Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

This novel is a literary a well as a social satire . We are used to Austen as the first rate commentator and writer about social manners but in this one she is having fun in a different way. The author is spoofing the type of writer very popular at the time at which it was written , ca 1803. Catherine , the heroine, is addicted to Gothic romance novels and is on the lookout for any real life applications of the fantastic story lines of those novels - in applying this logic she makes the usual mistakes . But it is no way as serious a comment on the behaviour and thinking processes of self centred young persons as in Emma , for instance. I enjoyed it very much when i first read it . I would be delighted to hear what others think. I will be adding some further comments also a bit later.

2 comments:

Ellen said...

Northanger Abbey has some wonderfully painful moments in it. This happens when Jane Austen shows us Catherine reading life like one of her favourite Gothic novels, and not using her common sense or her experience of people. It is a very enjoyable story of growing up, and gaining experience of wider circles than immediate family and longtime friends.

It still stands up as a really interesting novel to read.

Joihn Kennedy said...

I re-read this over Christmas-New Year. I suspect it is probably the least profound of the six major Jane Austen novels, but it is very good read, often richly funny and very insightful. There are certainly painful moments, though for me they are associated with the unpleasant ways people treat each other - particularly General Tilney's boorish treatment of Catherine when he discovers she is not the wealthy heiress he believed her to be. For me the element of spoofing the Gothic novel is not really a highlight: it seems a bit obvious, even a bit laboured, though I would not stress the point.

Catherine Morland is probably the most 'ordinary' of Jane Austen's major heroines. Unlike Elizabeth Bennett, for example, she is not gifted with any intelligence out of the ordinary. Of course, it is easy to forget that she is seventeen when most of the action takes place, and eighteen when she marries. The somewhat irrelevant thought struck me that the Rev Henry Tilney has taken on no small responsibility with his youthful bride!

As often, the fools and the villains are amongst the greatest joys in this Austen novel. James Thorpe, Isabella, and the General will not easily be forgotten. The two men are stupid and essentially unpleasant. Isabella is a superficial gold-digger, but I wonder if the later Austen ('Northanger Abbey was her first major completed work) might not have been a little more sympathetic in presenting her, and a bit more tolerant of her aspirations in a society where a women in her position had to marry well or face a pretty grim fate.

John Kennedy