Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey

11. August 2013 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

Nothanger Abbey is a parody on gothic novels, a genre very popular in Jane Austen’s days. It was evident from the first page onward and all the whilst reading it was I wishing for having read more gothic novels, for I am sure a lot of humour and clever hints went by me unnoticed.

Catherine is the imperfect heroine of this novel who doesn’t stand out either by looks nor by talent. One day she is allowed to accompany friends of the family to Bath, a place full of joyful occupations such as balls, plays and the delight of meeting old friends or finding new acquaintances. This exactly happens to Catherine who after a week or so befriends Isabella, a very obviously vain and flirtatious girl. However, Catherine does not see through Isabella’s empty talk and thinks herself lucky finding a true friend. As the story proceeds our heroine meets with her new friends brother John, who is as boastful as his sister but contrary to her can not win Catharine’s sympathy, as well as the Tilney-siblings. Henry and Eleanore Tilney are both very agreeable and it very predictably becomes clear who’s affection towards Catherine is to be trusted.

I was rather surprised at the timing of the novel. Only the last third takes place at Northanger Abbey. It is also rather rushed as I perceived it. All the obstacles Catherine is confronted with, the ill-will of General Tilney, the mischievous lies of John and the hypocrisy of Isabella are not at all resolved by our heroine taking action but by waiting them out. The last third where Catherine is treated badly much undeservedly and immediately afterwards the repair of her honour takes place, is told entirely by the narrator almost without any dialog but a quick summery of what the reader might be interested in, the heroine however may or may not learn about. It is one of Austen’s earlier works so it doesn’t surprise that her style was still unrefined. It could be thought that this too is a stylistic device to humour gothic novels.
In my opinion it is an enjoyable reading and amusing even with my shameful ignorance to gothic novels. It did remind me a little of Gustave Flaubert’s „Madame Bovary“ since they share the same topic of a female character being fooled by excessive reading a kind of genre what their time thought was trashy literature.

Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey. London: Penguin Books, 1985

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