“Explore the theme of Transformations in “Northanger Abbey”
In “Northanger Abbey” Austen crafts from start to finish a perfect paradigm of her own satirical wit and burlesqued humour, which go to all lengths imaginable to disguise and embed her novel’s transformations. These demonstrate her great skill as a satirist in making the reader dig for their own enjoyment. Her meaning is drenched in multiple interpretations causing even complete opposites like the transformed and unchanged to blur together, leaving as Fuller says, “The joke on everyone except Austen”; whose sophisticated “meta-parody” carries on transforming and confusing the reader (Fuller, Miriam 2010). Craik first contrived how to delve into Austen’s satire, and that was by realising that “The literary burlesque is not incidental, nor integral” (Craik, W A 1965). In my essay I am therefore going to delve deeply into the satirical, and reveal the true transformations Austen intended to present.
The first line of the text identifies Catherine Morland as the novel’s central figure for transformation “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine” (Austen, Jane “Northanger Abbey” 2003 PP. 5). Austen then ironically, and ambiguously, decks her out to be a burlesqued parody of the heroic archetype, thus transforming the perspective of what constitutes a heroine. Traditionally they were thought of as intelligent, beautiful and isolated like Eleanor Tilney, but we are told Catherine is “Occasionally stupid…almost pretty…and (her father) was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters” (PP. 5 - 7). Austen reverses the polarity of Catherine’s character transforming her into a more modern heroine, her point being that anyone can be a heroine as long as they evolve as opposed to stagnating like traditional gothic figures such as Emily St Aubert (Radcliffe, Anne 2008). Already Austen is choosing transformation and change over...
Bibliography: • Austen, Jane (2003) Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition (Oxford, Oxford University Press)
• Fuller, Miriam (2010) “Let me go, Mr Thorpe; Isabella, do not hold me!: Northanger Abbey at the Domestic Gothic” Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal (Jane Austen Society of North America)
• Craik, W A (1965) “Jane Austen The Six Novels” (W & J MacKay & Co ltd, Chatham, Great Britain)
• Schaub, Melissa (2000) “Irony and Political Education in “Northanger Abbey” (Jane Austen Society of North America) http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol21no1/schaub.html Accessed (27/0/2012)
• Butler, Marilyn (1975) “Jane Austen and the War of Ideas: The Juvenilia and “Northanger Abbey” (Clarendon Press, Oxford)
• Radcliffe, Anne (2008) “The Mysteries of Udolpho” (Oxford, Oxford University Press)
• Keymer, Thomas (2011 ) “Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility” “The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen” (University Press Cambridge, Cambridge)
• Bush, Douglas (1978) “Jane Austen” (The Macmillan Press LTD, London)
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