Northanger Abbey  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Northanger Abbey is a "gothic novel" by Jane Austen, first published posthumously in 1817.

Major themes

  • The Intricacies and tedium of high society, particularly partner selection
  • The conflicts of marriage for love, and marriage for property
  • Life lived as if in a Gothic novel, one filled with danger and intrigue.
  • The dangers of believing life is the same as fiction
  • The maturation of the young into sceptical adulthood, the loss of imagination, innocence and good faith
  • Things are not what they seem at first

In addition, Catherine Morland realises she is not to rely upon others, such as Isabella, who are negatively influential on her, but to be single minded and independent. It is only through bad experiences that Catherine really begins to properly mature individually and grow up.

Literary significance & criticism

Northanger Abbey is fundamentally a parody of the gothic novel. Austen turns the conventions of eighteenth-century novels on their head, by making her heroine a plain and undistinguished girl from a middle-class family, allowing the heroine to fall in love with the hero before he has a serious thought of her, and exposing the heroine's romantic fears and curiosities as groundless.

Northanger Abbey exposes the difference between reality and fantasy and questions who can be trusted as a true companion and who might actually be a shallow, false friend. It is considered to be the most light-hearted of her novels.

Publishing history

Northanger Abbey was the first of Jane Austen's novels to be completed for publication, though she had previously made a start on Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. According to Cassandra Austen's Memorandum, Susan (as it was first called) was written about the years 1798-1799.

Northanger Abbey was written by Austen in 1798, revised for the press in 1803, and sold in the same year for £10 to a Bath bookseller, Crosbie & Co., who after allowing it to remain for many years on his shelves, was content to sell it back to the novelist's brother, Henry Austen, for the exact sum that he had paid for it at the beginning, not knowing that the writer was already the author of four popular novels. The novel was further revised before being brought out posthumously in late December 1817 (1818 given on the title-page), as the first two volumes of a four-volume set with Persuasion.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Northanger Abbey" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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