Dances play an important part in the Victorian Era. They symbolize relationships in Northhanger Abbey. There are many points in the story where dancing shows the relationships between people in the story. Jane Austen uses the dances to show the true face of others that the heroine of the story must eventually see through her growing up. The dancing is also a symbol of status, along with the clothes that those attending these social rituals would wear.
Our heroine, Catherine Morland, is sent to Bath to find herself a husband. This was usual for young ladies at a time. She meets two young men during her time in bath. One is a pretentious and slightly overbearing man by the name of John. The other man, Henry, ends up being a much kinder man, although at first is shrouded in mystery.
At the dances the relationship between Catherine and her two suitors grows. She finds herself more drawn to Henry over time. At the dances Catherine is committed to one man at a time. The commitment between her and the suitors at the dances describes the relationship between them. Henry even says he sees the relationship of dancing just as the relationship of marriage. He says “that gentleman would have put me out of patience, had he staid with you a half a minute longer. He has no business to withdraw the attention of my partner from me. We have entered into a contract of mutual agreeableness for the space of an evening, and all our agreeableness belongs solely to each other for that time. Nobody can fasten themselves on the notice of one, without injuring the rights of the other. I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not chuse to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners and wives of their neighbors” (146). This is the first hint that Henry Tilney and Catherine will end up together. Their relationship continues to develop at the dances. Catherine’s reputation and social status also raises as a product of the dances. She gets a reputation as a possible future person of wealth presumably because of her social company and her dress.
Dancing was very important to people of the upper class in the Victorian Era. They met at dances to display social class and wealth. It was socially required to attend the dances and dress up in very fancy dresses. The dances often went on throughout hours of the night and partners were required to dance with each other. It was considered bad social grace to get a different partner during dancing, which explains why it was such a consideration for Henry.
“Typically, the dance began around sundown on Saturday, after the chores were all done, with the Grand March and the first waltz. Music would continue until around midnight when the revelers would break for supper. After eating a sumptuous meal, followed by sweets, and washed down with the libation of choice, it was back to the dance floor until dawn. Finally, the strains of the last waltz would echo into the hills just in time for folks to pack up the buggy and get to the Sunday morning church meeting. (Janowski)
Janowski, Diane. “Victorian Pride – Victorian Dances.” Victorian Pride – Victorian Dances. New York History Review, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2013.