The Characterization Of Catherine Morland And Details Of Her Experiences As Criticism Of The Gothic Novel.
Jane Austen consciously refers to and comments on the standards and conventions of the gothic genre in her novel Northanger Abbey. Throughout the entire narrative she portrays her main character, Catherine Morland, as ordinary and the opposite of the heroines customarily seen in the gothic novels of the time. "She (Catherine) never could learn or understand any thing before she was taught; and sometimes not even then, for she was often inattentive, and occasionally stupid" (13). This purposely uses anti-heroic language to demonstrate how Catherine is not unlike the common young female of her time, contrary to female protagonists of gothic novels. Austen ironically uses a hyperbolic diction to show just how far Catherine Morland is from being extraordinary, as she explains that for Catherine "To look almost pretty, is an acquisition of higher delight than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive"(14). Austen is exaggerating to the point of humor as she brings a lot of attention to such a mundane compliment given from a father to his daughter.
The characterization of Catherine Morland serves to direct the form of the novel to garner a more realistic approach, and to steer it away from the sensational nature of works like The Monk and The Italian. Austen feels that readers of the novel are intelligent, and therefore will better benefit from reading books with realistic characters whom they can relate to and learn from. As Catherine grows while the story progresses she matures into a normal woman; she becomes relatively sensible and experienced, and she starts a family for herself. "His (General Tilney) departure gave Catherine the first experimental conviction that a loss may sometimes be a gain" (192). She was gaining wisdom and applying it to the situations she found herself in over the course of life.