Jane Austen draws upon several themes in her novel Northanger Abbey, however; the two main ones I feel she addresses and stresses the most are society and class and friendship.
Society and Class: Society and class is a major theme addressed in the novel Northanger Abbey, in fact, the main dilemma or conflict in the novel relates entirely to this theme alone.
It is clearly stated throughout the novel that there is a division between families based on wealth. It is a disgrace for wealthy families to associate with poor families, and marriage was based solely on the class of each other’s family.
In the novel, the main character, Catherine Morland, runs into a huge dilemma. She is a poor woman that has fallen in love with a rich man. Since Catherine is poor, the father of the man she loves forbids the two from getting married. It is even stated in the novel that “The General had had nothing to accuse her of…She was guilty only of being less rich than he had supposed her to be.” (pg. 522)
I think it is completely ridiculous that during the time period of this book, marriages were based solely on the class of the other family. Money doesn’t make you happy, and doesn’t buy love.
Friendship: Friendship is another major theme that affects Catherine in the novel. Catherine is constantly faced with the test of who were true friends and those who were false. In the novel, Catherine meets up with another girl, Isabella, who seems to be very genuine and friendly. The two girls get along fine and enjoy each other’s company. Catherine truly thinks she has found a ‘best friend,’ however; Isabella eventually deserts Catherine, leaving Catherine to wish that she had never spent time with her. It is even stated in the novel that “She [Catherine] was ashamed of Isabella, and ashamed of having ever loved her.” (pg. 503)
I felt sorry for Catherine, and the way Isabella hurt her. Jane Austen used this friendship to stress the point that people may not always be who they seem. You must be careful when choosing your friends, for the people you thought you trusted may not always be there for you.
The themes Jane Austen presented in the novel really added to the plot and engaged the reader. The book showed realistic consequences through enjoyable, heart warming (and some times heart-wrenching) times. I would recommend the novel to anyone!