You Go Girl Essay

1732 words - 7 pages

A woman being stripped of all rights and power besides the hope of attracting men seems almost inconceivable in modern days, but Jane Austen’s period beholds women as mere objects of desire with their success relying on beauty and docility. A lack of these qualities leaves them spouseless and thus, in their patriarchal society, powerless. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen exemplifies this degrading society of women who display scarcely any power, intelligence or ambition and who are judged solely on the qualities that make them worthy of marriage. However, Austen introduces a character that differs in her way of thinking and utilizes strength and power as a means of progression rather than sex appeal and ignorant compliance. Catherine embodies feminism with her unwillingness to conform to society’s standards of females and in her eagerness to speak her mind and pursue her desires.

As there are many variations within the definition of feminism, I will begin by laying out the definition of feminism that applies to Catherine Morland. Merriam-Webster defines feminism as being “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”. A feminist woman is one who defies the social norms of reliance on men for advancement and instead claims power over her own life. A feminist woman will recognize her desires and refuse to depend on a man for their fulfillment. In like manner, Catherine Morland differs from her female peers in her tendencies to assume society designated male qualities. She acts with intelligence, self-confidence and ambition, a stark contrast to the docile, compliant females of her community.

Although Catherine develops favorably from her boyish adolescence, she never achieves stunning beauty, but rather finishes at the level of “almost pretty”(5). Her lack of beauty and accompanying lack of power sets her at a disadvantage in her society giving her the choice to either idly accept her fate or to cross the boundaries of femininity. Choosing the latter, Catherine refuses to embrace stereotypes and, even in the presence of a man, fearlessly expresses her thoughts. During a conversation between Catherine and her newly acquainted dancing partner, Henry Tilney, the subject of journals arises. Tilney declares it only natural for Catherine, a lady, to keep a journal and continues by appointing “the talent of writing agreeable letters [to be] peculiarly female”(22). Catherine immediately opposes him in stating that she “should not think the superiority was always on [her gender’s] side”(22). This leads to Mr. Tilney’s offensive remark on the lack of intelligence in female writing and Catherine notes aloud Mr. Tilney’s condescending view of women. Although the typical female would accept the remark as common and therefore acceptable, Catherine attacks the offensive words of her partner and speaks of gender equality. Although Catherine is undeniably attracted to Mr. Tilney, she feels no desperation towards him finding her...

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