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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