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Northanger Abbey

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Introduction

How does Jane Austen engage her readers in 'Northanger Abbey'? Northanger Abbey is a Gothic parody, published in 1818 at a time when the gothic horror vogue (1760-1820 - the height of the genre) was ending. Jane Austin died in 1817 and the novel was published a year later. However, it is believed that it was written much earlier, possibly around 1798-99. If this is true Northanger Abbey was probably written before Austen's better-known novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Emma. At this time books like Mysteries Of Udolpho by Anne Radcliff were very popular with many people. Some of the themes in Gothic literature continue to be popular in modern literature and film, especially horror. In this novel Jane Austen managed to write a book with some of the main features of this style of writing. However, it seems to me she wasn't convinced and seemed to mock but also be affectionate with her readers, and I think this is why she chose to parody gothic literature. Jane Austen uses a number of ways to engage her readers but not all of them are by her using traditional gothic ideas. This is one reason why we are still studying her writing long after most gothic writers have been forgotten. Jane Austen's novels usually contain a heroine on a journey of self-discovery. ...read more.

Middle

a sense they aren't appreciating the true marvel of literature without interpreting it to be true and round the corner, as Catherine does with Northanger Abbey. In the scene where Henry teases Catherine, Austen uses various techniques to engage the reader. She uses strong imagery - 'Will not your heart sink within you?' and marvelous descriptions of the stereotypical gothic set up - 'and the bed, of dark green stuff or purple velvet'. But what's even more humorous is Henry's reference to the novels Catherine and so probably the reader has read - "what one reads about" is Catherine's response. A deliberate language use from Jane Austen, again to make gothic literature readers look terribly silly - 'Oh! Mr. Tilney, how frightful! - This is just like a book! - But it cannot really happen to me - Well, what then?' - in this section Austen uses exclamation marks to shows Catherine's excitement and a statement that makes Catherine look very much naive and child-like, she gives the response that a person with mindful insight recognizing the purpose of novels, such as Frankenstein and Mysteries of Udolpho, would give but totally again makes herself look stupid by contrasting the sensible thing she just said by urging him on more - 'Well, what then?' A dominant feature or theme in gothic literature is mystery and secrecy, and Northanger Abbey is no exception. ...read more.

Conclusion

Catherine often looks foolish and naive but I suppose she does learn something about herself, namely that her expectations about the world being like a fictional (gothic) story were wrong. The main conclusions of gothic mysteries involved heroic women winning battles with forces of darkness. Catherine Morland is engaging because she learns and Austen's readers learn that the world is more complicated. Austen captures and engages the reader in many ways during Northanger Abbey. Through parodying gothic literature Austen demonstrates her versatility and ability to write books of different genres. In true Jane Austen fashion, she retains the subject matters she's famous for; this is why Austen is such a well-known, highly regarded writer, compared to others of her time. Austen uses techniques to keep you interested, like bathos, free indirect style and also pathetic fallacy, but what seems to be most gripping is Catherine's journey of self-discovery; within the book we feel what Catherine feels. No matter how naive or inexperienced Catherine is, which she is, we feel the curiosity she feels; we connect with her happiness; we genuinely feel excited for her. Catherine's stupidity, innocence and unlikely status as a heroine all contribute to why Catherine is such a thrilling and compelling character. All the contributions to the story line: Isabella Thorpe seeming to be flirting with Captain Tilney; General Tilney's wife's mysterious death; Catherine and Henry's relationship, all urge us to read on, and this is why and how Austen engages the reader. 1 ...read more.

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