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Northanger Abbey - What are the novelistic conventions at which Austen pokes fun; how she gets her comic effects at the level of the individual sentence, and how this passage relates to the rest of the novel.

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Introduction

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey Close textual analysis based on volume 2, chapter 6, from 'The night was stormy ...' to the end of the chapter ('... she unknowingly fell fast asleep.'). What are the novelistic conventions at which Austen pokes fun; how she gets her comic effects at the level of the individual sentence, and how this passage relates to the rest of the novel. ***** In Northanger Abbey, Austen pokes gentle fun at the Gothic genre and its readers, who would have had their own expectations of Northanger, stemming from the Gothic. Initially, the reader doesn't know quite where to find him or herself. On the one hand we know that Catherine is a silly girl, but we are drawn in by the language of the text. The feel is at once veritably Gothic but also comic. We laugh at Catherine because not to do so would be to admit that we are like her - wanting her to find something even though we know she will not. As a heroine, Catherine is somewhat lacking in the typical physical traits and practical and mental abilities. ...read more.

Middle

These involuntary actions and the romantic thoughts she has are symptomatic of her desire to experience the life she reads about in her novels. In a way, it can be seen as a safety barrier, set up by her, between her and the domestic life that really awaits her. The cabinet in her bedroom was open all the while - Catherine actually locks it herself and then has to unlock each one; quite symbolic of her subconscious having to create a mystery in order to discover it. The language is emphatic: the darkness is 'impenetrable and immovable' but everything that seems to Catherine to be 'absolutely impossible' happens easily. The cabinet door was 'immovable'; that she should get any sleep, 'entirely out of the question'. All of her actions are so laboriously constructed; when she isn't completely involved in a fantasy, she is trying so hard to act in a normal way and convince herself that everything is normal and natural, which it is. Every action or look has significance for her, even her indifference is happy. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although Henry is effectively setting Catherine up for a fall, it is linked to her being coached out of her preferred reading genre, or at least to a position from where she can appreciate its true worth as pure escapist fantasy. Through her clever use of typically Gothic description, Austen creates a textual dichotomy, comprising the reality of the actual events, and the elevated language used to describe them. The language Austen uses in her description of Catherine's emotional state is wholly incongruous and out of proportion to the events. For example, when opening a drawer, 'her courage did not fail her'. This is much how the whole novel is constructed, apart from the last couple of chapters, which are shockingly plain. It conforms to the didactic convention of the heroine learning or being taught, either about herself or the world. Overall, Henry Tilney acts most overtly as a tutor, but Catherine is forced to learn, or at least acknowledge something from almost every encounter that she has with people or places. In the novel, her final lesson is that life is not like the novels that she reads; it is more sedentary, which can be far more frightening. Dan Coughlan T6010839 AA316 The Nineteenth-Century Novel TMA 01 Question 1 Page 1 of 3 ...read more.

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