26 June 2010

+JMJ+

LOCUS FOCUS: Take Seven!




This being the last Saturday I can submit a Locus Focus to the month-long Jane in June party shindig festival extravaganza at Book Rat, I thought I'd give my own little contest/giveaway thing a bit of a rest today. I mean, I've been giving it a rest all week, so why stop while I'm ahead? (Link up your own Jane-themed posts from this month!)

Nevertheless, next week will be all about the sixth book that is up for grabs--my favourite of the whole lot and so the one I'm most excited about. It's not over yet!!!


Northanger Abbey
Northanger Abbey
by Jane Austen


The night was stormy; the wind had been rising at intervals the whole afternoon; and by the time the party broke up, it blew and rained violently. Catherine, as she crossed the hall, listened to the tempest with sensations of awe; and when she heard it rage round the corner of the ancient building, and close with sudden fury a distant door, felt for the first time that she was really in an Abbey. Yes, they were characteristic sounds: they brought to her recollection a countless variety of dreadful situations and horrid scenes, which such buildings had witnessed and such storms ushered in; and most heartily did she rejoice in the happier circumstances attending her entrance within walls so solemn!

Don't we all have a dream setting? A place where, if we could only reach it, we'd certainly be perfectly happy? But dream settings, personal "genres," and our own characters do not always line up to give us our ideal happy ending.

Northanger Abbey seems to be just that for young, impressionable, imaginative Catherine Morland, whose favourite books in the world are Gothic novels. She is certain that such a home must hide dark secrets waiting for her to uncover them and house villains who would do innocent young women harm.

Well, she's sort of right about the dark secrets and the villains--but not about the genre of her story. A few days ago, I revisited the self-aware 90s Slasher Scream and nodded sagely at the line, "Life is like a movie . . . only you can't pick your genre." But while the film's heroine is distressed to learn that she is living in a Horror movie, Catherine Morland would seemingly like nothing more than to wake up in a Gothic novel. And what is a Gothic novel without a suitably spooky setting?

Her passion for ancient edifices was next in degree to her passion for Henry Tilney, and castles and abbeys made usually the charm of those reveries which his image did not fill. To see and explore either the ramparts and the keep of one, or the cloisters of the other, had been for many weeks a darling wish, though to be more than the visitor of an hour had seemed too nearly impossible for desire; and yet this was to happen. With all the chances against her of house, hall, place, park, court and cottage, Northanger turned up an abbey, and she was to be its inhabitant. Its long, damp passages, its narrow cells and ruined chapel were to be within her daily reach, and she could not entirely subdue the hope of some traditional legends, some awful memorials of an injured and ill-fated nun.

And Catherine does have a few little adventures during her stay at the Abbey. Or rather, she tries to have some. In her bedroom, she notices a huge and heavy chest tucked away in a shadowy recess and immediately investigates its rather prosaic contents. Later, as an atmospheric (Ha!) storm rages outside the Abbey, a looming, black cabinet catches her attention--and just as she has uncovered the old and mysterious document inside it, her candle goes out and leaves her in darkness! But it is the story of the sudden death of a former Abbey inhabitant, the wife of the overbearing General Tilney, which really grabs her imagination, and she starts to hunt for evidence that he either murdered her or faked her death and is keeping her a prisoner in one of the Abbey's many rooms. (?!?!?!?!)

What more could a lover of Gothic novels ask for, right? But Catherine needs to learn that real life--or at least her life--is not Gothic; and what better place to drive home the point than a pleasant, almost prosaic house that just happens to have been an abbey?

Now, it's not such a bad thing to wake up and find oneself in a Novel of Manners (especially one written by Jane Austen). This one, in particular, being about the interplay of setting, genre and character, carries a strong moral element for its heroine--and for all readers with dream settings of their own. And therefore, once Catherine learns this lesson, she is rewarded with a perfectly good happy ending! Northanger Abbey might be all thunder and no thrills, but the primary object of her passion, Henry Tilney, proves himself gold.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D



EDIT: Below are quick links to this week's set of Locus Focus entries.

Pearls Cast before a McPig, Cherry Valley (The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren)

Birdie's Nest, The bishop's tomb at St. Praxed's ("The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed's" by Robert Browning)


Image Source: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

10 comments:

Sullivan McPig said...

The setting does sound cool, but I must confess I have a thing for old churches and such.

Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

I really need to reread this-- I read it years ago in my very early twenties and didn't 'get it' like I did P&P. But even my appreciation of P&P has evolved over the years-- much of it I didn't 'get' as a teen.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Sully: So do I! But that's part of the joke, I'm afraid. Northanger Abbey no longer resembles the religious house it used to be. So if that's what we're hoping for when we read the novel, we'll be as disappointed as Catherine! =P

Lesa: I've read it twice, once for fun and once for uni. The first time I read it, I'm sure I didn't "get it," either; the second time, I found new things to love. =)

But last night, as I was putting the finishing touches on this post, I found myself rereading passages I didn't remember at all! And they were brilliant! So I'm sure another rereading would be timely for me, too.

Sullivan McPig said...

@Enbrethiliel: An Abbey that doesn't look like an Abbey anymore?! Those barbarians!

btw: I think you might get clobbered by Austen fans too now, for saying Jane Eyre wrote the book ;-)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

OMG!!! ROFLMAO!!!!!!!

Sully, I honestly didn't intend that!!! =D

Does this count as a Freudian slip or something? Evidence of a repressed desire to get back at those Austen fans? ;-)

The real Jane Eyre would never write a novel like Northanger Abbey. So both Austen and Charlotte Bronte fans will be out for my blood now.

I'd better go change it before someone puts a price on my head! =P

Sullivan McPig said...

If you do have to run and hide, you're welcome to share my hide-out! :-p

And I had to tell you I just discovered they released a Mash-up of this book too:
Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons

Hmm.... Angels and Dragons? Weird combination.

Birdie said...

Rock on!
Northanger Abbey is such a trip. I'm planning on having my class read a chapter of two from it next term to show how even during the flourishing of the Gothic, other writers were satirizing it.
Sweet, now I have an even better excuse to re-read.
My locus this week is the Bishop's
Tomb at St. Praxed's, so I'm feeling a decadent religion vibe going on :)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

In that case, Birdie, you'll be interested to know that I reread Northanger Abbey for a class about genre, and that the major genres we focussed on were Romance, the Gothic Novel, and the Detective Story! Northanger Abbey was juxtaposed with The Turn of the Screw, because in the former, the heroine thinks she's in a Gothic Novel but is really in a Romance, while in the latter, the heroine thinks she's in a Romance but is really in a Gothic Novel! (Well, there were other points made about the two texts, but that one is the most relevant to this discussion!)

Kate Evangelista said...

Thanks for adding the contest to your side bar! :-)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

You're welcome, Kate! Thanks again for making it international. =)