Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*Bath. Resort city in western England famous for its hot springs and Roman ruins. Catherine visits Bath for several weeks at the invitation of the Allens, owners of Fullerton. At first, Catherine experiences the discomfort of being in such a crowded place without knowing anyone else there; however, she has Ann Radcliffe’s gothic novel to occupy her mind as she begins to meet people. A whole new world opens to her at Bath; she is delighted with the social life of the colony. There, she meets the more worldly Isabella Thorpe, who takes it upon herself to instruct Catherine in the ways of society. Isabella also introduces Catherine to her brother, John Thorpe.
Northanger Abbey. Old country home of the Tilneys, who invite Catherine to come for a visit. Catherine is thrilled because reading Radcliffe’s novel makes her expect to find subterranean tunnels, haunted rooms, and medieval furnishings in the abbey. Her overnourished imagination moves her to begin her stay by trying to open old cabinets in her room and imagining the medieval manuscripts she may find. Her host, General Tilney, is a widower and an unsympathetic character, and Catherine builds a fantasy of the unhappy life of his former wife, leading her to suspect that the woman died under painful circumstances–perhaps even that the general himself did away with her. Catherine also imagines that Tilney’s wife may still be living–imprisoned somewhere within the abbey. However, when Catherine actually visits the former Mrs. Tilney’s bedroom, she is surprised to discover how pleasant and modern it is; indeed, it is one of the most attractive rooms in the abbey. She subsequently learns the prosaic truth about Mrs. Tilney’s illness and death and is embarrassed by her own wild imaginings. The truth destroys most of her fantasy-based ideas about Northanger Abbey.
Northanger Abbey is an amusing parody of gothic novels, with their mysterious castles and abbeys, gloomy villains, incredibly accomplished heroines, sublime landscapes, and supernatural claptrap. Austen’s satire is not, however, pointed only at such novels; the exaggerated romantic sensibility of the gothic enthusiast is also a target. Northanger Abbey is a comic study of the ironic discrepancies between the prosaic world in which Catherine lives and the fantastic shapes that her imagination, fed by gothic novels, gives to that world. Throughout the novel, the author holds up the contrast between the heroine’s real situation and the gothic world she fantasizes.