Becoming ‘zombie’ in Northanger Abbey

Taisei Inoue

As I read through ‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen, it reminds me of the scenery I saw in Bath during my winter break. It is a great pleasure for me, being able to imagine characters walking the streets of Bath visiting Pump-room, which is still what most of tourist do when they visit this beautiful traditional city in western UK. Therefore I really enjoyed reading this text, but another point which make this text interesting for me is the change which happens upon Catherine, the major character of the text. In ‘Northanger Abbey’ I consider the major theme of this literature as ‘assimilating to the common sense of the society’. The major character of the text, Catherine Morland is depicted rather a type of person who you really don’t want to be a friend with. For example, she can’t pick on other’s feeling or not sensitive enough to the surrounding situation. Readers can tell this, by how she was not able to guess the obvious developing relationship between her brother and her friend. Most of the reader may agree with a point that she is a naïve teenage girl, who is not use to the common sense of the society. However, as she repeats failures throughout the story, she grow ‘mature’ and learn the ‘common sense’. Before I listen to the lecture of Dr. Burgess about the ‘savage torpor’, I might have concluded my impression positively on how Catherine had grew up through the plot. Then after I re-read the text with a concept of ‘savage torpor’ in my head, the impression changed dramatically. I felt like this story is about how one girl grow up into how society desires or think as ideal. As people tries to live along with the society, we tend to become more like a ‘zombie’ which repeat the same routine every day. Catherine might have entered her foot into a herd of ‘zombie’, which can lead to force her transform into one of them. It might be not efficient to form relationship if we are too naïve as Catherine, but this text is also telling us to re-consider what we believe as ‘common sense’.


1. Comparing to other character in Jane Austen’s work (such as Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice) how similar and different Catherine is from them?

2. How do you think this concept of ‘savage torpor’ might have changed from Austen’s time, compared to now? Or did it change at all?

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