Oppositions Are a Feature of Gothic Texts. How Does Austen Use This in the First Five Chapters of ‘Northanger Abbey’.

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Oppositions are a feature of Gothic texts. How does Austen use this in the first five chapters of ‘Northanger Abbey’.

In Jane Austen’s novel, ‘Northanger Abbey’ [NA], oppositions feature strongly as a method which the author uses often to parody the public’s expectation of what a gothic should consist of, and as a method of highlighting the ridiculous expectations novels can create for people in the real world. Frequently throughout the novel, Miss Austen even breaks the fourth wall of writing to comment on how unlike a traditional gothic novel certain aspects of NA are, such as Catherine’s trip to Bath as well as Catherine’s general upbringing and childhood. Introducing Catherine as the average and understated young woman who is to be the main character, or at the very least the one around whom the narrative revolves, the reader’s expectations of a heroine are instantly challenged, Austen even tells the reader that Catherine preferred more male dominated activities like cricket to “the more heroic enjoyments.” By creating this challenge for the reader, Austen not only allows he novel to stand out from other Gothic novels, which were extremely prevalent at the time but she also gives the reader a narrative hook, forcing them to question, ‘why is Catherine the main character is she is so normal?’.

An alternative interpretation might be to say that by creating an ordinary person in Catherine, Austen creates a character to which the reader can relate and recognise making it easier for them to become immersed in the story of the novel. Not just a character to whom the reader can relate, but additionally, Catherine could be seen as a meta-representation of the reader themselves; Catherine reads many novels and expects her life to be just like them, similarly a post 18th Century reader would most likely have read several gothic novels and would expect Catherine’s life to follow the path of a traditional gothic novel. Extending this theory, Catherine’s...
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