Gothic Criticism In Northanger Abbey, By Jane Austen

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Jane Austen is the first great woman writer in English and, arguably, England’s first great novelist. She is one of those literary artists, who not only laid the foundation of novel, but also give it to a new direction. A supremely comic writer and moralist, Austen redefines novel as a delicate instrument to reveal human nature. She is one of the few novelists in the world literature who is regarded as a “classic” and yet is widely read. She wrote six major novels, however, only four novels were published during her life time that established her reputation in literary circle anonymously. Her earliest novel Northanger Abbey and last completed novel Persuasion were the novels which were not published during her life-time. The two novels were …show more content…

Catherine Morland, the young protagonist of the novel has been heavily influenced by these gruesome ideas, yet is entranced by them. She mingles her Gothic imagination in real life and sees everything in the same view, but later Austen makes her realize that evil lies not in buildings and their surroundings, but in the hearts of men. She was trying to reveal that everyday domestic situations have their own horrors; that oppression often takes place within the home, and that real life can be all too ‘Gothic’ for some people. She forces Catherine to realize the difference between illusion and reality, and forces upon her the real evil of the seventeenth century; the overbearing, selfish, and materialistic patriarchal figure. Walter Anderson, a critic remarks that Northanger Abbey presents a struggle between “fatuous imaginings” and “common, sensible pleasures in reading,” in which Austen “intends her work . . . to compete with and ultimately outstrip Gothic romances” (Anderson 1984, …show more content…

As Catherine; a young woman's mind can be easily influenced by such things. Her near-obsession reflects that of the society of her time. Through using Gothic themes and motifs, Austen creates an effective atmosphere but rather than creating a horrific and mysterious story from them, she clearly depicts the effects the genre had on young women during their time of writing. She shows the societal opinion of the Gothic, her own opinion of Gothic novelists, and how the genre can influence one's imagination. For Catherine, Northanger Abbey symbolizes an imagined ideal. As soon as she enters the abbey, she begins to think of herself as the heroine of a Gothic novel. Unlike Bath, which is simply a pleasant tourist town, the Abbey is a place of mystery and perhaps even adventure, at least in Catherine's mind. She makes the mistake of applying Gothic novels to real life situations; for example, later in the novel she begins to suspect General Tilney of having murdered his deceased wife. When the Abbey turns out to be disappointingly normal, Catherine uses her memory of the abbeys from her novel-reading to make it more frightening. She soon learns that the world is not all melodrama and eventually matures and marries a very sensible

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