Northanger Abbey


Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey: Style 1 key example

Volume 2, Chapter 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Jane Austen's style comprises a range of characteristics, most notably parody and satire. She uses dramatic diction, verbal irony, and sarcasm to make fun of Gothic fiction and sentimental novels. For example,  in Volume 2, Chapter 8, Catherine imagines that Mrs. Tilney is still alive and romanticizes the possibility of her being trapped in the abbey:

There must be some deeper cause: something was to be done which could be done only while the household slept; and the probability that Mrs. Tilney yet lived, shut up for causes unknown, and receiving from the pitiless hands of her husband a nightly supply of coarse food, was the conclusion which necessarily followed.

Here, Catherine's fanciful imagination bends reality into Gothic fiction. This particular moment evokes the history of Louisa Bernini, a character in A Sicilian Romance long presumed dead until her children found her imprisoned in the family castle. The narrator uses a very formal, quasi-philosophical phrase "the conclusion which necessarily followed" in a sarcastic way to illustrate Catherine's lack of reason and logic.

Dialogue is critical to the development of the characters in Northanger Abbey, too. Each character has their own unique style of speech. For instance, John makes clumsy exclamations, Henry is comparatively witty, and Isabella chatters incessantly. Each type of scene also has its own particular style. Scene types include humorous accounts, satirical rants, and parodies of Gothic fiction. The narrator's voice brings them all together.