Heroic Ignorance And Gothic Novels By Jane Austen

1490 Words Sep 16th, 2016 6 Pages
Heroic Ignorance and Gothic Novels
Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey, seeks to explore the effect of wealth on society. Throughout the novel, this portrayal of wealth assumes an increasingly critical tone, and is thus used to suggest the negative impact of financial goals in a relationship. This is shown in the contrast between Catherine’s relationship with Mr. Tilney, and Isabella’s promiscuous ways. In this dynamic, Catherine remains pure, engaged to a poor clergyman, whereas her friend Isabella ensnares men in the hopes of gaining wealth and societal status. Through this dynamic, Austen provides an example of the British Romantic ideal that both love and the individual are only pure and righteous when freed from the constraints of society and affluence. Ironically, the Gothic novels that were prevalent in the later part of the British Romantic Period are frequently cited as a source of misfortune throughout the novel. Catherine, who is portrayed as good and pure, is misled into believing that the stories spun in Gothic novels are applicable to her own life. Her friend, Isabella, is also portrayed as a lover of the genre, which is Austen’s way of hinting at Isabella’s future sins. Although the Gothics influence both Catherine and Isabella, Austen portrays the characters as opposites-one the promiscuous villain and one the victim of the heroic tale. Austen continuously comments on the nature of heroism, and thus mocks the timid Catherine while ironically branding her a…
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