Northanger Abbey

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The gothic genre can be seen throughout Northanger Abbey, not only as a writing style,

but also as a form of enjoyment that Jane Austen used to mock the other gothic novels

written in the 1790s and as a form of satire to create comedy. It

makes the novel very interesting and exciting to read, giving an air of curiosity and thrill

for the reader, as well as the usual romance the story has behind it.

The conventions of the gothic are fulfilled throughout the book, with the comments the

heroine makes about the books she reads, with her visit to the Abbey, and also with her

mistrust of General Tilney. The principles of the gothic, are challenged by the author,

because Jane Austen ‘parodies’ and ‘satirizes’ some parts of the book.

As seen on Henry’s speech: (Austen, J., 1993, pp 114); it is undoubtedly a parody:

“And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as “what one

reads about” may produce? – Have you a stout heart? – Nerves fit for sliding panels

and tapestry? “

Jane Austen was not interested in the gothic itself, but instead she used it only with the

purpose of parody, as seen above. In Northanger Abbey she accomplished her intention

and created a wonderful gothic satire, which has authentic gothic quotations, such as Ann

Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian, Eliza Parson’s The Castle of

Wolfenbach and Mysterious Warnings, amongst other titles referred in the book.

Northanger Abbey was not the original title for this novel.

Initially, it was called Susan, but Jane Austen decided not to re-title the book after its

renamed heroine, Catherine. Catherine is the main character of this novel; the story

travels with her and is seen with her point of view.
The choice of title can be intriguing for some, but after realizing that in gothic novels,

titles are often given after locations rather then people’s names, one can find out the true

relation to the title being finally edited as Northanger Abbey and the relation to the gothic


At first glance, the book can be defined as gothic, but one might be confused by the

sarcastic way that the author writes. It might not be clear until one reaches a certain part

of the book, to realize that the author did not mean to be scary, but funny.

If one is lighthearted like Catherine, it is not easy to decode the complicated words that

the author enters in the book, as seen on Henry’s speech on the way to the abbey.

Another funny moment is Catherine’s first night in the abbey:

“Catherine’s heart beat quick, but her courage did not fail her. With a cheek flushed by

hope, and an eye straining with curiosity, her fingers grasped the handle of a drawer and

drew in forth. It was entirely empty.” (Austen, J., 1993, pp 123).

The dramatic description made by the author to cause suspense, is finished by an

astounding ‘it was entirely empty’, it is very comical.

Catherine Morland is a 17 years old girl and in Bath for the first time. There she meets

Henry Tilney to whom she falls in love instantly, and Isabella Thorpe, who shares the

same interests as her. They talk about dress, balls, flirtations and quizzes. Most important

of all, they talk about the novels they are reading at that time:

“But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning?

Have you gone on with Udolpho?

‘Yes, I have been reading since I woke; I am got to the veil.’ (Austen, J., 1993, pp24)

Clearly, they are talking about gothic novels, as the most talked about in the book, Ann

Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. By reading this genre, Catherine creates a different

world inside her mind; many times wishing she could read the book forever and be part

of the story herself. Isabella then mentions that she will introduce more...
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