Embarrassing Confession and an Austen Quiz

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I started reading my second-to-last Jane Austen book this week: Northanger Abbey. And I’m loving it. The humor is so dry and wonderful. So I started to reflect on the other four Austens I’ve read so far, and something horrible happened.

I blanked on one of the titles.

I have two degrees in English. Reciting the names of Austen’s six novels is supposed to come as naturally to me as an accountant spouting out tax law. I knew which one I haven’t gotten to yet — Sense and Sensibility — and I remembered listening to Emma on audio book, and I thought fondly of Persuasion and, of course, Pride and Prejudice. I own those five, but the one that I’d checked out from the library and read a few years back I couldn’t remember other than the heroine’s name.

Worse yet, I kept trying and failing. I refused to let myself cheat by looking up the answer. I wanted it to surface from the depths of my English-major brain. I tried for a half hour, and then when my sister, a fellow English major, called, I buckled and asked her. She struggled at first (maybe just to make me feel better?), but I suggested that it was named after the place, the estate, where they live, and she remembered: Mansfield Park.

So here’s the quiz: Can you name all the heroines of those six novels? First and last names? What about the love interests? I’ve never been an Austen fanatic, just a simple admirer, so it’s interesting to me to find out who knows this kind of stuff off the top of their head. Obviously I failed on the titles, but I know the first names of the heroines. If you have this down, shout it out from the comments! Proclaim your devotion to Austen right here!

Or, if there’s some other author you know backwards and forwards, you can show that off here, too.

Anybody else had this embarrassing of a blank? Ever tried to remember information you should be an “expert” on and failed? Do you remember every detail about books you read, or just the gist? And, the real question: When trying to recall trivia, is it less of a cheat to ask a nearby spouse/sibling/roommate if they know the answer than it would be just to look it up online?

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15 responses »

  1. I have to admit, I checked my answers first, but this is what I would have put:

    Northanger Abbey: Catherine Norland. It’s really Morland, but I was close.
    Mansfield Park: Fanny Price. This is the only one of her books I haven’t read.
    S&S: Elinor and Marianne Dashwood
    P&P: Elizabeth Bennet
    Emma: Emma Woodhouse
    Persuasion: Anne Elliot
    Sanditon: Charlotte something or other. Most of this was ghost written, but I read a rather delightful version that was finished by “Another Lady.”

    By the way, have you been watching the new BBC Emma?

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    • You’re good! I think I might have heard of Sanditon once, but I would never have remembered it.

      I love how all of her heroines are so different. Even though Mansfield Park was my least favorite book, I still appreciated that Fanny was so unique from all the others.

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  2. I’m probably the only English Major in America who has never read a Jane Austen novel. I doubled in Russian Lit, and usually have trouble with one of Dostoevsky’s full novels in recall mode.

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  3. Mansfield Park – Fanny Price (I took a quiz once and was told I was most like this character. Apparently she is one of the least favored in all of Austen’s work)

    Emma – Emma Woodhouse

    Sense and Sensibility – Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret Dashwood (this one is my favorite, I must admit. I love Colonel Brandon and I love Edward!)

    Pride and Prejudice – Elizabeth Bennet. It annoys me that there is only one t.

    But I am unaware of who the heroine in Persuasion is or what that one is even about.

    ALSO – I have honestly thought about possibly naming one of my someday-daughters Austen Jane. I love the ide of taking names from literature.

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    • I love the movie of Sense and Sensibility, so I really should get to the novel soon! I liked Persuasion, but Anne Elliot is a very calm main character, which makes her a little less fun. Catherine Morland, in Northanger Abbey, is great fun.

      And yeah, names from literature would be fun. I have such an unusual last name, though, that I have to stick with pretty ordinary first names for the kids.

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  4. Oh, or the one you are reading now…

    I read a book by John Fowles called The Collector and in it the girl who is being held hostage is writing a journal entry about how she is reading Sense and Sensibility and how being lost in the world of the Dashwood women is her only escape, yada-yada-yada, but she spells Elinor as Eleanor. This really got on my nerves. I understand that it’s an honest mistake as that is the more common way to spell Eleanor BUT if you are reading the book, and that is all you do, all day long, except when you are writing about it, then you would know how to spell the name as Jane did.

    Okay, that was my rant. I figured you might appreciate where my rage is coming from.

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    • Yes, spelling bugs me, too, and especially when it’s like that! It actually even bugs me when people spell Stephanie Myers (etc) instead of Stephenie Meyer, and I don’t feel particularly attached to her. I just think that if you’re going to write something about an author or character — even in a comment — you should take a second to look up the right spelling.

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  5. I have two degrees in History, and I forget trivial information all the time. I don’t beat myself up over it. I’m human, not a computer.

    Besides, contrary to popular belief, History is far more than the memorization of names and dates. I’ve always felt is is more important to understand the HOWs and WHYs rather than the WHOs and WHENs.

    In your case, I’d not fault you for forgetting one of Austen’s novels so long as you understood why Austen is important and the impact she has made on literature.

    Oh, and to answer your question about asking someone versus other sources: Google is your best friend. Never admit defeat. Lord over others with your seemingly infallible knowledge. Make things up if you have to.

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    • I completely agree about hows and whys vs whos and whens. I wish that history were taught that way more often in high school: as a discussion about what can we learn from history to apply to the present.

      “Never admit defeat.” LOL. I actually have the opposite personality. I figure acknowledging my ignorance is a first step in the right direction. 😉

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  6. Wow, I aven’t read that one yet, but I own it (as in Northanger Abbey)… I guess that is my next book to read. Anyway, I couldn’t remember the name of the last one either. I knew it started with an M, but I’ve never read it, so I am using that as an excuse for not remembering. As for not being able to recall every heroines name – I just have a bad memory. So sue me. On to Northanger Abbey than, since I am now a Nikki book stalker.

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    • LOL. Yeah, your excuse is much better than mine. I can’t believe that the one I couldn’t remember is one that I’d read! I hope you like Northanger Abbey. I’m 75 pages in and there’s nothing gothic so far, but I hope I’m getting close now. And I like the guy — Henry Tilney — a lot!

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  7. “Reciting the names of Austen’s six novels is supposed to come as naturally to me as an accountant spouting out tax law.”

    Sec 179 of the internal revenue code states that purchases of fixed assets in 2009 can be fully depreciated in the current year. Some exceptions apply. See your accountant with quesitons.

    Yeah, I guess that is pretty easy. Sheesh, you really should know Jane Austen better.

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