The Female and Male Gothic in Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Lewis’ The Monk
The gothic novel is characterized by mystery and supernatural fear, usually involving evil villains, and victimized protagonists. These elements are recognized in both Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey, and Lewis’ The Monk. The novels are composed of male and female gothic characteristics, involved in gendered portrayals of supernatural events. The gothic genre is used in these novels in unique ways, however they both portray gendered depictions of the gothic genre. Austen and Lewis use their characters to frame the text, and abide by conventions of the male and female gothic genres. Through the use of these gendered gothic qualities, they expose how characters, setting, and events work together to create a gothic story.
The female gothic is composed of a female protagonist, male villain, and terrifying landscape, with focus on the psychological, rather than the physical. These qualities are evident in Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey, where the female protagonist, Catherine Morland is kidnapped by the male villain John Thorpe, and taken away to Blaize Castle. Catherine pleads to Henry, “Pray, pray stop, Mr. Thorpe. I cannot go on. I will not go on…but Mr. Thorpe only laughed, smacked his whip…and drove on” (Austen 95). This cliché damsel in distress scene is Austen’s use of the subgenre called gothic parody, in which she mocks traditional gothic texts through aspects of the narrative. When Tilney threatens Catherine, she identifies with the female gothic, being a powerless heroine, overwhelmed with sensibility. This is evident in the passage where Henry creates stories about Catherine’s first night in Bath, foreshadowing the events that will take pl...
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... genre their novels, they both create multidimensional characters and plots, allowing captivating the reader through the characters minds and physical actions. Austen uses the female gothic genre to address the psychological elements of the gothic genre, entering into the mind of the female damsel in distress. Lewis depicts elements of the male gothic, using physical violence to convey the male’s perspective. It is through their use of gendered gothic elements that Austen and Lewis are able to play with the reader’s reaction to the novels, relating to the female and male characters within the texts. In turn, Austen and Lewis use the male and female conventions of the gothic novel to explore the supernatural in unique ways.
Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. Public Domain, 1890. IBooks.
Lewis, Matthew G. The Monk. University of Oxford. 2002. IBooks.
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