Northanger Abbey

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A college friend of James Morland and brother to Isabella Thorpe, John Thorpe is an unscrupulous, rude braggart. He is a boring conversationalist who is only interested in horses, carriages, money and drinking, and lies whenever he thinks it will impress others or force them to give way to his will. He wishes to marry Catherine because he believes her to be wealthy, but he is so rude and self-centered that, although he sees himself as courting Catherine, she completely fails to understand his true intentions.

John Thorpe Quotes in Northanger Abbey

The Northanger Abbey quotes below are all either spoken by John Thorpe or refer to John Thorpe. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Northanger Abbey published in 2003.
Volume 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

These manners did not please Catherine; but he was James's friend and Isabella's brother; and her judgment was further bought off by Isabella's assuring her, when they withdrew to see the new hat, that John thought her the most charming girl in the world, and by John's engaging her before they parted to dance with him that evening. Had she been older or vainer, such attacks might have done little; but, where youth and diffidence are united, it requires uncommon steadiness of reason to resist the attraction of being called the most charming girl in the world, and of being so very early engaged as a partner; and the consequence was, that, when the two Morlands, after sitting an hour with the Thorpes, set off to walk together to Mr. Allen's, and James, as the door was closed on them, said, “Well, Catherine, how do you like my friend Thorpe?” instead of answering, as she probably would have done, had there been no friendship and no flattery in the case, “I do not like him at all;” she directly replied, “I like him very much; he seems very agreeable.”

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, Isabella Thorpe, John Thorpe, James Morland, Mr. Allen
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine’s brother James has arrived in Bath with Isabella’s brother John. It is Catherine’s first time meeting John, and she finds him ill-mannered, entitled, and difficult to talk to. Catherine has grown up in the countryside, however, and has seemingly never before met a man of her age and class to whom she was not related. Thus she feels herself to be too inexperienced to trust her own first impressions of John’s character, and instead decides to trust her older brother’s judgment in choosing John as his friend. She also feels that, as Isabella’s brother, John likely shares some of Isabella’s qualities, and Catherine has been thoroughly won over by Isabella’s flattery. Catherine also remembers the experience of going to a ball with only Mrs. Allen and having no one to dance with, so she is happy to know that she will not have to feel left out of the dancing and worry about being looked down upon as a girl who could not attract a partner at the ball tonight. It does not occur to her yet that being committed to dance with a partner she does not like will prevent her from being able to accept an invitation to dance from someone she likes better.

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Volume 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

She could not help being vexed at the non-appearance of Mr. Thorpe, for she not only longed to be dancing, but was likewise aware that, as the real dignity of her situation could not be known, she was sharing with the scores of other young ladies still sitting down all the discredit of wanting a partner. To be disgraced in the eye of the world, to wear the appearance of infamy while her heart is all purity, her actions all innocence, and the misconduct of another the true source of her debasement, is one of those circumstances which peculiarly belong to the heroine's life, and her fortitude under it what particularly dignifies her character. Catherine had fortitude too; she suffered, but no murmur passed her lips.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Catherine Morland, John Thorpe
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

John Thorpe had asked Catherine to dance at that night’s ball, but he has now walked away to talk to his friends, leaving her without a partner. She is left sitting alone with the older women as she was during her first ball in Bath, and she feels that all eyes are on her, speculating as to why she cannot find anyone to ask her to dance. This trivial occurrence which causes Catherine so much distress is written about in terms that would have been familiar to readers of the Sentimental novels popular at the time when Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey. Heroines in these novels suffer neglect and abuse, sometimes even rape, for which they are then unfairly blamed. The typical heroine would keep silent about the true story behind any disgrace in a display of modesty that contemporary readers would have thought laudable. The Narrator suggests that Catherine’s embarrassment at being without a partner at the ball is a trivial occurrence, but that it causes her heroine a distress that is just as worthy of being described as the more consequential trials faced by the typical heroine.

Volume 1, Chapter 9 Quotes

Catherine listened with astonishment; she knew not how to reconcile two such very different accounts of the same thing; for she had not been brought up to understand the propensities of a rattle, nor to know to how many idle assertions and impudent falsehoods the excess of vanity will lead. Her own family were plain matter-of-fact people, who seldom aimed at wit of any kind; her father, at the utmost, being contented with a pun, and her mother with a proverb; they were not in the habit therefore of telling lies to increase their importance, or of asserting at one moment what they would contradict the next.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, John Thorpe
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

John and Catherine are on a carriage ride and John has bragged about his carriage, saying it is a much better carriage than her brother James’s. Catherine, worried about James’s safety, demands to know whether John believes that James’s carriage is really unsafe. John continues to say what a rickety old carriage James has and that it is likely to crash, but when Catherine grows alarmed for her brother’s safety, John immediately retracts everything he has said and says the carriage is perfectly safe.

As the narrator states here, Catherine lacks experience with this kind of behavior. Firstly, she has never encountered this sort of vanity. John lies about and exaggerates the quality of his own carriage and belittles other people’s carriages in order to make himself seem better in relation to others. He believes that having a luxurious and speedy carriage will make him seem more distinguished and wealthy, and thus more attractive to (the presumably wealthy) Catherine. John also has no qualms about immediately reversing his statements if he finds that they are not producing the desired effect, caring nothing for the integrity or truthfulness of his assertions. Catherine, however, does not understand what could possibly motivate someone to take such diametrically opposed positions. It is still unclear whether Catherine will ever learn to understand hypocrisy and the vanity and manipulation that so often motivates it.

Volume 1, Chapter 10 Quotes

“You will allow, that in both, man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal; that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavour to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere, and their best interest to keep their own imaginations from wandering towards the perfections of their neighbours, or fancying that they should have been better off with any one else.”

Related Characters: Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney) (speaker), Catherine Morland, John Thorpe
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

John Thorpe has just stopped Catherine on her way to the dance floor with Henry Tilney and complained that she was supposed to be his dance partner instead. John had not, in fact, asked Catherine to dance, but had merely assumed that he would be able to do so at the ball, but he detains her for several minutes, even telling her that he will arrange for Henry (whom he does not know) to buy a horse. Henry remarks on John’s rudeness by saying that John had no right to interrupt them on the way to the dance floor, because an engagement to dance is an agreement similar to a marriage contract. Catherine is puzzled by this comparison, so Henry explains that dancing, like marriage, is an activity in which loyalty to your partner is paramount. Although Henry is being playfully imaginative as he makes this comparison, he also gives deep insight into his view of love and marriage. For Henry, loyalty to a commitment is more important than attraction or desire. Once two people have committed to one another, it is their duty to look out for one another and not to allow other people to come between them. This speech gives insight into Henry Tilney’s values, which will be borne out later in the novel when his commitment to Catherine is tested by the intercession of his father.

Volume 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

“A little harmless flirtation or so will occur, and one is often drawn on to give more encouragement than one wishes to stand by. But you may be assured that I am the last person in the world to judge you severely. All those things should be allowed for in youth and high spirits. What one means one day, you know, one may not mean the next. Circumstances change, opinions alter.”
“But my opinion of your brother never did alter; it was always the same. You are describing what never happened.”
“My dearest Catherine,” continued the other without at all listening to her, “I would not for all the world be the means of hurrying you into an engagement before you knew what you were about. I do not think any thing would justify me in wishing you to sacrifice all your happiness merely to oblige my brother, because he is my brother, and who perhaps after all, you know, might be just as happy without you, for people seldom know what they would be at, young men especially, they are so amazingly changeable and inconstant.”

Related Characters: Catherine Morland (speaker), Isabella Thorpe (speaker), John Thorpe, James Morland, Frederick Tilney (Captain Tilney)
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

Isabella’s hypocrisy often takes the form of attributing her own thoughts and desires to someone else. In the past, Catherine has not picked up on this, because Isabella has attributed these desires to James or to “young men” in general. But in this case, Isabella describes her understanding of what passed between Catherine and John while actually giving a description of how she sees the situation between herself and James. When Isabella says that Catherine may have given John encouragement without meaning anything by it, she is mostly describing her own regret at having become engaged to James. When Isabella says that John may be just as happy without Catherine as with her, she is suggesting that James may never really have loved her as much as he thought he did. And when she says that she would not judge Catherine severely if Catherine led John on, she is suggesting that Catherine should be similarly lenient about forgiving her, if she ends up jilting James. Isabella still wants to keep Catherine as a friend, seemingly because she now hopes for them to both marry into the Tilney family.

Catherine does not agree with anything Isabella is saying, whether these ideas are to be applied to her situation with John, or more generally. Catherine has no concept of idle flirtations that do not lead to marriage. She would be even more horrified at the idea of someone dissolving an engagement after they met someone else richer or more attractive. Catherine, like Henry, is a deep believer in the importance of loyalty to love. This speech of Isabella’s, on the other hand, articulates the opposite theory: that love can be fleeting and commitments can be broken at a whim.

Volume 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

The General, accustomed on every ordinary occasion to give the law in his family, prepared for no reluctance but of feeling, no opposing desire that should dare to clothe itself in words, could ill brook the opposition of his son, steady as the sanction of reason and the dictate of conscience could make it. But, in such a cause, his anger, though it must shock, could not intimidate Henry, who was sustained in his purpose by a conviction of its justice. He felt himself bound as much in honour as in affection to Miss Morland, and believing that heart to be his own which he had been directed to gain, no unworthy retraction of a tacit consent, no reversing decree of unjustifiable anger, could shake his fidelity, or influence the resolutions it prompted.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, John Thorpe, Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney), General Tilney
Page Number: 230-231
Explanation and Analysis:

General Tilney has expelled Catherine from Northanger Abbey after learning that she is not an heiress. He has told Henry to forget about marrying her, but Henry, to the General’s shock, is determined to defy his father. This fight between father and son represents a battle between wealth and true respectability. Henry has never before defied the General in this way, and likely always grew up imagining that he would marry a woman rich enough to please his father’s greedy vanity. But now the General has thrown out everything else that makes a gentleman a gentleman in his treatment of Catherine, defying the code of conduct that requires the proper supervision and care of a gentlewoman. For Henry, money may be important, but behaving honorably and respectably is more so.

As a true gentleman, Henry cares about his honor, which is bound up in remaining loyal to Catherine. He feels that by courting her and leading her to believe that he wanted to marry her, he has bound himself to her. Although there is not yet an explicit engagement between them, he knows that she loves him and that he and his father have given her every reason to believe that he will marry her. Her love and his encouragement of it demand his loyalty, even in the face of his father’s newfound disapproval.

Finally, as a hypocrite caught in his lies, the General does not want to accept the consequences of his mistake. Although the General said to Catherine that he did not care about money, he never expected to be forced to follow through on his many insincere declarations that he cared only for the happiness of his children. The General had hoped to set an example for Catherine, showing her that she should marry Henry even if she were richer than he was. Instead he will have to allow Henry to marry Catherine despite her relative lack of wealth.

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John Thorpe Character Timeline in Northanger Abbey

The timeline below shows where the character John Thorpe appears in Northanger Abbey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Volume 1, Chapter 4
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...in Bath, this wish is finally, unexpectedly fulfilled. Mrs. Allen is approached by a Mrs. Thorpe, an old schoolmate, and they are joyful at this reunion, despite having never missed one... (full context)
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Mrs. Thorpe’s three daughters approach, and when they are introduced to Catherine, exclaim how much she looks... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 7
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John Thorpe, Isabella’s brother, approaches the other three. He is stout and not very tall, and... (full context)
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The gentlemen then decide that they will escort the two ladies back to the Thorpes’ lodgings. Isabella pays such complete attention to James that she only looks at the two... (full context)
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After a while Catherine asks John if he has ever read the novel Udolpho. He says that he never reads novels,... (full context)
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They arrive at the Thorpes’ lodgings and John Thorpe rudely greets his two other sisters, saying they look ugly. He... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 8
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That night at the ball, the Thorpes and Allens meet. James wants to dance with Isabella, but Isabella declares that she will... (full context)
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Catherine is left alone with Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe. She feels sure everyone around her believes that she was unable to secure a partner.... (full context)
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...with Mrs. Hughes, a woman who is accompanying his sister Miss Tilney and knows Mrs. Thorpe. He addresses himself to both Catherine and Mrs. Allen, who says that she is very... (full context)
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Finally, John Thorpe appears. He does not apologize for keeping Catherine waiting and talks about his friend... (full context)
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John has walked away and Catherine hopes Mr. Tilney will ask her to dance again, so... (full context)
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John Thorpe approaches Catherine and says he supposes they ought to dance again. Catherine says she... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 9
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...the morning reading her book and responding to Mrs. Allen’s idle remarks about clothing. Suddenly, John Thorpe arrives and tells Catherine to hurry and get ready to go on a drive... (full context)
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...has so much to talk to Catherine about, but for now Catherine must hurry into John’s carriage so that they can be off. Catherine overhears Isabella tell James how much she... (full context)
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In the carriage, John says his horse is very wild, which frightens Catherine, who is then happily surprised to... (full context)
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John then asks Catherine if “old Allen is as rich as a Jew” and if he... (full context)
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Thorpe talks on and on about his carriage. Catherine lacks knowledge of the subject, but she... (full context)
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...Catherine decides the drive was no substitute for failing to see the Tilneys, and that John Thorpe is “quite disagreeable.” (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 10
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At the ball, Catherine tries to avoid John Thorpe, whom she fears will ask her to dance again, making it impossible for her... (full context)
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Once John is gone, Mr. Tilney says he nearly got quite angry at John for interrupting them... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 11
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...and Catherine is wondering whether the Tilneys will still come for their walk, when Isabella, John, and James arrive in two carriages. Catherine declares that she cannot go on a ride... (full context)
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John objects that she should come anyway, and then Isabella comes in to encourage her. Isabella... (full context)
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John then says that he saw the Tilneys driving in a carriage out of town, so... (full context)
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...feels hurt that the Tilneys gave up so easily on taking a walk with her. John sees a girl look at Catherine as they ride by and asks Catherine who it... (full context)
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Catherine is still angry, however, and does not to talk with John during their drive. She feels she would much rather not have disappointed the Tilneys no... (full context)
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...the Tilneys called for her, and when they were told she had left with the Thorpes, asked if she had left a note. Catherine is filled with regret. That evening Isabella... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 12
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During their talk, Catherine notices John Thorpe and General Tilney speaking. Afterwards, when John Thorpe approaches her, she asks him how... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 13
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...a compromise, saying that they can all go in two days, but they say that John may want to go to town that day. Isabella says that she cannot go if... (full context)
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John, who had walked off for a few minutes, returns. He reports that he just spoke... (full context)
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...explanation of what had happened. Miss Tilney says that she had been surprised by Mr. Thorpe canceling the walk they had only just agreed to take. General Tilney is angry at... (full context)
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...feels a bit guilty towards her brother and friends. She tells Mr. Allen about the Thorpes’ plan, to see what he thinks of it, and he says that he is glad... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 14
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...is. Later in the day, Catherine runs into Isabella’s sister Anne. Anne tells Catherine that John drove her sister Maria and Isabella and James drove together. Anne says she would hate... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 15
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...asks Catherine to come to her lodgings as quickly as possible. When Catherine arrives, Maria Thorpe tells her about the enjoyable day she had with John, Isabella, and James, rushing around... (full context)
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...rest of the evening is spent with Isabella scheming about her and James’ future happiness. John and Mrs. Thorpe are aware of Isabella’s engagement, but, in what seems to Catherine like... (full context)
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John gets ready to set off for London, but first finds Catherine alone in the parlor.... (full context)
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John then comments that he and Catherine think about most things similarly, and she responds that... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 1
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...was civil to her and tried very hard to make her happy. Isabella says that John respects General Tilney and that she trusts John’s judgment. Isabella says she does not want... (full context)
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Catherine congratulates Isabella warmly. Isabella and Mrs. Thorpe praise Mr. Morland’s generosity, saying that although four hundred pounds a year is hardly enough... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 3
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...Catherine cannot guess. Isabella says that Catherine need not pretend she does not know that John is in love with her. Catherine is astonished, and Isabella chastises her for this pretended... (full context)
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Catherine says that Isabella knows that John is not the man whom she has feelings for, but says that they will still... (full context)
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For her own part, Catherine does not feel flattered, but rather feels amazed that John would have thought “it worth his while to fancy himself in love with her.” She... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 5
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...how much more pleasant it is to be a passenger in his carriage than in John Thorpe’s. (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 15
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...before, the General had seen Henry and Catherine speaking at the theater and had asked John Thorpe about Catherine’s wealth and connections. At that time, Thorpe thought that his sister would... (full context)
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The General later ran into John Thorpe again in London. Thorpe was by that time angry at Catherine’s refusal of him... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 16
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...Henry’s marriage to Catherine. It also helps that Catherine is not nearly as poor as John Thorpe described her to be in his second encounter with the General. Upon marriage, Catherine... (full context)