Northanger Abbey (1803)
Northanger Abbey Analysis
Catherine Moreland is the indulged eldest daughter of a large, happy family. She enjoys long walks in the country and reading novels, but has very little experience of the real world. When she accompanies a neighbor on a vacation to Bath, a town bustling with social activity, she must navigate her first friendships and her first romance. As she endures betrayal, heartbreak, and confusion, she learns how to navigate life outside of books and how to identify a true friend. Austen views her characters and their problems with affection and humor, and, in writing a novel that is ostensibly about the dangers of novels, makes an argument for finding meaning in literature.
Northanger Abbey Discussion Questions
We are told immediately that Catherine does not object to books so long as "nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them" and they are "all story and no reflection."
Escapist fiction continues, in our day, to have a bad reputation. Is that reputation deserved?
The romance genre is arguably our own most popular form of fiction. Is the romance genre empowering or damaging to women readers? Do these fictions have real life implications for women?
Are its antecedents the same novels Austen is poking fun at in Northanger Abbey? Or would you trace its lineage back to Austen herself?
What is the role of fiction in your own life? Why do you read it and what do you want from it?
Catherine Morland is clearly a suggestible reader, but her gullibility extends beyond books into the real world. Is the tendency to think the best of people a trait you admire? Is it a trait you have?
The one character about whom Catherine is inclined to think the worst is General Tilney. Why is this? She is humiliated when Henry realizes how her imagination has run away with her, but how mistaken is she really regarding his general character? Are her powers of imagination more reliable than her powers of observation?
Henry Tilney tells Catherine that his father was attached to his mother and greatly afflicted by her death. Do you believe him? Why or why not?
What does Catherine learn about relationships through the course of the story? What relationship situation could she have handled differently, and what advice would you give her?
(Questions from Penguin.com)