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Friday, August 31, 2012

In defense of... the Free-for-All discussion

You're already seen a few "in defense of" posts (like this one in defense of Lady Russell, or this in defense of Edward Ferrars), but for our last discussion post of this year's event, I wanted to give the authors free reign to defend whatever they thought may need defending.  I mean, let's face it - we Janeites sometimes take flack for being rabidly passionate about the best, most beloved author the world has ever seen being "romantics," reading "fluff," for ceaselessly defending an author who only has "one" plot and no "real" conflicts, etc...

I figure we'd all heard it enough, or even had things we loved in certain books that other Janeites don't, so this is a chance to take your stance, get it out there - loud and proud.

Feel free to give us your own defenses in the comments (especially if you're an Edmund lover. I'd really like to see someone try to convince me be convinced of him...)

I said:
This is a free-for-all to defend some aspect of Jane that you feel needs defending (entire works, like Northanger Abbey or Mansfield Park; characters, like Lady Russell or Willoughby, or Jane herself to non-Jane readers/Jane-bashers, etc)
Answers from:
Juliet Archer in red
Jenni James in green 
Susan Kaye in light blue
Talia Vance in purple
and ME in pink!

ME: Let's have it, ladies! What have you been holding back?
JENNI: I do think I will defend Northanger Abbey, since releasing Northanger Alibi, so many people have come to me and mentioned they never truly enjoyed Northanger Abbey and couldn’t get into it. I myself am amazed by this, since it is so hilarious! I find it by far the funniest of all Jane Austen’s novels and one of the more wittiest in its complete satire of a young girl’s fantasies and belief in fiction. To take such a girl who has never experienced the world, and only read about it through scandalous Gothic novels and place her in the midst of her very own adventure is truly the most genius and humorous thing I’ve ever come across. I loved writing Northanger Alibi, my goodness I laughed so hard I was crying at times. Just by far the most fun and pleasing of the Jane Austen novels--once you realize it’s a spoof of course. *winks*
ME:  I mentioned to a friend in a Goodreads thread the other day that I just don't understand the Northanger hate. I was legitimately shocked the first time someone told me they hated it, and then when I realized that the hatred was pretty widespread, I was like, Whaaaa? I mean, they even made a joke of it being the deadlast pick in The Jane Austen Book Club, and I was like, you're trolling, right? This isn't real; there's no way people hate this book!
[NOTE FROM MISTY: Enter to win Northanger Alibi here!]
How about you, Susan?
SUSAN: I’ve never held it against Lady Russell that she worked Anne over in the year ’06 and helped break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth. From LR’s point-of-view, this cocky, penniless, smart-alecky sailor comes breezing into the neighborhood with no connections except a single brother who’s just a curate. Then, he’s got the nerve to court and propose to the daughter of her dear departed friend. As an older woman who has seen plenty of young women fall prey to cheesy goofs, I’d make sure Frederick Wentworth failed. And failed hard.
Persuasion says that Anne assumed there would be other men coming alone, even after she turned down Charles Musgrove. I’m sure Lady Russell felt that way as well, and lamented Anne’s fate when no more men came ‘round Kellynch. But knowing what she knew of Frederick and life at the time, we know Lady Russell comforted herself that she’d saved her dear Anne from a hardscrabble life full of loneliness and probably faithlessness as well.
Lady Russell was wrong of course, but when you believe you’re saving someone, there are some angles you just don’t allow into your equations.
ME: So you agree with Maria Grace, then, when also backed up Lady R. Personally, I think she's maybe a bit officious, but honestly - who's not? When you're close to someone, your family or neighbors or good friends, you're bound to be in their business and bound to think you know what's best - and they're bound to ask your opinion! It's just natural, and though it ended up proving to be misguided, it really was the best, safest, sanest advice she could give.  
I think a lot of people (Wentworth included) hold it against Anne for being swayed by her, but again, I think that's really just natural, especially for the time and the position a woman would be in if it all went pear-shaped.
Juliet, you look like you have something to add to this...
JULIET: In defence of Anne Elliot - At 19, Anne Elliot broke off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth on the advice of her evil godmother, Lady Russell. The fans of CiarĂ¡n Hinds and Rupert Penry-Jones, who brought Wentworth deliciously to life in screen adaptations of Persuasion, demand a more convincing explanation.
Let’s look at the facts.
First, Anne’s mother had died several years earlier, and Lady Russell had taken her place as confidante and counsellor. We may not warm to Lady Russell, but she means well and she’s a safe pair of hands compared to Anne’s idiot of a father and neurotic sisters.
Second, in those days a woman aged under 21 needed her father’s consent to marry. Given Sir Walter’s fixation with the family reputation, having ‘commoner’ Wentworth as a son-in-law was a non-starter. And, at that stage, Sir Walter hadn’t squandered as much of the family fortune – so could comfortably cast the first stone!
Third, Wentworth was not a safe bet by any stretch of the imagination. As Lady Russell pointed out, he had neither money nor prospects and, personality-wise, he came across as high risk. How would he provide for a wife and for the inevitable consequences of marriage – a string of children? It wouldn’t be difficult to persuade Anne to let him go.
Finally, the personalities of the young lovers played their part. On the one hand, we have shy, dutiful Anne; on the other – impetuous, resentful Wentworth. When Anne broke off their engagement, there was no chance that Wentworth would take the news quietly. He stormed off to sea and spent eight years risking death, no doubt expecting Anne to marry the first eligible man her family picked out for her.
Jane Austen’s contemporaries would understand and accept Anne’s behaviour, whereas today’s readers find it more baffling. One of my challenges in updating Persuasion was making Anne’s motivations plausible to a modern audience. You’ll have to read Persuade Me to see if I succeeded!
[ME: NOTE FROM MISTY - you can enter to win it here!]  
Talia, you're up!

TALIA: Jane needs defending? Say it isn’t so. I would like to defend Jane as a romance writer, because lets face it, that ‘s what she was. Yes, she had spark.
ME: Amen.

And make sure you check out the rest of the discussions so far here:

BIG BIG THANKS to Juliet Archer  Alyssa Goodnight  Jenni James  Susan Kaye  Laurie Viera Rigler  and Talia Vance for participating in this year's interview-discussions!!

Click here to be taken to the Austen in August Main Page! Fab button artwork c/o Antique Fashionista!


  1. I would like to defend Fanny Price! She has been called insipid and a prig and I do not think she is either of those things. You may not agree with her morals, but she sticks to them and refuses to back down. Fanny has a backbone of steel! Yes, she is weak and has low confidence in the beginning. But who can blame her? She wasn’t brought up in good conditions and then was taken away from her family at a young age. And Mrs. Norris has pretty much made her life hell. She has a strong set of morals in spite of this. She is able to see through the outwardly charming but inwardly ugly Crawfords (who even fool Edmund!) and will not back down in her refusal to marry Henry. This means so much more coming from her than it would from an outspoken girl, like Elizabeth Bennet. It took a lot more courage for the timid Fanny to stand up for herself and say no to Henry than for Lizzy, who always speaks her mind, to refuse Mr. Collins or Darcy, that’s for sure!

  2. I missed the satire of all things Gothic the first time I read Northanger Abbey, and since that's what the humor hinges on I thought the book was boring. With those elements removed it's doesn't have much of a plot or much tension. Catherine and Tilney's spat only breaks them apart for a few pages so there's not the excitement of the long separation present in Austen's other novels.

    I think that's why many don't like Northanger Abbey; they're just missing the whole satiric point.

  3. Try reading The Mysteries of Udolpho and you will appreciate Northanger Abbey a lot more!

  4. Try reading The Mysteries of Udolpho and you will appreciate Northanger Abbey a lot more!


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