Northanger Abbey

Romantic Themes in Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen is commonly viewed as anti-romantic, but her novel Northanger Abbey possesses and promotes many of the ideas prevalent in romantic literature. Heroine Catherine Morland is an especially romantic character whose spontaneity, emotion, and sincerity eventually lead her to happiness. These traits, combined with a rejection of many traditional ideas and a theme of individualism over the norms of aristocratic society, create a novel with more romance than one would typically ascribe to Austen.

Catherine’s spontaneity is one trait that makes her a romantic character. This trait becomes evident during Catherine’s conflicts with John Thorpe. Twice John forces Catherine to break her engagements to walk with the Tilneys, and twice Catherine feels a strong impulse to right this wrongdoing as quickly as possible. Although prevented from acting upon this impulse the first time, the second time she is able to act upon her whim and inform the Tilneys of what has actually occurred. So spontaneous is this decision that Catherine has given little consideration to what she will say: “‘I am come in a great hurry- It was all a mistake- I never promised to go- I told them from the first I could not go.- I ran away in a great hurry to...

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