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Northanger Abbey

by Jane Austen
288 pages, Romance
Reviewed by Jeanne

A light, amusing satire and romance with some language.

Plot

Catherine Morland is a rattlebrained but not unlikeable young woman who has lived all of her seventeen years with her large family in a country village. When her friends the Allens ask her to accompany them to Bath, she is exuberant; there she makes an acquaintance with a young man named Henry Tilney, forms a friendship with a young woman named Isabella, and develops a fondness - nay, an obsession - with Gothic novels. The story is a satire of that genre of books, so popular at the time, and also chronicles Catherine's adventures as she falls in love with and tries to capture the heart of Henry Tilney.

Morality

Catherine's parents are not very guarded when it comes to their children and are nearly negligent, though they are not portrayed as a bad sort of people. Several of the characters have a great fondness for money and manipulate others to gain themselves more wealth, which is portrayed as wrong. Catherine herself is a very pleasant and well-meaning girl, though she gets herself into scrapes because of her love of mysterious romance novels, and she always thinks the best of people; she is also very concerned about propriety.

A character defies their father on the subject of who they are to marry, but considering the father's reasons and the circumstances, the defiance can be deemed reasonable and even right. On that subject Austen ends her novel with the words, "...I leave it to be settled by whomsoever it concerns, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny or reward filial disobedience."

Spiritual Content

Henry Tilney and Catherine's father are in the "profession" of the Church, and parsonages are mentioned frequently. The characters attend church on Sundays. Occasionally one will exclaim, "Dear God!" or "Oh God!" in a way that seems more to be a prayer than an idle ejaculation.

Violence

The Gothic novels often had overblown violence in them, and that is referenced occasionally. Catherine and Isabella talk about someone's skeleton in the book "Udolpho." Later, Henry makes up an amusing narrative about what Catherine might find at Northanger Abbey, and he mentions a dagger and "drops of blood." He also talks earlier about a supposed skirmish in London. Because the novel is a satire of those works, there are some parts that seem slightly creepy - but it is always done in a light manner and with wit from the authoress.

Drug and Alcohol Content

John begins to inform Catherine that not nearly enough alcohol is drunk in Bath and tells her that at Oxford they drink nearly three times that; she replies indignantly that they drink far too much.

Sexual Content

One character flirts and is inconstant; John pursues Catherine and prides himself on gaining her, though she dislikes him a great deal. As aforementioned, Catherine is very concerned about propriety and never does things that she feels would not be suitable. She is in love with Henry Tilney, but her feelings are very chaste.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Isabella's brother, John, swears often, his words being written out like "d----". He says "Lord!" very frequently, and Austen sometimes merely references him swearing rather than writing out the word.

Conclusion

"Northanger Abbey" is one of Austen's smaller and less appreciated novels, and is for the most part merely a satire of Gothic novels. It is not written in the authoress' usual style: Catherine's various antics and Henry's wit are hilarious, but with a lighter and freer humor than is in Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is almost polar opposite to Persuasion, which was also posthumously published. The only complaint the reader may have against the book is the end, which, admittedly, feels very rushed - perhaps because the authoress was primarily focusing on the satire and not the romance. Regardless, it is still a good, quick read for a rainy day.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 3.5
Written for Age: adult

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