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Through close reference to the novel as a whole explain to what extent you think this is an accurate assessment of Catherine.

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Introduction

'Catherine's folly lies not in indulging her taste for melodramatic literature but in imposing its values on the life around her.' Through close reference to the novel as a whole explain to what extent you think this is an accurate assessment of Catherine. 'Northanger Abbey' arose partially as a response to the popular novels of the time, principally it satirises the form and conventions of the Gothic genre, so sick is Austen of their absurd unrealism, "pictures of perfection as you know make me sick and wicked." In Catherine, Austen takes a realistic character that the reader can identify with, using her failings to teach a universal lesson, the dangers of imagination uncontrolled by reason. Whereas Austen's attack on the Gothic genre is merely a personal disapproval, through Catherine the author attempts to highlight the dangerous consequences of false allusions based on the books one reads (not necessarily gothic fiction), a message relevant to all. ...read more.

Middle

The reader learns that Catherine has somewhat of an obsession with gothic fiction, using these books as an escape from reality, "lost from all worldly concerns." Through her gothic parodies Austen makes it clear she does not approve of this but indicates that Catherine's real folly is in imposing its values on the world around as it has dangerous consequences. Upon reaching Northanger Abbey Catherine's inability to judge a situation leads her to confuse reality with scenes from the books that she has read. On the night of her arrival, a violent storm strikes the Abbey, and in her mind she imagines " a countless variety of dreadful situations and horrid scenes." Her imagination indulges the situation, creating circumstances similar to the gothic novels she reads, "midnight assassins or drunken gallants." Believing she is like the heroines of such books, "a curiosity so justly awakened", she decides to explore, encountering a mysterious chest, an item that strikes her as satisfyingly gothic and her imagination does the rest, caught up in the possibilities of what could be in the chest, "suspensions of agony." ...read more.

Conclusion

She loses her illusions, and becomes a better judge of character, now able to see that Isabella is manipulative and self obsessed, evident in Isabella's letter to Catherine, in which she tries to cover up her culpability for leaving James for Frederick, "such a strain of shallow artifice could not impose even on Catherine." The consequence of her wild imagination is the hurt caused by her disillusionment about Isabella and her subsequent eviction from Northanger abbey, both genuinely upsetting experiences. If she had not let her imagination run amok she would have been able to realistically assess both the General and Isabella for what they really are and therefore avoid this pain, thus Austen teaches us the dangers of an imagination uncontrolled by reason. Other characters that read the same gothic fiction as Catherine, such as Henry and Isabella do not succumb to the same fantasies as Catherine. This shows that the fault lies in Catherine's character rather than the melodramatic fiction she reads. ...read more.

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