Northanger Abbey A Bildungsroman Analysis

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Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is a Bildungsroman, a coming of age story that focuses on the psychological development of the protagonist, Catherine Morland. This essay will analyse the language and narrative techniques of the extract, and discuss how it suggests vicissitudes in Catherine’s personal perspectives and relationships. In addition, it will discuss the ‘domestic gothic’ and abuse ubiquitous in ordinary situations. Furthermore, it will argue how Austen’s rhetorical techniques work to encourage reader interest as well as exercising perception when distinguishing between appearance and reality. Finally, it will conclude by briefly discussing the significance of the extract within the novel’s wider themes.
Austen creates bathos, intertextually
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‘My dear Eleanor,’ and, ‘do not be so distressed.’ (Austen, 2008).
Setting and imagery is important. The word ‘Abbey’ connotes impenetrable gloom. Throughout this excerpt subtle assonance, alliteration, and repetition are evident by words such as ‘breathless, speechless, double, distance.’ These words give the novel a certain pace and sense of urgency.
Self-deception signifies one of the main themes of the plot. To portray this Austen creates conflict between Catherine and the General. Catherine is ignorant to the workings of English society and comparable to the novels she reads visualises the General as a typical Gothic villain, who has murdered his wife, and she has paranoid assumptions that everything he does, relates to his guilty
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Ostensibly, the Generals patriarchal hold over his family accentuates his tyranny, and military training. It also exposes his controlling obsession with timekeeping, ‘Tomorrow morning is fixed for your leaving us, and not even the hour is left to your choice, the very carriage is ordered, and will be here at seven o’clock.’(Austen, 2008).
The important crux of the novel is Catherine’s eclaircissement, not only to her own naïvety, but to the oppression under which Eleanor lives, as fantasy, gives way to cruelty, as Eleanor states; ‘After courting you from the protection of real friends to this – almost double distance from your home, to have you driven out of the house, without the considerations even of decent civility…..’ (Austen, 2008).

Ultimately, the General’s disregard for Catherine’s safety, and welfare,’ especially on a Sunday and to a clergyman’s daughter with no money’ (AA316, CD2,) acts as an epiphany for Austen’s Bildungsroman as Catherine comes of age, and awakens to the reality of the General’s cruel totalitarianism. The extract denotes motif in Austen’s didactic novel, and depicts the moral lesson of self-deception. Hence, Catherine realises that she has been not only insulted, but endangered, as she is not a woman of property. The connection between wealth and her physical security becomes frighteningly apparent.
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