Analyzing Austen's Use Of Satire Essay

961 words - 4 pages

Jane Austen is best known for novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, wherein the female protagonist spends the majority of the book falling for her brooding male counterpart. However, while specks of this common theme are present within Northanger Abbey, a large aspect of the novel is Austen’s use of satire to mock gothic novels of the time. Throughout the story, Austin also seems to jeer at the culture in which she has placed her characters. She structures her characters with seemingly stereotypical attributes, focusing this mostly on the females. With her use of contrasting details to that of a gothic, exaggerated techniques common to a gothic, as well as hyperbolic character traits, Austen is able to successfully satirize gothic novels along with the view some had of women associated with them.
The idea of the gothic novel, as well as its satire, is introduced within the first few pages of the novel. The reader is told of Catherine’s upbringing, stating at one point that her mother, “…had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as any body might expect, she still lived on…to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself” (3). This, along with other elements, is essential in beginning the satire of the gothic novels. In a gothic, the young female protagonist would probably have had a terrible childhood, either orphaned or raised only by her terrible father. However, this is not what Catherine experienced at all. If anything, she actually had a rather pleasant childhood. Austen even has Catherine, and her new friend Isabella Thorpe, read The Mysteries of Udolpho, which was a widely known gothic novel. All of these factors help to reveal that Catherine’s story is not all at that of a gothic. The many pleasantries throughout, although witness to some misfortune, create a novel that is everything a gothic is not, thus satirizing and even slightly criticizing it.
In trying to parody the gothics within Northanger Abbey, Austen must also utilize some of the most dominant facets of said novels. Two scenes, or instances, within the story that most greatly represent this occur after Catherine has arrived at Northanger Abbey. On the journey there, Henry poked fun at Catherine’s apparent obsession over the gothic novels. He fabricates an entire story, taking cue from gothics, during the carriage ride there about a stormy night and a hidden manuscript within a mysterious interest. This peaks Catherine’s interest and leads up to a scene straight out of a true gothic. All the events Henry said were coming true. Austen’s imagery conjures up a scene filled with the perfect amount of fright and tension. At one point she writes, “Darkness impenetrable and immovable filled the room. A violent...

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