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Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen

Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained

The advantages of natural folly in a beautiful girl have been already set forth by the capital pen of a sister author; and to her treatment of the subject I will only add, in justice to men, that though to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in woman than ignorance.

Here the narrator throws a transparent veil of agreement over her real scorn for the "sister author" who praises stupidity in women. She says sarcastically that some men don't require stupidity in women, only ignorance. The implication is that some men enjoy instructing ignorant but teachable women. The further implication is that Henry is such a man. Some critics say that Henry acts the bullying, patronizing father figure to Catherine, pointing out her mistakes and trying to mold her into thinking like he does. He enjoys Catherine's ignorance, for it gives him a chance to teach her. The narrator tells us that Henry enjoys Catherine's youthful mind. When Catherine says that schooling is a torment, Henry replies that perhaps it is, but a few years of torment is worth a lifetime of being able to read. Catherine enjoys it when Henry teaches her about viewing the landscape from an artist's perspective, as he does immediately after this passage. A generous reading of Henry sees him as a man who loves Catherine's naiveté, not because he prefers to feel smarter than her, but because he expresses his love by teaching her.