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Discuss Jane Austen's use of settings in the novel Northanger Abbey, showing how this relates to the social, historical and cultural context.

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Introduction

Discuss Jane Austen's use of settings in the novel Northanger Abbey, showing how this relates to the social, historical and cultural context. The use of settings in this novel evokes thoughts which make different events happen due to the mood created and the settings described. In this essay I will be looking at Jane Austen's use of settings and how they relate to the social, historical and cultural contexts in this book. Northanger Abbey, written by Jane Austen, is a social drama focusing on the lives of the characters and how changing relationships have an impact on them. This book is probably influenced by the lack of events in Jane Austen's life, causing her to dramatise the smallest things, as does Catherine Morland in this novel. This novel was set and written in the 1790's. We know this because the gothic novel 'The Mysteries of Udolpho', which is frequently mentioned in the book, was then written. This was also the first novel the Jane Austen wrote. The readers of this book tended to be 'Upper Class', especially women, as they could afford books because of their status and had lots of time to read them whilst their husbands went out hunting and so forth. As these were the types of people reading the books, the different settings and interactions are probably based around the type of subjects that Upper Class women thought were proper to talk about. As well as this there was also the enjoyment of reading. The culture and social life of these women were probably considered when writing this book as to give them the type of things they looked to find in a book without causing uproar in feminist ideas which offended them. Even though the village of Fullerton is Catherine's hometown, the place where the story begins and the place she eventually returns to, we do not find out much about the setting from the novel. ...read more.

Middle

balls when meeting up with acquaintances and friends which is very different to the way that people live in the more modern times. After staying in Bath for a while, the Tilneys are going back to Northanger Abbey in Gloucestershire, as General Tilneys presence was wanted at home. As the friendship between Eleanor and Catherine, she wishes for her to join them, As General Tilney is also misinformed about Catherine's wealth he believes her to be very well off, therefore he wants her to accompany them. Catherine's na�ve nature builds up a picture of what the Abbey will be like before she even arrives at it as her Gothic novels like 'The Mysteries of Udolpho' have influenced her image of certain effects greatly. I think that she largely thinks back to Fullerton, the place of her childhood, as she doesn't seem to be able to get rid of her na�ve nature and the way that she approaches people. To the readers of the novel it is obvious that Henry is playing with Catherine's imagination by describing the Abbey as having 'ancient housekeepers' and 'gloomy passages' whilst only slightly mentioning that the Abbey has been snugly repaired fore 'their end of the house'. The typical image of a Gothic Abbey is what Catherine expects but it leaves the reader with an anticipation of what it will really be like and what is expected of it. Catherine's 6-week experience in Bath did help her to mature but her na�ve nature still lies there. The disappointment of Catherine when the actual setting is revealed is conscious to us all as 'the walls were papered... the floor was carpeted'. But parts of the house were very Gothic and suspicious such as the 'old chest' and the large dining room. Even though Catherine sees the room holds that distinctly antique chest, the rest of the abbey is completely modernised and doesn't in any way live up to the expectations of a sinister and decaying structure that Catherine expects through reading the novels of Mrs. ...read more.

Conclusion

In any book, the settings contribute to the readers' perception of the novel and the way they interpret the events that are taking place. Suspense can be built up by the way a scene is set like an old house can be thought to be scary when creaking doors and cobwebs are used. Also when comparing one setting with another, like Fullerton and Bath, you long to see the next place as you did with Bath, because Fullerton had no excitement whereas Bath was described as being lively and sociable. When settings are described well you know the type of people that you may be meeting in this place and this helps to build up an image of this person and the type of personality that they might have. In Northanger Abbey each individual setting contributes to the events that happen there and the people that you encounter. For Fullerton, s sleepy little village without much happening, you get Catherine. A na�ve and sheltered girl without much experience of people and social activity. In the active hustle and bustle of Bath you get the manipulation of Isabella Thorpe, taking advantage of those who can be easily lead. In Northanger Abbey and Woodston you find General Tilney who is very obsessed with money and will not communicate with anyone who he considers to be below him. His children, Eleanor and Henry, have probably had a well-provided but very much ignored life, which is why they are so attentive to Catherine and willing to befriend her. Without good settings a book cannot pull of much of a plot and Northanger Abbey has just the right amount to help thoughts to be evoked and the right happenings in the right places. For example the mysteriousness of being in and Abbey is enough to get Catherine thinking of murderous, yet fictional stories. Jane Austen seems to put apart of her into every setting created which is what makes Northanger Abbey such a good novel and something that people may be able to relate to. Sophie Wright Northanger Abbey English Coursework ...read more.

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