May 24, 1999
Re: NA, Ch 29: Mrs Morland Looking from the Outside In
This posting does not look at Mrs Morland from the point of view of the psychological dialogues in the scene. I agree that psychologically this is probably the first real sorrow Catherine has known, but would not use the word traumatized. Austen wants us to believe that Catherine has been altered, that she really is very much in love with Henry, and works hard in Chapters 29 and 30 to show us how visible such changes are.
However, my interest is in the themes of the book, and I was looking at Mrs Morland as she exemplified the prosaic. It's true that the book at the opening seems to validate Mrs Morland's view of the world. Mrs Morland's advice is for Catherine to wrap up warm and not to lose her money. We are told that she never thought about the nobleman lurking everywhere anxious to make away with Catherine by coach to do dastardly things to her. But by the end of the book I think we are to feel Mrs Morland's view of the world is innocent. Let us remember Mrs Morland has not had this "strange acquaintance..." She has not spent time in Northanger with Eleanor, not experienced the General, and, at least as presented to us in this novel, is not inclined to pay much attention at all to what she cannot see, to the inward. I see the book as more than a parody of the Gothic. It's a recreation of the Gothic in realistic terms; now the Gothic is the outward manifestation of an inward world, and in this chapter as well as being Catherine's mother, Mrs Morland "stands for" the sort of mind that would see nothing in the Gothic but extravagance. Thus she links up with Mrs Allen. What's funny about her going to get an essay in a periodical is how inadequate is this response. Literature doesn't quite work like that either.
I should say I am not sure Mrs Morland is a realistic portrayal of a mother. Maybe the contradictions others on this list have seen are the result of Austen presenting us with a didactic comic stereotype who has been softened by psychological touches.
January 3, 1998
Re: NA, Ch 30: Mother-Daughter
I now reply to Barbara Irwin's posting looking at this chapter as a depiction of a mother-daughter relationship. I think we could go through this novel and look at the actual verbal space of many chapters and find a great deal of the content is made up of dramatic and meditative depictions of how women react to one another in their various primary roles: mother and daughter, older and younger woman, true and false friend, sisters, true and false again (the Thorpes are false sisters). The most poignant is the implied mother-daughter relationship that existed between Eleanor Tilney and her mother (who I guess was probably another Eleanor). We might say well we can find this throughout Austen's novels, but I wonder if it is more deliberate in this book, if these categories are more to the fore. It would then be interesting to compare it to the unfinished The Watsons where women's relationships to one another are again much to the fore as a subject, and the inference is that society leads them to prey upon one another, to become one another's victims not support. NA would again emerge as a more hopeful (though not unqualifiedly) cheerful book. The problem in NA is often miscommunication: if only the women had more brains, better hearts, more perception all could be well. In The Watson they have good brains, some of them very sensitive deep feeling hearts, and in fact altogether too much perception. It is the world that makes them one another's enemies, puts them in competition, turns them on one another until the only thing to do is retreat--as the novel closes this is just what Emma does. And alas she hasn't got a piano.