Modernity in Austen's Northanger Abbery

2500 Words10 Pages
Jane Austen’s novels, specifically Northanger Abbey, have key undertones of modernity. Namely, the heroine struggles with this modernity as a passage of their bildungsroman. These struggles with modernity are relatable and help to Austen’s success throughout the 19th, 20th and now 21st century. Catherine Morland, heroine of Northanger Abbey, confronts the influence of Gothic fiction which is widely available for the female audience and she opposes the political unrest during that period; the threat of riots and war of the age. Gothic fiction became socially acceptable around the time Austen was writing Northanger. Catherine becomes influenced by this new genre of fiction, especially during her visit to Northanger Abbey. Riots and War are another modern element of the time. The French Revolution creates anxiety amongst those in England and poses the threat of riots. Catherine, ignorant to politics, is dealt another contemporary element of the time. The struggles with modernity extend 200 years in to 1996, the year of publishment of Bridget Jones’s Diary. Bridget is influenced by what she reads, the same as Catherine; and her genre of literature is also contemporary for the age. The struggle with the contemporary for the female heroines can be thus considered universally relatable and a case for Austen’s work’s lasting popularity. Her first work, of course, being Northanger Abbey. Austen’s Northanger Abbey, introduces two main contemporary struggles for young heroines; modern literature and the riots of the age. This modern literature for Catherine is in the form of Gothic fiction. Throughout Northanger Abbey, there are continuous references to Gothic fiction, specifically Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. Though Catherine is introduced as consuming literature that “were all story and no reflection” (Austen 4), she is not affected by sensibility, instead, as
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