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Northanger Abbey’s Setting

Victoria Elliott | Wednesday May 16, 2012


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The novel takes place across three locations: Fullerton, Bath and Northanger Abbey itself. Fullerton, her childhood home, is the provincial setting which cannot provide an appropriate hero for Catherine to be a heroine – so she must leave.

As the eponymous location, the Abbey looms large in the reader’s mind, but is in fact the setting for less than half of the novel. It is significant in that it represents the major Gothic element of the novel, despite being far more modern in appearance and décor than Catherine had hoped.

Reference to Lewis’s The Monk early in the book exemplifies the religious settings which were common in Gothic novels.

Old buildings provide ample secret passages, potential ghosts and old furniture with secret messages hidden in them.

Northanger Abbey provides none of these. It is, however, much grander than anything else Catherine has experienced in terms of a private home, as demonstrated by the comparisons which the General forces out of her with the Allens’ residence. In fact Catherine is more delighted by Woodston and the picturesque view from the house – but then she is more delighted by Woodston’s resident, Henry, as well.

Bath is the pinnacle of Catherine’s social ambitions, providing her with access to far more people and excitements than her home town does. However, it is clear within a few pages of their arrival in Bath that the city may not live up to these expectations: they have no acquaintance there, and in fact spend their first few days at home until Mrs Allen is suitably clothed to be seen in public. In this way both Bath and Northanger Abbey contribute to the gap between appearance – or expectation – and reality.

The depiction of Bath and its social circle is detailed, indicating at least some direct knowledge (although it is worth noting that the first draft of Northanger Abbey was...

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