Today we are bombarded in the news by research findings that tell us how to help our children reach their potential. We can apparently grow our children’s IQ a number of notches by playing Mozart to them in and out of the womb, breastfeeding them and reading to them as babies. We can begin them on Gymberoo and Little Maestros at a very young age and start them using a mouse on the computer before four. Now this is not undesirable, indeed it is to be admired. But does this make them happy?
The simple answer is we don’t know. But beware of geniuses. They are often spoon fed on their own importance and become prima donnas before you can get them into a school uniform. What on earth would Jane have to say about such modern little tykes? Well of course nothing. But stretch her words just a tad, we can get out quite a bit of wisdom. In Northanger Abbey, Everygirl-Catherine Morland is plain. “No one who had ever seen Catherine Moreland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine.” Indeed Jane Austen is at pains to tell us how ordinary Catherine Moreland is. She had “a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark lank hair…” And Catherine is no genius. “She never could learn or understand anything before she was taught; and sometimes not even then, for she was often inattentive, and occasionally stupid”. This does not sound very promising.
Yet by the end of Northanger Abbey, Catherine Moreland has it all. She has won her love with her integrity intact. She has navigated the everyday difficulties of sparring with a bully and having a new best friend that uses and disappoints. She has proved herself resilient and finally she has shown herself to be an adult. She has managed the treacherous teenage years with good grace. This is what makes her a heroine. Not an exemplary high school score, or a sophisticated lifestyle or even being a celebrity. She has found happiness and it didn’t take a highly developed intelligence or a superior social position. She has found happiness by being herself, managing her difficulties and treating others with respect. Intelligence does matter but surely the key is how intelligence is used. And emotional intelligence just might be crucial.
- Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey (buchlogbuch.wordpress.com)