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Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

by Jane Austen

Youth Theme

Teenagers and twenty-somethings dominate in Northanger Abbey, which is largely about growing up and maturing. Catherine in particular progresses from immature behavior and attitudes towards a much more mature awareness. Youth is also closely linked to the theme of "Foolishness and Folly." Granted, folly isn't limited to the young in terms of age (see General Tilney). Nor are all young people prone to folly (see Eleanor). Youth and a subsequent lack of experience often lead to folly, though. Youth here is more of a potentially problematic state of mind than anything else. And growing up is a matter of mentally and emotionally maturing for many characters.

Questions About Youth

  1. Catherine is often insecure and hesitant to speak her mind. Does Catherine's age contribute to this hesitancy and lack of confidence?
  2. Are there any signs of a definite youth culture in Northanger Abbey? If so, what does youth culture consist of here?
  3. Isabella is four years older than Catherine and is considered a bit "old" to be unwed. How does Isabella's age factor into her behavior?
  4. Many characters, like Mrs. Allen and Isabella, adopt a rather permissive, or overly tolerant, attitude towards youth and note that certain allowances can be made for youthful antics. Is this a good attitude to have? How might this attitude be problematic?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Though Catherine has learned a lot of lessons, in many ways she has not really matured or progressed by the end of the novel.

Catherine is much more mature at the end than she was at the beginning of the novel.

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