illustrated portrait of English novelist Jane Austen

Jane Austen

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How do Austen’s fictions, such as Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey exploit Gothic conventions?

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Gothic literature often makes use of supernatural—particularly the horrific side of the supernatural. Northanger Abbey is a wonderful example of how Austen utilizes the full scope of Gothic literature in her writing. Catherine has dreams of being a heroine, which is a hallmark of Gothic literature. She believes the Abbey is haunted—another hallmark. The book takes place in an old, mysterious building—still another hallmark.

The unique aspect of Austen's use of Gothic motifs is that the heroine, Catherine, is actually more obsessed with having a Gothic experience rather than actually experiencing one. She is often reading Gothic literature and longing for an adventure for herself.

The room she stays in is the most Gothic piece of the novel: it is old, and she believes it is haunted.

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