by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey Theme of Society and Class
Money makes the world go round – or at least the world of Northanger Abbey. Money determines economic and social class, which in turn dictates behavior. Class is central to the overriding marriage concerns that govern society at large, as well as the bulk of the novel's main characters. Money and class definitely create boundaries, but Northanger Abbey often focuses on how things cross these class boundaries: rumors, reading material, relationships, other 'r' words. Money often slams the boundaries between people back down, but usually not for long in Austen's text.
Questions About Society and Class
- In what ways does characters' monetary wealth, or lack thereof, influence their behavior?
- The Thorpes occupy a rather odd class position in the book. They do not have much money, yet they are not in the lower classes either. What is the social position of the Thorpe family, and in what ways can class status and monetary wealth be at odds here?
- Catherine tells John that she believes rich people shouldn't seek out other rich people to marry since it's just greedy. Is this a sound opinion or not?
- Does a person's class affect a person's reputation and the ease with which a person loses a good reputation or gains a bad one?
Chew on This
Northanger Abbey depicts a world where class boundaries are highly permeable and ultimately somewhat illusory.
Northanger Abbey criticizes wealthy and urban lifestyles and prefers simple, country life.