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Published: 08-11-2019

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Realism or Romance

The realistic novel, characterized by its presentation of reality and rational philosophy, was a genre created in response to the romantic, or “gothic,” novel and which was characterized by sensationalist escapism. In contrast to romanticism’s poetic and dreamlike language, the diction of the realistic novel was far more all-natural and simple-frequently producing use of satire or dialogue. Realism tended to concentrate much more on character study rather than on actual plot, and lacked the great events of the gothic novel. However, Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey broke from the conventions of both literary techniques in that it utilized aspects from each realism and romanticism.

Austen’s use of dialogue and satire, as nicely as the ordinary events depicted via the novel, highlight the realistic aspects of the operate. Rather than employing the flowery, romantic words recalling these used by writers such as Pope, Grey and Thompson (5), this piece utilizes matter-of-reality dialogue between the characters to describe the events. For instance, Henry Tilney’s interaction with Catherine (15) is comprised primarily of dialogue, and relies upon their speech rather than on narrative description. The speaker utilizes tone and totally free indirect discourse as a implies of revealing the minds of the characters, who are arguably a lot more crucial to the realistic novel than the plot. Free indirect discourse makes it possible for the readers insight into the characters’ emotions and thoughts in scenes by way of the voice of the narrator without the use of dialogue. As Catherine explores the Abbey for the initial evening, the storm and the “characteristic sounds” make her feel as though “she genuinely [is] in an Abbey” (138). This reveals her personal misconceptions of Northanger Abbey, and the expectations she has of its similarities to the setting of a true gothic romance. These elements aid to show a lot more of the characters’ inner thoughts, enabling the narrator to reveal their improvement all through the novel.

The ordinary qualities of the characters in Northanger Abbey, and especially that of Catherine, are used to allocate a sense of reality to their individual personas. The novel’s heroine, Catherine, lacks the qualities of the common gothic romance heroine. The reason for her “strange, unaccountable character” is that she does not have any of the outstanding qualities or extraordinary talents so often found in the gothic novel heroines, but rather is described as decidedly “ordinary” (4). Nonetheless, Catherine’s maturation is evident toward the end of the novel she has developed the potential to see men and women for who they are (specifically Isabella and General Tilney). Upon reading Isabella’s letter describing what occurred with Frederick Tilney, Catherine finally realizes the “inconsistencies, contradictions, and falsehood” that have revolved around their friendship, and declares the contents of the letter “disgusting…empty, and…impudent” (182). This reveals how Catherine is now capable to see Isabella’s accurate nature. Her interaction with Henry and willingness to speak against his brother Frederick, declaring that she “must say that [she does] not like him at all” (182), shows a newfound independence and further development in that she is now speaking up against Henry, whom she fears offending. Right after Basic Tilney abruptly makes Catherine return house, her capability to speak up about it to Eleanor rather than accept it quietly reveals her increasing maturity. Though “it [is] with pain” that Catherine speaks up at all, she mentions her anxiousness about the General’s behavior for the sake of her friendship with Eleanor.

The darker tone of the second half of Northanger Abbey as properly as the theme of the gothic novel infuse the piece with components of romanticism. Catherine’s obsession with gothic novels, as revealed by means of her discussions of Udolpho and the importance of reading such novels with Isabella (29), shows the idealized view of the genre by individuals of the time period. Catherine’s exploration of Northanger Abbey sets the mood for the second half of the novel she views the dark and mysterious mansion to be the optimal gothic setting. Her great imaginings of what she finds within the manor as effectively as the mystery she creates surrounding the late Mrs. Tilney set the mood for an atypical gothic piece. However, her fantasies are shattered when the home is found to be an ordinary manor and those living within no a lot more amazing than Catherine herself. Even though bracing herself for an amazing adventure “just like a book” when Henry indulges her fancy in the carriage ride to the Abbey (131), her fantasies of mysterious papers and dark corridors are broken when the issues she discovers are “scarcely more interesting” (143) than a washing bill and a wife who passed away from all-natural causes. Austen locations this ordinary, anti-gothic heroine in a supposedly gothic novel-like setting as a implies of incorporating gothic themes into her realistic novel.

Despite the fact that a realistic novel, Northanger Abbey utilizes romantic themes in an work to satirize the gothic genre. Even though the diction, structure, characters and events are realistic, several qualities of the piece draw on romantic themes. Austen areas “normal” characters such as Catherine into mundane circumstances to reverse the theme of the extraordinary gothic heroine going by way of unbelievable experiences. The writer places Catherine into circumstances that a gothic heroine may well embark on, and purposely makes them ordinary. Austen also tends to make direct references to novels throughout this story. Her excerpts from romance writers as Gray, Thompson, Pope and Shakespeare are satirically placed, displaying how Catherine, a realistic character in a realistic novel, seeks the life of the gothic heroine by way of “the memories [of] these quotations” (5). Austen later makes a direct reference to novelists of the time period and their practices of placing down other novelists (25). These themes, employed in conjunction with the realistic setting and characters of the novel, mock the romantic genre and its various absurdities.
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