Jane Austen uses several literary techniques to characterize Catherine Morland in the opening passage of Northanger Abbey. These techniques are sewn into the passage, both bursting off the page, and subtly weaved in, each intertwines to create what develops into the character of Catherine Morland. The use of this methodical writing technique is reflective of the development of Catherines character, as each small aspect comes together with the larger more magnified ones to create the overall character. The careful use of imagery, personification, foreshadowing and diction build the structure to allow Catherines character to grow and develop. The manner by which each of these is used reflects upon a deeper aspect of Catherine than simple literary devices would sufficiently portray.
The opening line No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her to be born an heroine leaves the reader expecting her to become a heroine as her life progresses. The authors careful diction characterizes Catherine, No one who had ever seen, as though her exterior appearance cannot justly represent her true inner nature. The description of Catherines looks exemplify this, as Austen describes her demeanor as boring and plain, while at the same time encouraging the idea of her strong and courageous nature. Diction is used to foreshadow her character. Austen discreetly places the concept of Catherines misleading outer nature, allowing expectations of her character to arise in the mind of the reader, waiting for her true being to be revealed. By introducing her as a possible heroine, the contrasting description of her external features and the image of her heroism creates a concept in the readers mind. The weaving together of these literary devices creates a character in the words. The subtle qualities create the person and reveal the true nature of that person.
Austen also foreshadows Catherines character through her parents. Her father has no remarkable outer qualities, yet he is known as respectable and never mistreats his daughters despite the common practice of it. Her mother, like her father, has no distinguished external features, yet she has ten children, a remarkable feat for the time period. Austen shows the mothers strong and courageous nature, she says and, instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on. This shows the reader a drive for survival and an uncommon courageous determination instilled in her mothers being. Austen then characterizes Catherine as having a similar nature to her parents, describing her as just as plain as they are. Which foreshadows to the reader how her character will develop, taking unique attributes from both her mother and her father. Her parents bold and courageous nature hints to the reader that Catherines own character may share that common aspect with her parents. This again reiterates the idea of creating a character with the words, through careful use of diction.
The use of imagery and personification also build Catherines character. They share a similar relationship to that of diction and foreshadowing. One is used to better show the other, and together they are used to characterize Catherine and create a life on the page. The imagery used to physically describe Catherine shows her character. Austen writes She had a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark lank hair, and strong features. The strong features at the end of the sentence contrasts with the initial description of Catherine. Her strong features are personified by her heroic character. Catherine has an imbedded heroism in her features.
Imagery and diction are used to describe Catherines personality later in the passage, they increase the expectations the reader has for Catherines character. Austen writes The day which dismissed the music master was one of the happiest of Catherines life. In creating a picture for the reader in which to imagine Catherines unique character, her eventual role as heroine becomes expected. Catherine is shown has having a love for only that which she is neither forced nor expected to do. Her taste for drawing was not superior; though whenever she could obtain the outside of a letter from a mother, or seize upon any other odd piece of paper, she did what she could in that way And thus further foreshadowing that she will become a heroine, as she is not expected to, nor feels any pressure to be. The readers own expectations of Catherines unexpected heroic character are brought to light through Imagery and diction.
Jane Austen uses several literary techniques to characterize Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. Each is used with a specific strategy as to successfully create life through the words. Imagery, careful diction, personification, and foreshadowing are all intertwined to create a character on the page. These literary devices allow the reader to infer Catherines character, thus creating a character resulting from the mixture of the readers own characterization, and Jane Austens depiction of that character. All aspects come together to create the character of Catherine Morland; the brave, courageous, independent and utterly free Catherine Morland that has throughout her life the strong capacity to become a remarkable and memorable heroine.