Northanger Abbey Three: Chapter XXII
‘….to make sense of our lives where we are, as it were, stranded in the middle, we need fictions of beginnings and fictions of ends, fictions which unite beginning and end and endow the interval between them with meaning…; ( Frank Kermode,The Sense of an Ending)
1) Think about your own experience of your life ‘story’ and how carefully or closely you endeavour to give your life story significance and order through organised story telling. Do you feel ‘stranded’ in the middle of your life?
2) How far would you agree that the artist endeavours through a ‘geometry of his own’ ( Henry James) to make sense of the chaos of life. Could you view the narrative structure of Northanger Abbey in terms of ‘geometry’perhaps?
2b) Spontaneously draw a picture/doodle of your experience/interpretation of the novel. Does this doodle in anyway lend sense or interpretation to the novel? Does it disentangle your feelings about the novel?
3) Catherine Morland dreams of a different novel. She constructs different beginings and endings and finds them reshaped by the ‘sensible’ narratives of Henry Tilney. However it could be said that the presence of the General almost contradicts the pragmatic solutions of Henry. Novels may fight to justify their endings. Indeed Adam phillips in his essay ‘Two talks on needing to know when it’s over’ that endings may be a form of tyranny in the novel:
‘How would we read a novel we knew to be without an ending?’ How would you respond to this question then?
4) Consider the extract from Chapter XXII.
a) What do we learn about geographical and social limitation in this extract and how does this relate to gender? ( See opening paragraph).
b) How does we read the character of the General in this passage and why? USE EVIDENCE to support your viewpoint.
c) What is the effect of the heavily interrogative aspect of this extract? Why?
d) What is Catherine choosing to listen to here? Give evidence once again to support your findings.
d) Find a short passage in the novel that interests you and note down the questions it raises and its impact upon you as a reader. the shorter perhaps the better! Share it with your group.
Imagine filming the novel in a contemporary setting. How would you characterise the protagonists and what habits would they enjoy? What songs would capture their personalities? Or careers? What would you do with the novel’s plot?
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
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