In the novel Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen uses character development to portray the theme of being separated from loved ones. The main character, Catherine Morland, is influenced by people, events, and decisions which cause her to change over time during her quest for heroism due to loneliness and rejection from being separated from the ones that she loves. Austen meant Catherine to be "simple-minded, insentimental, and commonplace unsolicitated falls in love with a man who snubs and educates her, not adores her" (Forster 51). These assets which make her so basic are the attributes which she develops from.
"Catherine couldn't be aware from the outset because the story developed precisely from Catherine's unawareness of distinctions" (Marvin 73). She had spent her entire life with her family, never knowing the concept of loneliness. She is only seventeen during the three months that the book takes place. Her mind was "about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is" (Austen 5). This character trait of Catherine is a lot like Jane Austen, whose life was private, uneventful, extraordinarily narrow and restricted. (Southam 107). Catherine knew that if adventures did not befal her in her own village, she had to seek them abroad. So she traveled to Bath upon invitation, and was separated from her beloved family for the first time (Austen 5). Austen's life was very similar. For a period in her life, she had to take successive temporary visits to her relatives in Bath (Southam 107).
When Catherine went to Bath, she was determined to meet new people, since she was away from her entire family. In Bath "a whole new world" was opened to her. She was delighted to join in the social life of the colony to fill the gap in her heart due to being separated from her family (Magill 3303). Catherine visited Bath at the perfect time for meeting people, because in reality, this type of social life in Bath did not exist for long. Northanger Abbey was intended to be published in 1803, when Bath was a "social mixing pot." However, by the time the book was published in 1817, such a setting no longer existed, which affected the lack of interest readers had in the novel (Southam 113). Had Catherine been in Bath when it was not a social center, she may have had experiences similar to the monster in the novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. The monster is so lonely from not having a friend in the world that he commits suicide in order to end his misery (Magill 1678). Due to the changes in society, Austen provided an "Advertisement" when she revised the novel, which warned readers of the historical changes since the book's intended date of publication (Southam 109). Since Catherine was in Bath during the social times, though, she quickly made friends, and began a love interest in Henry Tilney. However, after first meeting him, she did not see him again for a couple of weeks. She learned what rejection felt like, because she had expected to see him again the next day, which rolled into weeks. During this period of isolation from him she constantly thought of when they might cross paths again (Magill 3303). These aspects of Catherine's stay in Bath are very different from Austen's social life. She never mixed in fashionable society and "avoided literary circles like the plague." One could say Austen had an obsessive need for privacy, which was shaped by her dedication to writing (Southam 107). The way she isolated herself from society largely reflects her choice to isolate Catherine Morland from the people she loves.
Catherine was unschooled, but novel-struck (Lewis 64). So during the lonely times of her stay in Bath, she read the novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Anne Radcliffe (Austen 23) for companionship. Radcliffe's novel was written in 1794, just a few years before Austen began to write Northanger Abbey (Southam 111). With her parents not around to look up to, the famous romance writer, Mrs....
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