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Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title Northanger Abbey

author Jane Austen

type of work Novel

genre Bildungsroman (novel of education or moral development); parody of Gothic novels

language English (British, late 1700s/early 1800s)

time and place written 1798–1799 in Austen's home in Steventon, Hampshire. It was sold to a publisher in 1803 but not published. Later, after Austen's success with other novels, she bought back the manuscript and revised it slightly. Northanger Abbey was published posthumously in 1817.

date of first publication 1817

publisher John Murray, Albemarle Street

narrator Third person omniscient; free indirect discourse

point of view The narrator varies greatly. Sometimes the narrator is contented to simply describe events normally; sometimes the narrator addresses the reader directly; and sometimes (especially in the second half of the novel) Austen uses the technique of free indirect discourse, in which she describes people and events from a 3rd-person perspective, but in the way that a particular character (in this case, Catherine) sees and understands them.

tone Light, ironic, satirical; gently fond when talking about Catherine

tense Immediate past

setting (time) January–April 1798.

setting (place) The first half of the novel takes place primarily in Bath, England, which was a big resort town for the upper classes. The second half takes place thirty miles away from Bath in Northanger Abbey, a large stone building, formerly a church, that has been converted into the Tilney's home.

protagonist Catherine Morland

antagonist Arguably Isabella Thorpe, her brother John Thorpe, or General Tilney

major conflict Catherine, enjoying the frisson of fear produced by her own literary imagination, scares herself and displeases the man who loves her

climax General Tilney sends Catherine away from Northanger Abbey

falling action Catherine returns home, in misery, to Fullerton. She sulks around the house until Henry arrives and proposes to her. Several months later, after the General grudgingly gives his consent, the two are married.

themes Gothic novels; youth

motifs Reading; wealth and ostentation

symbols Northanger Abbey

foreshadowing Foreshadowing often exists in the novel as a parody of Gothic conventions. On the ride to the Abbey, Henry tells Catherine a hypothetical story about her upcoming first night in Bath, complete with mysterious chests, hidden passages, and villainous doings. This foreshadows Catherine's actual night, when she recreates Henry's prophecy with her imagination.