Essay on Northanger Abbey

Essay on Northanger Abbey

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Just as Marianne must experience a considerable amount of maturity, so too must Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey (1818) when she is first meet by readers. Unlike the characters of Elizabeth and Elinor, who are known for their cleverness and good sense, Catherine’s: “mind [is] about as ignorant and uniformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is” . Despite her immaturity Catherine has an affectionate heart “disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affection of any kind – her manners just removed from the awkwardness and shyness of a girl; her persona pleasing, and, when in good looks, pretty” . In the development of both her protagonist and plotline, Austen parodies the popular Gothic novel of the day by calling Catherine a “heroine” in the very first sentence of the book: “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine” . Austen is of course using irony, as she is comically referring to the usual heroine portrayed in such novels, beautiful damsels in distress who are waiting to be rescued by a handsome man. Catherine is not one of these heroines; she is simply an ordinary girl waiting for something to happen. Before she is able to discover her hero she must learn how to assess the character of others, and learn how to understand herself before she can claim the title of “heroine”.
Throughout Northanger Abbey Catherine learns that real life is not as exciting, romantic, or black and white as the romance novels she reads. This is especially apparent in her friendship with Isabella Thorpe. She becomes immediately close to Isabella who is attractive, intelligent and socially confident, but who later emerges as the anti heroine of the novel. Isabelle appear...


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...e you must respect for her sincerity, her high principles, her generous trust of others, and her patience under trails that would be too great for much stronger heads...and in spite of her romantic folly she has so much good heart that it serves her in place of good sense” .
It seems both these critics have missed the point about Catherine, her inadequacies as a heroine, such as they are, exists because Austen tries to do too much with her – “to establish her both s a gooselike parody of the sentimental gothic heroine, and to advance claims for her as a human being who would learn good sense and learn even to go beyond it” .
Catherine is a true Austen heroine, not only because she learns to examine her own spirit, heart and mind so that she is able to mature beyond her flaws, but also because she inspires readers to develop truly heroic behaviour themselves.


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