Would Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" be considered gothic fiction?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gothic literature is comprised of several recognizable features: the dark and horrific combined with romance and mystery.  Many gothic tales also involve a strange dwelling, often set in an ornate and spooky caste or sprawling estate.  

In Northanger Abbey, Austen is simulatanesoulsy spoofing and adhering to the genre.  The descriptions gothic literature are frequently dramatic, designed to provoke a sense of unease.  We know that young Catherine has a wild imagination, fueled by the "horror" literature of which she is so fond.  In this passage, we see Catherine's mind stoking the mood of the gothic, and Austen's deft portrayal of the genre:

The wind roared down the chimney, the rain beat in torrents against the windows, and everything seemed to speak the awfulness of her situation...The storm still raged, and various were the noises, more terrific even than the wind, which struck at intervals on her startled ear. 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"   (Chapter 21).  

Catherine, eventually, will fall in love with young Henry, the fears she constructed fall apart, and all is well in the end. 


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Northanger Abbey

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