Catherine has spent a lot of her time reading Gothic novels and wondering what it would be like to be a Gothic heroine. She even gets experience of the Gothic during the storm her first night at Northanger Abbey, when she wonders what is in the chest and the cabinet in her room. It is the terror of the unknown that captivates her, and she feels childish when she realizes that her fears do not exist. In the climactic scene where she is viciously sent away by General Tilney, and does not know what she has done to deserve a punishment, she is alone and her emotions have her confused and worried.
She finds out that eing a heroine in real life has its pains and sorrows, which make Gothic heroines seem like they have got it easy. Thus, in Northanger Abbey, Austen is not only saying that a Gothic novels should not be taken seriously. She is also saying that what happens in a Gothic novel is nothing compared to the struggles of everyday life, which can be difficult and painful. The Gothic novel symbolizes an individual’s ability to see beneath the surface of things.
In this book, each character’s reaction to Gothic novels reflects their personality. Catherine is entranced by the stories she reads, and is taken in by them, as she is with verything in life. Henry can enjoy Gothic novels, but is all too well aware of the fantasies they portray and the pleasure they give him being all fiction. His sister, Eleanor, does not seem as enthralled by them as Catherine, and she also seems to have more sense than Catherine, possibly because she has not led such a sheltered life.
Catherine reads Udolpho during her time at Bath, and it is implied that she has read other Gothic novels before, and Isabella has a library of other Gothic novels that the women plan to read once Catherine has finished Udolpho. Gothic novels and the thoughts surround them occur hroughout the novel. On the ride from Bath to Northanger Abbey, Henry invents a hypothetical story about Catherine’s first night in Bath, making subtle references to several different Gothic novels, most of which were read by many at this time. Catherine unlocks the mysterious cabinet, expecting it to come across something horrible, and finds only laundry bills.
Catherine imagines that the General is a wife-murderer and go to investigate the late Mrs. Tilney’s bedroom. In the scenes leading up to the confrontation with Henry, it is quick to knowledge of Catherine’s paranoid assumptions that everything he General does stem from a guilty conscience. Catherine becomes almost mentally unbalanced by her own imagination. Although the actual crime turns out to be nonexistent, Northanger Abbey captures some of the psychological tension typical of Gothic novels by writing Catherine’s delusions. So although Austen parodies the gothic genre, she also makes use of some of its techniques.
Some of the novel has nothing to do with Gothic novels. The first half of Northanger Abbey takes place in the vacation town of Bath, and has nothing to do with Gothic novels. The romantic Gothic novel was the current trend t the time Austen was writing Northanger Abbey. Catherine and Henry, the protagonists, are avid fans of Gothic novels, as is Isabella, the antagonist. In fact, Catherine’s delusions of Gothic fictional elements with real life creates the basis of one of the most witty subplots in the book, as she creeps through Northanger Abbey looking for clues to prove her theory that General Tilney murdered his wife or imprisoned her.
Henry’s shared fondness for novels forms a connection for the two characters, and shared interest in particular novels serves to bond Catherine to her false friend Isabella. T he narrator, peaking as the author, defends novels in basic claims that various benefits derived from novel reading so the novel reads somewhat like a comical book review. Northanger Abbey is mainly a novel about novels and about reading habits. This book has a self awareness of itself as a novel and the narrator often takes a break from the story she is telling to consider it as a story.
Rather than just tell about Catherine, the book tells about Catherine as a heroine and as a fictional character. Gothic novels are mocking society and the book considers the disastrous effects of certain kinds of reading habits. It is a rather omplicated venture, but Austin does not only consider the effects that literature has on her characters, she also considers the effect Northanger Abbey has on its real world readers. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world. ” (6. )
Catherine is showing signs of being obsessed with Gothic novels here, since she is reluctant to go out and socialize. Catherine was then left to the luxury of a raised, restless, and frightened imagination over the pages of Udolpho, lost from all worldly oncerns of dressing and dinner, incapable of soothing Mrs. Allen’s fears on the delay of an expected dress-maker. (7. 54) Gothic novels have a major, and humorous, effect on Catherine. She is basically oblivious to the entire world while she is reading. But she also takes getting lost in a good book to a potentially dangerous level, given what Gothic novels do with her imagination.
The diction, or word choice, here indicates that Catherine’s imagination is getting really worked-up. He smiled and said, “You have formed a very favourable idea of the abbey? ” “To be sure I have. Is not it a fine old place, just like what one eads about? ” “And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as what one reads about’ may produce? – Have you a stout heart? – Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry? ” (20. 11-13) Henry makes fun of Catherine’s tendency to confuse fiction with reality here, noting that “what one reads about” is not likely to happen in reality.
Austen uses, and disrupts, a lot of the symbols and images that characterized popular Gothic novels in her spoof of the Gothic novel. The Abbey itself serves as a symbol of the Gothic, and of Catherine’s own hyperactive imagination, which mistakes fiction for reality. Within the Abbey, Catherine continually sees and misinterprets Gothic symbols: an old chest (that turns out to be empty); a mysterious manuscript (that is really a laundry list); a secret passageway (that is really an innocuous staircase).
Other Gothic images and symbols, like thunderstorms and portraits of the deceased, also turn out to be much less exciting than Catherine initially suspects. These symbols and images of the Gothic become part of Austen’s skewering of the Gothic novel genre, as well as part of her thematic focus on Catherine’s overactive imagination and faulty assumptions. Books, especially Gothic ovels, are important symbols here. They are so important that they symbolize, or represent, a lot of different things. So there is a ton of different ways to interpret books and Gothic novels in Northanger Abbey.
Books and Gothic novels play an important role in a lot of the books’ major relationships. Catherine and Isabella bond over Gothic novels. Books also help us to better understand the characters. For instance, both John and Henry read Gothic novels, though John insists that they are stupid, while Henry insists that people like John are stupid for thinking such things. The way characters talk about novels and read them often rovides insight into their personalities. We can see a definite contrast between John and Henry based on their reading habits.
Here are John’s views: I took up the first volume once and looked it over, but I soon found it would not do; indeed I guessed what sort of stuff it must be before I saw it [… ] I was sure I should never be able to get through it. (7. 40) John judges too quickly here and goes on to bash a book that he has not actually read. He basically sounds ill-informed and ridiculous. John also calls Gothic “stupid,” even though he has read a lot of them. Henry, meanwhile, has very different reading %3D habits: I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure.
The Mysteries of Udolpho,’ when I had once begun it, I could not lay it down again; – I remember finishing it in two days – my hair standing on end the entire time. (14. 7) Henry sounds a lot like Catherine here – he enjoys reading and finds Gothic novels fun and exciting. So the way characters discuss books and read them reveals a lot about who these characters are. Books, and Gothic novels especially, also play key symbolic roles in the books’ various relationships. Catherine, after all, discusses Gothic novels with nearly everyone in the book.