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Comparing Northanger Abbey and Frankenstein

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When authors write a story they “tell a particular story to a particular audience in a particular situation for, presumably, a particular purpose” (Phelan 4). Northanger Abbey and Frankenstein came out in the same year, were both gothic novels, and were both written by female authors. Despite these similarities, the two authors produced very different works of fiction and have very different authorial intentions for their stories. Austen and Shelley both use gothic elements to portray their purpose for their stories. The two authors create characters exhibiting powerful emotions and moralize through the usage of these emotions.

Romanticism played a large role in the creation of gothic literature, and it was considered to be “a lunatic fringe version of romanticism” (Tiffin). Gothic novels often had a powerful unleashing of emotions to very extreme levels “beyond social constraining” (Tiffin). The genre’s character often had an excess of a specific type (Tiffin), and in an analysis of Frankenstein and Northanger Abbey, this excess can be seen in Frankenstein’s ambition and Catherine’s curiosity.

Several times in Northanger Abbey Austen’s main character, Catherine, gets caught up in her emotions. In the second part of Austen’s story, Catherine is frequently consumed by curiosity, and it is in this same part of the novel in which the gothic mood is introduced, beginning with Catherine’s travels to Northanger Abbey. Catherine is eager to find the abbey to be like those that she reads about in novels, and Henry affirms this belief stating, “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 ta...

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...of Frankenstein’s friends and family, murdered by the monster, by the effect of Frankenstein’s ambition. Again, Shelley’s effects for emotion are far more extreme than Austen’s due to the purpose for this representation.

In the examination of Northanger Abbey and Frankenstein one comes to very different conclusions as to why their authors used gothic elements. The two authors had very different purposes for their stories. Powerful emotions are often an element of gothic literature as it was a genre that took Romanticism to excessive extents. While Austen used this gothic element to satirize the gothic novel, Shelley used it to display a deeper point about the evils of ambition. Both authors exhibited characters severe emotions to show the importance of rationality instead of extremes, but ultimately had a different purpose in presenting this view.
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