Northanger Abbey

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Mrs. Morland Character Analysis

A wife and mother to ten children, Mrs. Morland is not very aware of the dangers of society for a young, inexperienced woman of seventeen. She allows her eldest daughter Catherine to go to Bath with Mrs. Allen, whose character makes her an inadequate chaperone, and never imagines that Catherine might fall in love while there.

Mrs. Morland Quotes in Northanger Abbey

The Northanger Abbey quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Morland or refer to Mrs. Morland. 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 2 Quotes

When the hour of departure drew near, the maternal anxiety of Mrs. Morland will be naturally supposed to be most severe. A thousand alarming presentiments of evil to her beloved Catherine from this terrific separation must oppress her heart with sadness, and drown her in tears for the last day or two of their being together; and advice of the most important and applicable nature must of course flow from her wise lips in their parting conference in her closet. Cautions against the violence of such noblemen and baronets as delight in forcing young ladies away to some remote farm-house, must, at such a moment, relieve the fulness of her heart. Who would not think so? But Mrs. Morland knew so little of lords and baronets, that she entertained no notion of their general mischievousness, and was wholly unsuspicious of danger to her daughter from their machinations.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Catherine Morland, Mrs. Morland
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

With biting satire, the Narrator describes how novels of the era typically described the scene in which a heroine leaves home and her mother for the first time. The possible dangers of being kidnapped, manipulated, or raped hung over the head of the modest, beautiful, teenage heroine in these novels. Here, the Narrator (and thus Austen) pushes back playfully against this formulaic convention and suggests that it is represented so often in novels that readers will be shocked to read about a mother who does not weep in fear for her daughter’s safety. In this way, the novel once again points to the innovation it is making in choosing an average girl from an average family like Catherine’s.

But while the extreme distress of heroine’s mothers in Sentimental novels is gently mocked here, there is also a gentle mockery of Mrs. Morland. In letting her seventeen-year-old daughter leave home for the first time without giving her any warnings about those who might seek to take advantage of her, Mrs. Morland is proving herself to lack wisdom about the world. Although Catherine may not be heading into a dangerous world packed with villains, she is likely to at least receive male attention that will be new to her, given how isolated her upbringing has been up to this point. She will also be meeting all kinds of people, men and women, who may seek to take advantage of her for one reason or another. Mrs. Morland foresees none of this and thus has no warnings to give Catherine at all.

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Volume 2, Chapter 14 Quotes

Without suffering any romantic alarm, in the consideration of their daughter's long and lonely journey, Mr. and Mrs. Morland could not but feel that it might have been productive of much unpleasantness to her; that it was what they could never have voluntarily suffered; and that, in forcing her on such a measure, General Tilney had acted neither honourably nor feelingly—neither as a gentleman nor as a parent. Why he had done it, what could have provoked him to such a breach of hospitality, and so suddenly turned all his partial regard for their daughter into actual ill-will, was a matter which they were at least as far from divining as Catherine herself; but it did not oppress them by any means so long; and, after a due course of useless conjecture, that, “it was a strange business, and that he must be a very strange man,” grew enough for all their indignation and wonder; though Sarah indeed still indulged in the sweets of incomprehensibility, exclaiming and conjecturing with youthful ardor.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, General Tilney, Sarah Morland, Mrs. Morland, Mr. Morland
Page Number: 218-219
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine has just unexpectedly returned home to her family at Fullerton from Northanger Abbey after the General unceremoniously sent her away with no warning to her parents, unsupervised, and at the first possible moment. In a society in which unmarried gentlewomen were always watched over and looked after, this was a shockingly inappropriate action by the General. Catherine’s parents had given responsibility for her care to the Allens when she went to Bath, and the Allens had entrusted her care to the General. The General was letting down this entire chain of guardians and their code of conduct by sending Catherine away on her own. Even the mild-mannered Morlands are clear that no gentleman would allow a young, unmarried gentlewoman to travel in this way.

But the Morlands, young and old, are not experienced analyzers of other people’s motivations. The skill that Catherine has been cultivating during her trip to Bath—the ability to think for herself and form judgments about the actions and motivations of other people—is a skill that her parents lack nearly as much as her younger sister. Although Catherine’s parents are good people, they are not particularly curious or wise. They do not even try to form a theory for why the General behaved as he did.

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Mrs. Morland Character Timeline in Northanger Abbey

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Morland appears in Northanger Abbey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Volume 1, Chapter 2
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
...expected that her mother would worry about her daughter being seduced by wicked noblemen, but Mrs. Morland is too unexperienced with the world to have this concern. And although Catherine might have... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 15
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
...saying James is the most charming of men, but she worries about what Mr. and Mrs. Morland will say. Catherine begins to understand and, with a blush, asks Isabella if she is... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 14
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
...General Tilney’s treatment of their daughter is ungentlemanly. The family cannot understand his behavior, but Mrs. Morland says that it is not worth understanding. She says Catherine has always been absentminded, so... (full context)
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
Mrs. Morland sends Catherine to bed early, but her daughter still looks pale and unhappy in the... (full context)
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
After hearing Catherine’s story of her time in Bath and with the Tilneys, Mrs. Morland says it has been a strange acquaintance, with such quick intimacy and such a quick... (full context)
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
Mrs. Morland and Catherine call on Mrs. Allen, and Mrs. Morland tells Catherine that she feels sorry... (full context)
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
...surprised and happy to see her and very appalled by General Tilney’s treatment of Catherine. Mrs. Morland says they are happy to have Catherine back and glad to know that she can... (full context)
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
On the way home, Mrs. Morland tells Catherine how unimportant it is that she has lost the friendship of the Tilneys,... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 15
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
...had never been very good at sitting still or at focusing on a task, but Mrs. Morland now observes her to be more fidgety than ever before, and much sadder than she... (full context)
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
When Mrs. Morland returns to the room, she is surprised to find a strange young man there. Henry... (full context)
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Eventually Mrs. Morland runs out of small talk and everyone falls silent. Mr. Tilney, for the first time... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 16
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
Mr. Morland and Mrs. Morland are shocked to be asked for Catherine’s hand in marriage, since it had never occurred... (full context)