Learning to be an Austen Man


Photo courtesy of Muffet and Flickr CC

Photo courtesy of Muffet and Flickr CC

Dear Henry Tilney,  

Please consult Mr. Darcy on how to be a true Austen man.

Sincerely, all the women who read Northanger Abbey!    


Until this summer, I had not read Austen’s “Northanger Abbey.” I know, what true Janeite doesn’t binge read all of the novels, every year? One of the many perks of writing for Dark Jane Austen is that I have an official excuse to read her novels. While I love “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma” and “Persuasion,” I really have very mixed feelings about Northanger. Yes, I understand that Austen did not polish this novel as she did some of her other works, that the title wasn’t her original, that a good revision would have made it better but a writer can’t really revise her work dead. But I really need to get this out in the open:

I did not like Northanger Abbey and it is ALL Henry Tilney’s fault!

I should probably also blame Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth here too because they are just as culpable. But I can’t deny that when I read an Austen novel I need the leading man, the guy gets the girl, to be likeable. Or in Mr. Darcy’s, he became a nicer guy. But even Darcy and Wentworth had something going for them that Tilney doesn’t–real presence in their respective novels.

In Northanger, we see more of  the Thorpe’s attachment and presence in the novel than we do Henry Tilney. Not that I am saying Catherine should have ended up with Thorpe because he really is a world class jackass, but he has an established presence during their time in Bath. His character feels more developed and rounded where as Tilney feels hollow and ghost-like.

And what Austen man would allow his girl to be treated in such a fashion as Henry Tilney did?

Let’s be clear again, a real Austen man would have fought to help keep his lady’s honor and reputation. What does Tilney do? Oh well, here’s the coach and you get to go by yourself. Tough luck but don’t worry it will work out in the end because someone may have reading the ending to avoid throwing the novel in an attempt to hit Henry Tilney on the head. Sure, he comes back for her, but it just wasn’t enough to redeem him as an Austen man.

What are your feelings regarding Henry Tilney? Like or dislike as an Austen man?

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