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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Another Austen pun previously undetected.......

In Ch. 20 of Northanger Abbey, as they approach the Abbey, Henry Tilney begins his famous Gothic parody, deliberately provoking and inciting Catherine's already feverish Gothic imagination:

"Dorothy, meanwhile, no less struck by your appearance, gazes on you in great agitation, and drops a few unintelligible hints. To raise your spirits, moreover, she gives you reason to suppose that the part of the abbey you inhabit is undoubtedly haunted, and informs you that you will not have a single domestic within call. With this parting cordial she curtsies off — you listen to the sound of her receding footsteps as long as the last echo can reach you — and when, with fainting spirits, you attempt to fasten your door, you discover, with increased alarm, that it has no lock.”

Do you see the pun hiding in Henry's over the top narration?


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AND HERE IT IS....

"To raise your spirits, moreover, she gives you reason to suppose that the part of the abbey you inhabit is undoubtedly haunted...."

Everyone reads Henry's comment about "raising" Catherine's "spirits" as referring to raising her heart rate and anticipation, but it also reads equally well, when you think about it, as referring to the "raising" of "spirits", i.e., the conjuring up of ghosts!

And, again, to be sure the reader knows this is intentional, and not unconscious, JA gives us that extra wink--this time later in the same sentence---"undoubtedly haunted"!!

And also as with the "disconcerted" and "discomposed" puns in P&P and MP, this is not merely clever and very funny wordplay, it is also extremely thematic, when you consider that the ghost of Mrs. Tilney most definitely "haunts" Northanger Abbey, in the sense that painful and sad memories of her DO haunt Henry, Eleanor and even the General, too, and before long, the "ghost" haunts Catherine as well!

Cheers, ARNIE

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