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Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey


Jane Austen’s ‘Northanger Abbey’ is nowhere near as renown as her most famous novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’, but it is certainly one of her best written books. The hilarious quips, the brilliant character design, and the parodies of other novels add to its appeal, but the main reason I consider it brilliant, is due to the protagonist. Catherine Morland is specified by Austen to be as unremarkable as possible. She’s “plain”, not artistic and not especially talented at music, French, or writing. As she matures, Catherine becomes “almost pretty”, and develops a greater interest in classic literature. Despite not appearing as a particularly ‘special snowflake’, she, unlike Elizabeth Bennet, is kind to her siblings, and respects both her parents.


This, even in modern literature, is almost unheard of, and utterly different from the stupidly formulaic plots of essentially each well-liked book from the ‘young adult’ section of every Waterstones in the country. A young girl, who’s not ‘classically hot’, but still undeniably pretty (she has to be pretty), meets a boy, and her life is changed forever. Occasionally, it is set in a dystopian world, the girl possesses some kind of special power, and there’s a second boy. How will she solve the painful love triangle, whilst simultaneously saving the world? It truly is a baffling conundrum. But, a specifically regular girl, who is essentially forced into a love triangle against her will? A book written so long ago, yet it still manages to be different to the majority of literature today.


This exaggerated, more direct humour is another form in which ‘”Northanger Abbey” differs from Austen’s more subversive novels. This may be as it was, as previously mentioned, her first completed piece, although she had already written the beginning of both “Sense and Sensibility”, as well as “Pride and Prejudice”. Despite being the earliest of her novels completed, the text was published posthumously, and was constantly altered by Austen throughout her life. This, again, signifies another difference which sets “Northanger Abbey” apart. It was particularly close to Austen’s heart, as constant revision of a creative piece of work, typically suggests a deep love for what the artist has created, and a wish for success for something that is so precious to them. Moreover, a considerable amount of the story is set in Bath, and, as “Northanger Abbey” is written in free indirect style, the text provides the reader with Catherine’s opinions of the city, as a newcomer. This, is easily related to Austen, and her family’s move from Hampshire to Bath in 1801. No doubt that at least some impressions of the city made their way into Catherine’s own perception.


Northanger Abbey is certainly one of Austen’s finest novels, which can be understood from the writing style, the humour, and her presentation of her protagonist. Austen held a habit of bonding with her own creations, as can be perceived from the quotation; "Emma is a character whom no one but myself will much like", concerning the eponymous heroine, Emma. Whilst Austen may have admitted to liking Emma, it can be argued that she adored Catherine, the author’s love of the character persuading many others to see her as Austen did. It is apt to end with a quotation from the novel, concerning Catherine herself, and demonstrating how aware Austen was of her potential to be adored; “Every young lady may feel for my heroine”. Once you read the novel, you certainly will. 


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