Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and the Gothic

2717 Words11 Pages
Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey And The Gothic 2011 Introduction Northanger Abbey was one of the first novels that English writer Jane Austen wrote. Although it was written around the years 1798-99, the novel was not published until December 1817, five months after Austen’s death. Northanger Abbey tells the story of seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland on her first visit to the city of Bath and, later, to the Tinley’s house (the “Northanger Abbey” of the title.) Being a Gothic novel aficionado, Catherine keeps expecting real life to play out like one of her favourite novels. Consequently, the young heroine finds herself involved in many embarrassing situations throughout the novel. However, as the story goes on, Catherine eventually learns to distinguish between fantasy and reality and between her own wild imaginings and her intuition. Northanger Abbey has long been considered an ironic parody of the Gothic novel, which was very popular in Austen’s time. The purpose of this essay is to explore the elements of the Gothic novel present in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and to analyze the way in which they have been satirized by the author. Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey: a Gothic Parody The Gothic fiction is a literary genre that combines elements of both horror and romance. It flourished in England during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a “reaction against the rigidity and formality of other forms of Romantic literature.[1]” It has often been said that the first true Gothic romance was The Castle of Otranto, written by Horace Walpole and first published in 1764. Although during this period many of the highly regarded Gothic novelists published their writings and much of the novel’s form was defined, this genre is not limited to this time whatsoever. Indeed, the Gothic can still be found nowadays in the
Open Document