Balance Between Sense and Sensibility in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

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Balance Between Sense and Sensibility in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

Throughout her novel, Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen integrates parody with characterization to emphasize the necessity of a balance between sense and sensibility while reflecting a theme of the initiation of a young woman into the complexities of adult social life. This novel can be traced back as one of Jane Austen's earliest works. It was written in 1798, but not published until 1818, and is an excellent example of what Austen believed a novel should not be. In the work Jane Austen's Novels Social Change and Literary Form, Julia Prewitt Brown states "The evident purpose of Northanger Abbey is to burlesque the popular fiction of her day, to carry its conventions and assumptions to an absurd extravagance" (50.) To achieve her purpose Austen uses parody to portray a comic version of a gothic novel while presenting false emotions of romanticism and concentrating on pure human beings and their mutual reactions.

"The writer of the pure novel sets out to delight us not by prodigality of invention, the creation of a large gallery of characters, the alternation of a large number of contrasted scenes, but by attention to the formal qualities of composition, to design, to the subordination of the parts to the whole, the whole being the exploration of the relations between his characters or of their relations to a central situation or theme." (Allen, pp114.)

In Northanger Abbey, Austen intended to reflect a contrast between a normal, healthy-natured girl and the romantic heroines of fiction thorough the use of characterization. By portraying the main character, Catherine Moorland, as a girl slightly affected with romantic notions, Jane Austen exhibits the co...

... middle of paper ... show his sensibility. His imagination and creativity motivate him to read Gothic romances and to indulge in the effects that his inventive tales produce. His decision to marry Catherine is motivated by feelings of love that further exemplifies his sensibility. Throughout the novel the readers see an excellent display of Henry's ability to maintain equilibrium between the two qualities. He passes his knowledge onto Catherine to help her to become a better person. At the end of the novel it is apparent that Henry has taught the keys of his success to Catherine.

Works Cited

Allen, Walter. The English Novel. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1954.

Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. 1818. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications,


Prewitt Brown, Julia. Jane Austen's Novels Social Change and Literary Reform.

Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1979.
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