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Gothic Literature

How does Northanger Abbey satirise gothic literature?

How does Northanger Abbey satirise gothic literature?.
The novel, ‘Northanger Abbey’, is a satire of gothic literature written by Jane Austen between 1798 and 1799 during the era when gothic literature and romanticism were very popular. The novel is a direct parody of Ann Radcliffe’s ‘Mysteries of Udolpho’ and several other popular authors at the time as a means for Austen to criticise the lack of sensibility displayed in gothic novels. It is through her use of typical gothic elements and archetypes, the anti-climactic climaxes, and the false looming danger and mystery that Austen parodies both Radcliffe’s characters and tone as a means of satirising the gothic genre.
Austin displays several gothic elements in ‘Northanger Abbey’, however these elements are really only a figure of Catherine’s delusions. The setting of an old abbey and the innocent heroine pursued by the aristocratic villain with a dark secret are satirised for their typical use to build suspense and tension in gothic novels. Although Catherine perceives Northanger Abbey to be haunted and mysterious, it is far from so; “Its long, damp passages, its narrow cells and ruined chapel, were to be within her daily reach[…]To an imagination which had hoped for the smallest divisions, and the heaviest stone-work, for painted glass, dirt and cobwebs, the difference was very distressing.”(Austen, 1817).
Similarly, she places General Tilney in the archetype of the stereotypical gothic villain believing him to be “an unkind husband”(Austen, 1817) who “did not love her (his wife’s) walk”(Austen, 1817), and therefore could not have loved her. However, she is then proven to be wrong when confronted by Henry Tilney who states that, “You have erred in supposing him not attached to her. He loved her, I am persuaded, as well as it was possible for him to.” (Austen, 1817).

Instead of the looming disaster expected in a gothic novel, Austen uses these elements to satirise the genre. She personifies the public through Catherine Morland when she says, “It had been all a voluntary, self-created delusion, each trifling circumstance receiving importance from an imagination resolved on alarm, and everything forced to bend to one purpose by a mind which, before she entered the Abbey, had been craving to be frightened.” (Austen, 1817). Austin uses Catherine to mock how the public will dissolution themselves to be frightened even when there is no present danger.
It is through Catherine’s errors and foolishness that Austen mocks the traditional heroine of a gothic text. Although she is the heroine, Catherine is always referred to as having “nothing heroic about her” (Austen, 1817) and is often seen as being immature and naïve. Austen denies her the traits associated with the female archetype demonstrated in ‘Mysteries of Udolpho’ and other gothic texts as a way of mocking the gothic heroine stereotype of the intelligent, rich, beautiful female protagonist. Catherine is often compared to Emily St Aubert throughout ‘Northanger Abbey’ as a means of further satirising Catherine’s lack of heroistic qualities.
Emily St Aubert is described as “a beautiful young lady” but also having a “lovely personality as well” (Eva De Ridder, 2014). She had a “sensibility [that] gave a pensive tone to her spirts, and a softness to her manner, which added grace to beauty” (Ann Radcliffe as cited in De Ridder, 2014) contrasting Catherine to be exceptionally plain, “occasionally stupid” (Austen, 1817) and having an ability in drawing, music or a foreign language that is “not remarkable” (Austin, 1817).
In addition, Austen parodies both the father and mother figures in gothic texts, saying how Mr. Morland wasn’t “in the least addicted to locking up his daughters” (Austen, 1817), and how his wife “instead of dying in child birth as anybody might expect, she still lived on to see them (her children) grow up around her and to enjoy excellent health herself” (Austen, 1817). This is Austen’s way of satirising the fact that Catherine cannot be a heroine because she hasn’t experienced any death or sorrow like other gothic female protagonists, such as Emily St Aubert.
Austen additionally satirises the suspense and adventure of a gothic novel by creating anti-climactic climaxes throughout her writing. Catherine, in searching for something mysterious at Northanger Abbey, fails to reveal; “her resolute effort threw back the lid and gave to her astonished eyes the view of a white cotton counterpane, properly folded, reposing at one end of the chest in undisputed possession!” (Austen, 1817); “Her fingers grasped the handle of a drawer and drew it forth. It was entirely empty. With less alarm and greater eagerness, she seized a second, a third, a fourth; each was equally empty” (Austen, 1817). In not creating a gothic style climax, Austen mocks not only Catherine and the gothic genre but also the audience that is reading the book. The audience knows that Catherine won’t find anything because there is nothing to find, yet they still await the looming mystery and danger found in gothic novels.
It is through the imagery of the looming danger that Austen increases the tension and anxiety, even though there is none, satirising the gothic perception of danger; “The very curtains of her bed seemed at one moment in motion, and at another the lock of her door was agitated, as if by the attempt of somebody to enter. Hollow murmurs seemed to creep along the gallery, and more than once her blood was chilled by the sound of distant moans.
Hour after hour passed away, […] she unknowingly fell asleep.” (Austen, 1817). The danger is only perceived by Catherine to be so because she wants to feel like the gothic heroines that she reads about. Her imagination is more frightful than the situation and often leads to her looking naïve and foolish such as in the situation when Eleanor Tilney catches her snooping in an old chest; “[…] the rising shame of having harboured for some minutes and absurd expectation, was then added then shame of being caught in so idle a search.” (Austen, 1817). Austen satirises Catherine’s disillusions to convey how people can succumb to foolish fantasies instead of using common sense.
By satirising the parody of gothic literature, Austen shows the need for balance between feelings and reason through the use of Catherine’s disillusions. Catherine is influenced by the books that she reads and, consequently, desires the world around her to be as if she was in a gothic novel. The danger that she perceives is only a figment created by her imagination. However, it causes her to make assumptions that are false, depicting her to be naïve and foolish. Through this, Austen strives to portray the damaging effects of the gothic genre on young minds and how it might influence them to think irrationally. She demonstrates to the audience how, when reading such a book, one must recognise the fiction for what it is, without replicating it in their real lives.

How does Northanger Abbey satirise gothic literature?

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Gothic Literature

Women in Gothic Literature

Women in Gothic Literature.
“In Gothic Literature women are often portrayed as characters that actively resist their gender stereotypes” In the light of this comment, discuss the different ways in which Angela Carter in The Bloody Chamber and Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre present women in Gothic Literature.
In both Angela Carter’s Gothic collection of short stories, ‘The Bloody Chamber’ and Charlotte Bronte’s Gothic bildungsroman novel, ‘Jane Eyre’, women protagonists are portrayed to defy both physical and psychological stereotypes in society and literature. ‘The Bloody Chamber’ was written during the late 20th century and at the height of the feminist movement; in essence, Carter’s rewriting of classic fairy tales reflected the evolving women’s movement at the time, which called for social and political equality.
‘Jane Eyre’ was written in the Victorian Era, during a time in which women were oppressed and adhered to strict gender stereotypes. Throughout history, women in literature have been portrayed as weak and inferior to men. However, both authors challenge this portraying their female protagonists to gain power in relationships and remain independent, challenging both physical and psychological stereotypes.

Both authors present their female protagonists to be independent, challenging the stereotype view that women are dependent on men to survive. Literature pre-18th Century and the first wave of gothic literature presented women more like damsels in distress rather than heroines. This mirrored society whom often perceived women in need of men for support. Modern gothic literature, however, began to challenge this. Carter’s eponymous story, ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is a rewriting of the French folktale ‘Bluebeard’; This story is of a nobleman who murders his wives in a small room of his archetypal gothic castle.
The narrator and the protagonist is a young girl “tricked into betrayal”, however, ironically the young girl is saved by her mother, in contrast to the original in which the protagonist is heroically saved by her brother. Like a typical gothic story, the heroine is introduced as the trapped princess, imprisoned between the cold walls of the old castle, forbidden to access one room, the bloody chamber. Ultimately this proves to be a test of her obedience and the young girl’s curiosity is punished and the result is near death. Hover, she is saved by her mother. The mother, “without hesitation, raised [the] father’s gun, took aim and put a bullet through [the] husband’s head”.
Rachel Fletcher questions that the weapon “belonging to her father, suggests that she is still in need of her father’s protection, [reaffirming] the tradition of the father as head of the family” . However, when the girl’s father “never returned from the wars”, her mother had no choice to but to fulfil the role of her father. The melodramatic description of the mother on horseback is unquestionably masculine.
She is portrayed as a “wild thing”, “legs exposed”, holding the gun in hand. The mother states that she knew her daughter was at risk as a result of “maternal telepathy”. This gives women an almost supernatural strength in something that would usually be used to suppress them. Subsequently, Carter presents mothers to have an advantage over fathers and therefore in some way superior. Carter’s subversive reworking of the typical ‘man saves woman’ story, portrays that women are just as capable of “[raising the gun]”, and not the vulnerable character their stereotype suggests.
This is also seen in Carter’s ‘The Courtship of Mr. Lyon’, a reworking of the traditional tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. However, in contrast to the original, it is the female which rescues the male; thus, the reversal of roles shows females to not only be independent but for men even to be reliant on women. After having found wealth in London, the female protagonist, Beauty, returns to the Beast – Mr. Lyon; who without beauty, “could not eat” or “go hunting” and feebly waited for death.
The metamorphic portrayal of the man, as an animal and something to be feared, satirises male chauvinism, which is undermined as he becomes less beast-like in his ability to hunt and kill. Carter’s pathetic portrayal of the beast seems to mock the depiction of the man reliant on a woman. As Beauty saves the Beast she tamed his bestial nature and he is transformed into a human male. Therefore, proving that the female protagonist’s in Carters tales are not reliant on men to protect them and are even capable of saving the men.
Like Carter, Bronte also presents Jane Eyre to be independent, in a sense that she is not reliant on a male to survive. However, Eyre is presented as financially independent. During the 19th Century, Victorian women had to endure inequality within marriage and society, whilst men had more stability and financial status. Subsequently, the Victorian woman was often heavily financially reliant on the husband.
In the novel, after the revelation of Rochester’s legal wife, Jane decides to leave, choosing independence over richness. Weeks passed, and yet despite Jane being “much exhausted, and suffering greatly” she refuses to return to the “bed [she] had left”. Instead, Jane sleeps “on the cold, drenched ground” as the “rain descends”. Bronte uses pathetic fallacy to portray the penetrating wind and rain reflect her discomfort and emphasise Jane’s sombre state of mind. This further highlights Jane’s independence, despite great discomfort Eyre refuses to rely on a man to make it better. As a bildungsroman novel, the changes of emotions and maturity of identities as Jane Eyre struggles through her hardship is evident. As the novel progresses Jane works her way up to a governess – one of the few jobs women could have in the Victorian Era – and earns her own money. Eventually, Jane returns to Mr. Rochester. Patrick Kelleher argues that “[Jane’s] acceptance of Rochester sends out a very clear, and very sad message to all readers of this novel; Jane could not overcome her circumstances. She could not thrive independently, because a nineteenth-century woman of her social stature could not be in a position to do so”. However, it is obvious she is not returning out of desperation as Kelleher suggests. After circumstances change, and Janes fortunes change, Jane is able to return to Rochester as an equal. The return is not because she could not thrive on her own or lack of control, but the complete opposite. Jane returns, as his “second self, and best earthly companion”, because she loves Rochester rather than because she depends on him. In both, the female is independent and not reliant on a male to solve the problem, like their gender stereotypes, suggest they should.

Women in Gothic Literature

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