Dress, Balls, Flirtations and Quizzes

There’s a great many things that Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen isn’t. An interesting novel to read is one of them.

On the other hand, Northanger Abbey in my opinion is somewhat of a good social commentary on the times, but not just of 19th century England but unwittingly of 21st century culture as well. One can’t help but replace Miss Thorpe’s talk of “dress, balls, flirtations and quizzies” on pg. 20 with the fashion, clubs, and grinding of the modern era. Still have yet to find out what all this “quizzing” is about though.

Anyway, this remarkable similarity between the way that the characters in the novel act and the way that the people I know in real life act is what I took from this book. For instance, the way the characters talked with an air of false friendliness and a healthy dose of unnecessary superlatives is all too familiar. Behind all the flattery and niceness, who really is your friend?

Another parallel between the book and the modern age that I found is the popularity of new media produced by the ever-improving printing press and how that relates to the new media of the 21st century. Just like how the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media have redefined the way we think and act and have caused quite a bit a controversy is similar to how the impact of mass printed books sent ripples down society. “The printing press will be downfall of humanity!” they said, is no different than UBC President Stephen Toope saying that Twitter is “the greatest ill facing the world today.”


One Comment

  1. Sorry for the late reply–I often do all my replies when I read the blogs on Tuesdays, and then sometimes don’t get to the ones posted later in the week until much later!

    I like your connection of the worries about the printing press to Toope’s statement about Twitter. Honestly, while I don’t think Twitter is for everyone, I’m not sure how it’s such a problem. Maybe that’s because I use it for things like connecting with other teachers, sharing ideas/tips, asking & answering questions, etc. So I don’t see any ill in it at all!

    I also agree with the point that we can see people like Isabella and John Thorpe all around us today. How these characters act is so familiar I guess I didn’t think to be somewhat surprised that it’s the same over 100 years later. Wonder if we’ll ever get past things like false friendliness. Probably not, so long as people think they can “get something” out of others by being friendly when they don’t really feel it. Too bad.

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