Review: Jane Austen’s ‘Northanger Abbey’ (2023)


Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen’s shortest novel, and though she first drafted it in her mid-twenties, this was her final completed work. The text was published posthumously.

It is my third Austen, and here I’ll blaspheme by saying that my feelings on this author’s work up until this point have been a bit take-it-or-leave-it. I enjoyed both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, but neither of them really excited me. I appreciated them more as the precursors which paved the way for Georgette Heyer (whose comedic Regency romances I can’t get enough of) than as fantastic reads in their own right.

Northanger Abbey has some noticeable differences when compared to the aforementioned works, however. It is just as much a romance, but it has several Gothic elements, which it is designed to satirise. I agree with the general opinion that this the funniest Austen novel – at least of those I have read – and this has cemented it as my favourite so far.

(Video) Northanger Abbey By Jane Austen - Book Review

When a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.

Catherine Morland is seventeen, and experiencing her first venture into fashionable society. Lovely, but very naïve and impressionable, she is introduced to all the enjoyments of Bath, including balls, eligible bachelors, and Gothic novels – which were at the time of Austen’s writing very much en vogue.

To get the best possible reading experience from Northanger Abbey, I do think it is beneficial to have read the texts which this one makes reference to, especially The Mysteries of Udolpho, and A Sicilian Romance. However, I have read neither, nor any of Ann Radcliffe’s other works, and I was able to muddle through with only a few references to the notes in the appendix.

Northanger Abbey is split into two 100 page volumes, which are in a way separate stories. The first chronicles Catherine’s experiences in Bath, and the friends she meets there. The second removes our over-imaginative protagonist to the Tilney family estate – the eponymous abbey – and makes much ridicule of her scatter-brained innocence. The two threads of the tale eventually wind together in a somewhat predictable, but tidy and sweet close.

(Video) Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen | Review

‘But you never read novels, I dare say?’

‘Why not?’

‘Because they are not clever enough for you – gentlemen read better books.’

‘The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.’

(Video) Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey | Summary & Review

The chief strengths of this text are its willingness to make fun of its heroine (and hero), and the supreme characterisation of its supporting cast. The insufferable Isabella Thorpe and her odious brother are fantastic creations, and I think Catherine is a realistic seventeen-year-old. This is perhaps not quite so literary a text as some of Austen’s other works, but the lightness of it was more to my taste in terms of readerly enjoyment.

Taken as a coming-of-age/romance, there is a charm to this novel which is hard to beat. The best comedic lines are born more from Austen’s witty dialogue and gentle mocking of her characters than from the Gothic satire elements, but this second aspect of the novel does give it unique character which I think serves to distinguish the text.

Basically, this book is lovely. Though not the most intellectually stimulating of the classics, it makes for an enjoyable read. For me, this is a sickbed type of book. An easy but engaging page-turner for those days when you just want something to make you smile.


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(Video) Thoughts on "Northanger Abbey" by Jane Austen


What is the message of Northanger Abbey? ›

Loyalty and Love. Northanger Abbey is a courtship novel that goes against certain important conventions of “courtship novels,” especially to make the point that loyalty is the surest sign of true love.

What is a brief summary of Northanger Abbey? ›

Northanger Abbey follows the life and loves of its unlikely heroine, seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland, a naïve young woman away from her family for the first time and trying to navigate the world and the heart—with all their innate complexities.

Why was Catherine kicked out of Northanger Abbey? ›

Catherine also learns that General Tilney only kicked her out of the house because he found out she wasn't as rich as he'd supposed.

What is the meaning of Northanger Abbey? ›

Northanger Abbey refers to the castle-like building that one of the book's main families, the Tilneys, call home. With a title like this, it seems like the whole book would be taking place at, well, the Abbey.

What happened in the ending of Northanger Abbey? ›

Within a few months, Eleanor marries a very wealthy and important man, which puts the General in a good mood. Once he is told of the true nature of the Morland's financial situation, which is moderate, he gives his consent, and the novel ends with the marriage of Henry and Catherine.

What are the main conflicts in Northanger Abbey? ›

The narrative has two sources of conflict: internal and external. The internal conflict arises due to Catherine's own inability to distinguish fiction from reality. The external conflict arises from Catherine being pursued and manipulated by the Thorpes for their own ends.

What is the climax of Northanger Abbey? ›

The climax is a bit of a moral one – that doesn't mean it's not exciting. Catherine accuses General Tilney of being a murderer to Henry, albeit in a round about way. Probably not the best thing to tell your crush, but there you go. Henry calls her on her behavior and Catherine realizes the error of her ways.

Who is the villain in Northanger Abbey? ›

John Thorpe is the true villain of Northanger Abbey—as Austen suggests through her parody of Ann Radcliffe's gothic novels.

Who does Catherine end up with in Northanger Abbey? ›

Henry Tilney: A quirky 26-year-old well-read clergyman, brother of Eleanor and Frederick Tilney, and a member of the wealthy Tilney family. He is Catherine's love interest and comes to return her feelings in the course of the novel and marries her in the end.

Why does Mr Tilney love Catherine? ›

So in the end, their romance is not earth-shattering, it is simple and uncomplicated. Henry Tilney loves Catherine because she loves him and she is smitten with him because he was basically the first man to pay her any attention.

Does Northanger Abbey have a happy ending? ›

Which book genresuits you the most? Northanger Abbey has a very neat and tidy and rather clichéd ending: all the nice main characters get married to other nice characters and live happily ever after.

Who does Eleanor end up with in Northanger Abbey? ›

Eleanor Tilney is the only daughter of General Tilney, an ambitious man who wants his children to marry for wealth and status; however, Eleanor has fallen in love with her brother Henry's penniless friend who visited Northanger Abbey. By chance, her lover inherits a viscountcy, and she is able to marry him.

Who is the hero in Northanger Abbey? ›

In Jane Austen's words, Henry Tilney, the hero of Northanger Abbey, seemed to be about “four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it.”

Why is the novel called Northanger Abbey? ›

Austen was 23-24 years old, and it seems likely that her first visit to Bath in 1797 inspired her to set part of the novel in that city. The manuscript was originally titled Susan but was renamed Northanger Abbey when it was published posthumously.

Who is the protagonist in Northanger Abbey? ›

Catherine Morland

The protagonist of Northanger Abbey. Catherine is seventeen years old, and has spent all her life in her family's modest home in the rural area of Fullerton. While Catherine has read many novels (particularly Gothic novels), she is very inexperienced at reading people.

Who does Isabella end up with in Northanger Abbey? ›

It turns out Isabella is in love with James Morland. She's thrilled when he arrives in Bath with her older brother John. Isabella goes out riding with James while Catherine rides with John. She tries to pressure Catherine into ditching the Tilneys to come on an excursion with her, John, and James.

Does Catherine marry Henry Tilney? ›

Henry Tilney is a main character in Northanger Abbey. He is married to Catherine Morland Tilney.

Does Isabella Thorpe sleep with Captain Tilney? ›

In "NORTHANGER ABBEY", he allowed the engaged Isabella Thorpe to have sex with the lecherous Captain Frederick Tilney, instead of simply flirting with him.

Why is Catherine Morland a heroine? ›

Catherine is an unlikely heroine, too, because her person, meaning, her looks, go against the fictional norm. Most heroines in Gothic novels were stunningly beautiful, virtuous, dutiful, accomplished, and modest. They were perfect women stuck in perilous circumstances.

What is the foreshadowing in Northanger Abbey? ›

foreshadowingForeshadowing 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.

How does Catherine change in Northanger Abbey? ›

By the end of the novel, she has become a much better judge of character, having learned from her mistakes with Isabella and General Tilney. She is also, perhaps, a bit more cynical about people, as Henry is. Ultimately, it is her integrity and caring nature that win Henry's heart and bring her happiness.

Who is the narrator in Northanger Abbey? ›

The third-person narrative in Northanger Abbey is filtered primarily through Catherine. We see people and events through her eyes, and are given access to her thoughts and feelings in a way we are not with any other character.

How is Northanger Abbey a satire? ›

In our case, Northanger Abbey is a satire in which Jane Austen portrays her society and questions its conventions and values. She mocks eighteenth century literature and more specifically Radcliffean Gothic literature.

How is Northanger Abbey a feminist novel? ›

By portraying Catherine as a non-conventional female character, Austen rejects the normal social customs for women and attempts to change them with her writing. The extremely important message of asserting women's rationality is apparent in Northanger Abbey through Austen's mockery of the praise for stupidity in women.

Is Catherine Morland a hero? ›

The Un-Heroic Heroine

Catherine is many things, but heroic isn't one of them. She is hapless, at times a bit ridiculous, but always very kind and sweet. She is also inexperienced and naive, and young.

What kind of heroine is Catherine Morland? ›

Catherine Morland is the heroine of Jane Austen's 1817 novel Northanger Abbey. A modest, kind-hearted ingénue, she is led by her reading of Gothic literature to misinterpret much of the social world she encounters.

Is there a love interest in Northanger Abbey? ›

When she goes to stay in Bath, she meets the Tilney and Thorpe siblings, hijinks ensue, and she ends up falling in love with the dashing Henry Tilney, and goes to stay with him and his sister in their family's austere manor.

Is Catherine in love with Peter? ›

Ultimately, across The Great season 2, Catherine has fallen in love with Peter. When she attacks Pugachev, she does so with his back turned to ensure that she doesn't have to see the face of the man that she loves as she kills him.

Does Lady Catherine have a daughter? ›

Lady Catherine is the widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh. If she were not noble, she would be styled as Lady de Bourgh, since her husband was a knight. The couple had a single daughter, Anne de Bourgh.

Who is the best Jane Austen hero? ›


Darcy has endured as Austen's most popular hero — and one of the most popular romantic heroes of all time.

Who tells Catherine she must leave Northanger Abbey? ›

Eleanor shows Catherine around the house and tells her about her mother, who died nine years earlier. At the General's behest, Eleanor tells Catherine she must leave Northanger Abbey.

Why do Mr and Mrs Morland refuse to give their consent for the marriage of Catherine and Henry What are they waiting for? ›

Collins's proposal. In Northanger Abbey, Mr. and Mrs. Morland at first withhold their consent, not because they dislike Henry, not because they are angry at the general, but because the general has a right to forbid his son to marry the lady he has chosen, the lady who has accepted his proposal.

Is Northanger Abbey difficult to read? ›

In terms of plot and style, Northanger Abbey isn't that hard to follow. Sure, the language is a bit old fashioned and some of the speech patterns do take a little getting used to, but the book is pretty straightforward overall. It's also relatively short too, and makes for a fun, and funny, read.

Why should I read Northanger Abbey? ›

A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen's "Gothic parody." Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.

Who does Catherine Morland fall in love with? ›

Here is an example of how the narrator describes Catherine at the very beginning of the novel: “Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her.” Catherine falls in love with Henry Tilney, whose father is the villain of the novel.

Who does Jane Austen's Emma end up with? ›

The novel thus concludes with three marriages: Jane and Frank, Harriet and Robert, and Emma and Mr. Knightley.

Does Eleanor become a good person? ›

By the end of the show, Eleanor shows the most improvement out the main characters, being a selfless and caring person. She spends her time in the actual Good Place after fixing how humans are judged in the afterlife spending time with her now-fiancé Chidi.

What are the Gothic themes in Northanger Abbey? ›

Suspense, anxiety, looming disaster, and all that stuff are at the core of the Gothic genre, from Dracula to The Turn of the Screw. Northanger Abbey lacks supernatural and horror elements that generally make up the Gothic, but it does have lots of suspense and anxiety.

What perspective is Northanger Abbey? ›

Often, the narrator directly addresses the reader Ferris Bueller-style and uses the first person "I." So Northanger Abbey is mainly an example of third person limited omniscient narration, in that we primarily stick with Catherine and get the story from her perspective.

Why is Northanger Abbey a Gothic parody? ›

Most literary critics refer to Northanger Abbey as Jane Austen's "Gothic parody" because it satirizes the form and conventions of the Gothic novels that were popular during the time when Austen wrote Northanger Abbey.

What is the main purpose of Lady Catherine's visit? ›

The ironic result of Lady Catherine's visit is to insure the marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth. Lady Catherine came in order to prevent it, but when Darcy hears the manner in which Elizabeth answered her, he realizes that Elizabeth's feelings must have changed in some degree.

Is Northanger Abbey about feminism? ›

At the same time, Northanger Abbey could also be considered Jane Austen's proto-feminist critique of the gender relations and social structures of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century.

What do you think is Jane Austen's purpose in her portrayal of Lady Catherine? ›

Darcy's change in personality, and accentuates the caring nature of Mrs. Gardiner. In a more global sense, Jane Austen uses Lady Catherine as a means of criticizing the social status of young women during early 19th century England, but more importantly, as a way of debunking rank as an indicator of character.

Is Northanger Abbey a feminist novel? ›

Austen's Northanger Abbey is not outrightly depicted as a feminist novel, but by portraying Catherine in the way she does, Austen questions the literary ideal female type.

Why does Lady Catherine want Darcy to marry her daughter? ›

Lady Catherine says that her daughter must marry Mr. Darcy since it was planned upon her daughter's birth. Lady Catherine is powerful and tries to forbid Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's marriage, but Elizabeth undoes her power.

Why does Lady Catherine not want Darcy to marry Elizabeth? ›

One of Lady Catherine's main arguments against Elizabeth's marrying Darcy is her concern for Darcy's reputation in high society; if Darcy were to marry Miss de Bourgh, he would be better off. Here Elizabeth again catches her out of order.

What does Lady Catherine de Bourgh symbolize? ›

Like Mr Collins, his patroness Lady Catherine is a fixed character of exaggerated propensities, a caricature, in her case representing the extremes of snobbish pride and prejudice, which he is only too happy to absorb and reflect.

Why is Northanger Abbey satire? ›

In our case, Northanger Abbey is a satire in which Jane Austen portrays her society and questions its conventions and values. She mocks eighteenth century literature and more specifically Radcliffean Gothic literature.

What is the main idea of Jane Austen? ›

Morality, characterized by manners, duty to society and religious seriousness, is a central theme of Austen's works. Drawing on the Johnsonian tradition, Austen uses words such as "duty" and "manners" consistently throughout her fiction as signifiers of her ethical system.

Why does Mrs Bennet want to marry her daughters? ›

Mrs. Bennet wants her daughters to marry soon, because otherwise, the Bennets are in danger of losing their home. In late eighteenth and early nineteenth century England, women were not allowed to own property. In the case of the Bennets, there is no male heir to keep the property.

Why did Mrs Bennet marry Mr Bennet? ›

Bennet perhaps sought to marry in order to break the entail with the birth of an heir. The narrator reveals this to the reader directly by stating that, when the couple first married “economy was held to be perfectly useless; for, of course, they were to have a son… to join in cutting off the entail” (Austen, 470).

Who is married by the end of the novel Northanger Abbey? ›

Henry Tilney: A quirky 26-year-old well-read clergyman, brother of Eleanor and Frederick Tilney, and a member of the wealthy Tilney family. He is Catherine's love interest and comes to return her feelings in the course of the novel and marries her in the end.

Why is Northanger Abbey a gothic parody? ›

Most literary critics refer to Northanger Abbey as Jane Austen's "Gothic parody" because it satirizes the form and conventions of the Gothic novels that were popular during the time when Austen wrote Northanger Abbey.


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