the Thorpes' abuses.

The beginning of this section, in Chapter 10, highlights many of the themes of the book:
“The visions of romance were over. Catherine was completely awakened. Henry's address, short as it had been, had more thoroughly opened her eyes to the extravagance of her late fancies than all their several disappointments had done. Most grievously was she humbled. Most bitterly did she cry. It was not only with herself that she was sunk -- but with Henry. Her folly, which now seemed even criminal, was all exposed to him, and he must despise her forever. The liberty which her imagination had dared to take with the character of his father -- could he ever forgive it? The absurdity of her curiosity and her fears -- could they ever be forgotten? She hated herself more than she could express.”

Such is the price in being self-aware and a good explanation as to why many of the characters in the book don’t go that route. Those that do, however, are the ones with the happy endings.

OK, I’ve rambled…I’ll turn it over to others. There is much depth here, which on first glance to me seemed shallow.

Barry Barnitz said...

The financial information given to us in the final chapters allows us to estimate the Morland family estate, if we make the following assumptions, which although being reasonable, must nonetheless remain speculative since we are not given explicit textual authority:

1.) We assume that Mr. Morland has ownership of both church livings (the text informs us that he owns the living intended for James upon his betrothal);

2.)We also assume that the 3000 pounds settled on Catherine upon marriage is an equal disposition of the family's funded property.

Given these assumptions we can derive the following conclusions.

Since we know that the living intended for James provides an income of 400 pounds and that he is given the expectant inheritance of an additional 400 pounds, we can estimate the income derived from the second living (which James, perhaps the eldest son, is assumed to inherit). If James inherits 3000 pounds from the family estate, this capital will provide him 120 to 150 pounds per annum (depending on the consol rate of interest, ranging between 4 and 5 percent). This means that the second living provides an approximate income of 250 to 280 pounds per annum.

These assumptions allow us an estimate of Mr. Morland's estate.

At a 5 percent discount rate he would have an income broken down as follows:
1.) The first living-- 400 pounds
2.) The second living--250 pounds
3.) Funded property--- 1500 pounds
(30,000 pounds x 5 percent)

Under a 5 percent discount rate Mr. Morland would have an estimated 2150 pounds per annum.

At a 4 percent discount rate, incomes would break down as follows:
1.) The first living-- 400 pounds
2.) The second living--280 pounds
3.) Funded property-- 1200 pounds
(30,000 pounds x 4 percent)

The 4 percent discount rate provides an estimated 1880 pounds per annum.

These income estimates are consistent with the narrative description of the Morland estate: He had a considerable independence besides two good livings..

The 1880-2150 pound per annum income is comparable to the Bennet estate income of 2000 pounds per annum documented in Pride and Prejudice.

As for Henry and Catherine, the combined funded property settled upon the them is approximately 10,000 pounds, providing 400 to 500 pounds per annum, in addition to the income from Henry's living, which the General informs us is sufficient for Henry to be independent.