I recently decided to tackle the challenge of writing a short story for the Meryton Press Holiday Anthology Short Story contest that would be a modern retelling of Northanger Abbey. In the process, naturally I chose to re-read the original. I hadn’t read it in years so it was almost like reading it for the first time.
One phrase struck me.
In chapter one, the narrator talks of Catherine’s background: from fifteen to seventeen, she was in training for a heroine.
In Northanger Abbey, the narrator aka authoress, goes on to write: she read all works as heroines must read to supply their memories with such quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.
The whimsical humor made me chuckle and then I distractedly considered what real traits a heroine in training would have. What did I want in a heroine? I was reminded of that conversation in Pride & Prejudice held one night at Netherfield when the subject of accomplished women came up except my list was heroine traits and did Catherine Morland have them.
First of all, full disclosure here, as a reader, I am tough on heroines. I have little patience with certain flaws and actions. Not that I want some paragon prancing through a story because that would be quite boring, but I’m picky about my flaws. For instance, I detest cheating and whiners should be band to the other end of the galaxy. Indecisiveness gets my teeth grinding and cranky behavior disguised as ‘snark’ or ‘strong spirits’ is a turn off.
With that said, I pondered my heroine list of traits. I want a gal with strength of character, someone I can respect, someone that will engage my thoughts and emotions, someone who makes mistakes or has flaws, but can grow and learn, and someone with stick to it-ness. It’s just a bonus if the gal is witty, charming, and romantic.
Catherine passed my scrutiny as a heroine. As a teen, I was actually disappointed in her because what is Catherine Morland to a Lizzy Bennet, a Marianne Dashwood, or an Emma Woodhouse? I’ve come to appreciate the less obvious heroines with sweet temper, steadiness of character, etc. She didn’t do it with panache like other Austen heroines, but she still managed to achieve her own perfect happiness.
What about you? Do you have a favorite heroine? What qualities to you detest and/or like in your lady protagonists? What’s your opinion of Catherine as a heroine?