Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 1 | Summary

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Summary

Catherine Morland, the heroine, is introduced. The narrator informs the reader she is—unlike many heroines—a rather average child. Her mother did not die in childbirth. Instead, she gave birth to 10 children. Her father had two "good livings." The children and parents were healthy but plain. Catherine showed no remarkable intelligence or hobbies. She learned her lessons reasonably well, not showing unusual talents or abilities. Further, there were no young men in her sphere who would fill the role of hero in her story. The chapter ends with the solution to this problem: she was invited to go with Mr. and Mrs. Allen on their travels.

Analysis

Jane Austen's novel begins very self-consciously outlining the ways the heroine is not like the heroines of other novels. The author is transparent in her criticism of the genres she is targeting; this tendency will continue throughout the novel.

Heroines of the time, as well as of other eras, were remarkable. Their families, skills, appearances, or circumstances set them apart from others. Catherine Morland is created to be very different—yet she is still the heroine.

Note also that, in terms of finances, claiming Mr. Morland has a "good living" is to state that he has solid sources of income. In this case, he had a lifetime appointment with income and an "independence" (another source of income). He was not only secure but doubly so—though even these details highlight the plain fact that he was not excessively wealthy.

In all ways, Catherine is solidly average.

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