Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey


Jane Austen

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Themes and Colors
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Northanger Abbey, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Novels and the Heroine

From its very first sentence, Northanger Abbey draws attention to the fact that it is a novel, describing its protagonist Catherine Morland as an unlikely heroine. Catherine is “unlikely” because, in most of the novels of the late 18th and early 19th century, heroines were exceptional both in their personalities and in their lives’ circumstances, while Catherine is a rather average young woman. Throughout Northanger Abbey, Austen mocks typical novelistic conventions for their predictability, though…

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Sincerity and Hypocrisy

Northanger Abbey describes the experiences of Catherine Morland, a sincere young woman raised in a small, rural parsonage, as she comes into her first sustained contact with the worldly and sometimes hypocritical world of society. Catherine has grown up being told explicitly how others viewed her and her behavior, but those she meets in Bath society sometimes lie about or hide their true opinions to influence or manipulate others. Specifically, Catherine is taken in by…

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Wealth and Respectability

Northanger Abbey, like all of Jane Austen’s novels, looks closely at the role wealth plays in social relationships, especially those between young people considering marrying. For Austen, social rank is not only determined hierarchically, with the wealthiest and those with the highest rank in the aristocracy at the top and all others below. Instead, most of the characters in Northanger Abbey are not aristocrats (with the exception of Eleanor Tilney after she marries a…

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Experience and Innocence

Like most of Jane Austen’s novels, Northanger Abbey is concerned with whether a young person will mature into a good judge of character. Some well-meaning adults in Northanger Abbey have blind spots that keep them from being objective judges of character, while other adults are manipulative, cruel, and hypocritical. As she navigates relationships with these different types of people, the pressing question for the young protagonist Catherine Morland is whether, in growing up and moving…

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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. In most of the sentimental novels written during the time when Austen was working on Northanger Abbey, the heroine is exceptionally beautiful and the hero is head over heels in love with her. In Northanger Abbey, on the other hand, the roles are reversed…

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