The Theme Of Patriarchy In Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

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Register to read the introduction… It is only during Catherine’s stay at Northanger Abbey that the two women become close friends.

There are vast differences in the two friendships even so far as the language and style of speech used by Isabella and Eleanor. Isabella’s artificial and affected speech contrasts sharply with Eleanor’s polite and reserved small talk. Isabella tends to chatter constantly, changing topics continually. She seems to speak without thinking of the consequences. She is so determined to achieve her own desires
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This is an excellent example of the patriarchal society Gilbert & Gubar speak about in the Critical Reader (p.177). Although Eleanor regards
Catherine as a sister, she is unable to stand up to or question her father’s actions. She asks Catherine to write to her ‘under cover to
Alice’ (p.185 NA) in order not to upset her father. General Tilney has total control over Eleanor, even so far as choosing who her friends are.

At the beginning of Northanger Abbey, Austen’s use of irony can be seen when she refers to Catherine learning the fable of ‘The Hare and many Friends’ (p.2 NA). Austen suggests that Catherine is aware of the dangers of false friends but as the reader soon discovers, that is not true. Catherine is easily deceived by Isabella’s professed friendship. The allusion to this fable suggests that Catherine, like the hare, needs to learn who her true friends are. Austen seems to be suggesting that the reader is about to encounter a satirical, realist novel and to beware of believing all one reads. Austen uses
Northanger Abbey to ridicule the conventional novels of that time with their overwrought heroines, and unnatural emotions. Austen
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Isabella and Eleanor are not only different in their speech and the way they react to others but also in their hobbies. Austen introduces the theme of reading novels through Isabella, which, in Victorian
England, was regarded as an inappropriate pastime, particularly for the higher classes. Whilst Isabella claims to enjoy gothic novels,
Eleanor is interested in factual history books, which were deemed far more appropriate for the upper classes. Isabella introduces Catherine to gothic novels, which, as Clara Reeves posits in the Critical
Reader, may not be a good thing. Clara Reeves (Part I, Critical
Reader) is concerned about the effects of the novel, and whether novels encourage immorality in women. Reeves is concerned that women will not be able to differentiate between reality and fantasy, which is exactly what happens to Catherine at Northanger Abbey. Reeves argues that people should be guided to read novels that are both realistic and moral. However, Austen encourages the reader to consider the merits of the novel and demonstrates that Catherine

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