Northanger Abbey

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
The identity of the Narrator is unknown, and the narration usually occurs in the third-person. The narrator has special access to Catherine’s thoughts and feelings, but also sometimes gives a brief sense of what the other characters are thinking and feeling. The narrator also occasionally intrudes into the narrative to provide a broader perspective on an issue raised by the story, like the importance of dress or the plight of novelists who are looked down upon. In these moments, the narrator resembles an essayist, seeking to put forward a thesis and provide supporting arguments.

Narrator Quotes in Northanger Abbey

The Northanger Abbey quotes below are all either spoken by Narrator or refer to Narrator. 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 1 Quotes

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother; her own person and disposition, were all equally against her.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Catherine Morland
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

The heroines of the Sentimental and Gothic novels popular at the time when Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey usually had certain qualities in common with one another. These heroines were beautiful, gifted at music and drawing, sensitive, moral, and modest. They were also generally either very rich or very poor, and often fell in love with men from a different class. From the novel’s first sentence, then, the Narrator signals that this book will challenge prevailing ideas about who deserves to be the novel’s central figure. The narrator satirizes the idea that anyone can be “born to be” a heroine, or born to be a “nobody.” Every woman, even an average young woman from a middle-class home with a background like Jane Austen’s, has her own life story which is no less interesting than dramatic adventures that would be unlikely to happen to anyone.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Northanger Abbey quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
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.

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 10 Quotes

It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire; how little it is biassed by the texture of their muslin, and how unsusceptible of peculiar tenderness towards the spotted, the sprigged, the mull or the jackonet. Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it. Neatness and fashion are enough for the former, and a something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the latter.—But not one of these grave reflections troubled the tranquillity of Catherine.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Catherine Morland
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 71-72
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine anticipates seeing Henry Tilney at the next ball, and is lying awake considering what she will wear. The Narrator has said that Catherine has been told by a Great Aunt that dress is “at all times a frivolous concern,” but this is a mimicry of an overstated idea. The Narrator’s real position seems to be that dress is not utterly unimportant, as some moralizing older people would tell young girls at that time, nor is it important in the way that young women sometimes think it is. Although wearing something expensive and flashy is not likely to elicit men’s admiration, the narrator says that men are drawn to women who look neat and fashionable. They do not care about the specific fabric or cut of the clothing, but are more interested in the way the clothing makes the woman look. Women, on the other hand, are competitive about clothing because they see it as a marker of wealth and social status. Dressing in very fashionable clothing will make other women jealous and draw their dislike.

The narrator does not actually advocate that a woman seek to dress badly in order to please other women. Instead, she points out this jealousy to suggest that the meaning of clothing for class can be distorted. While some women sought to display their wealth by wearing flashy clothing, others realized that this was not the behavior of a modest gentlewoman and that simple, up-to-date attire suggested that they were wealthy enough not to seek to prove their wealth with ostentatious fashions.

Volume 1, Chapter 14 Quotes

But Catherine did not know her own advantages—did not know that a good-looking girl, with an affectionate heart and a very ignorant mind, cannot fail of attracting a clever young man, unless circumstances are particularly untoward. In the present instance, she confessed and lamented her want of knowledge; declared that she would give any thing in the world to be able to draw; and a lecture on the picturesque immediately followed, in which his instructions were so clear that she soon began to see beauty in every thing admired by him, and her attention was so earnest, that he became perfectly satisfied of her having a great deal of natural taste.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney)
Page Number: 106-107
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine is taking a walk through the countryside around Bath with Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who begin to discuss which elements of the landscape would be best to capture in a drawing. Drawing was a skill cultivated by gentlewomen of the era; if a girl was good at drawing, it showed that her parents had invested in drawing instruction and meant her to have a life of wealth and leisure. Due to her inexperience with the world of high society, Catherine does not know that drawing is both a talent and a sign of social status. She sincerely wishes she knew about drawing because she wishes to be able to converse with the Tilneys intelligently and to make them like her. Henry, who has made fun of the hypocrisy and pretentions of many of those he meets in Bath, may like that Catherine is innocent of the class implications of drawing. He also finds her interest and faith in what he says a sign of her attraction to him, which, in turn, makes him feel a certain loyalty and affection for her.

Volume 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

She was assured of his affection; and that heart in return was solicited, which, perhaps, they pretty equally knew was already entirely his own; for, though Henry was now sincerely attached to her, though he felt and delighted in all the excellencies of her character and truly loved her society, I must confess that his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought. It is a new circumstance in romance, I acknowledge, and dreadfully derogatory of an heroine's dignity; but if it be as new in common life, the credit of a wild imagination will at least be all my own.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney)
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

Henry has followed Catherine to Fullerton after General Tilney kicked her out of Northanger Abbey, and has proposed to her. This proposal contrasts with those typical of the Sentimental novels of the time in several ways. First, all of those novels respected the convention of the day in giving the man the lead in beginning a romance. Although Catherine is younger and less sophisticated than Henry, she is the real driver of their relationship. It is her obvious attraction to Henry that then attracts him to her. Although the Narrator says that this is “derogatory of an heroine’s dignity,” it is a clear improvement on the lot of many of the heroines of Sentimental novels, who are so often pursued by immoral villains instead of by men they like. Henry’s sense that Catherine liked him, combined with his impression, as he got to know her, that she would remain loyal to him, trust in him, listen to him, and learn from him, made him feel tenderly to her when she made mistakes and loyal to her when she was mistreated by the General.

Get the entire Northanger Abbey LitChart as a printable PDF.
Northanger abbey.pdf.medium

Narrator Character Timeline in Northanger Abbey

The timeline below shows where the character Narrator appears in Northanger Abbey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Volume 1, Chapter 1
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
...perfectly understandable, because she knows no one of her own age and rank. But, the Narrator observes, Catherine is destined to become a heroine, and a heroine must meet a hero.... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 2
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
...As the crowd thins out, Catherine can be seen by young men, and, as the Narrator remarks, it is time for a heroine to be noticed. No one is stunned by... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 3
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
...might be inappropriate for a lady to fall in love before a gentleman does, the Narrator says it “cannot be ascertained” whether Catherine dreamt about Mr. Tilney even before he had... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 5
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Although many novelists do not portray their heroines as novel-readers, the Narrator explains, this is unjust. Writers of novels should stick together, since they are so often... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 8
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
...partner. This kind of trial often occurs in the life of a heroine, observes the Narrator. After ten minutes, Catherine sees Mr. Tilney across the room, but he does not see... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 10
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
...home very happy and begins to plan what she will wear the next night. The Narrator states that this consideration is very frivolous, as Catherine had once been told by a... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 14
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
...ashamed not to be able to follow their conversation. She should not be ashamed, the Narrator adds, because there is nothing so charming in a young, good-looking woman to a clever... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 1
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
...hears him mocking Henry for wanting to dance. From this it can be predicted, the Narrator interjects, that Henry Tilney will not have a rival for Catherine’s affections in his brother,... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 14
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
...manners, and ability to pay well. Most heroines return from journeys in grand style, the Narrator says, with many servants and an elegant carriage, which prompt authors to describe them in... (full context)
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
...in the morning. It never occurs to her parents to wonder about Catherine’s heart—and, the Narrator notes, this is quite unusual in the parents of a seventeen-year-old just returning from her... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 15
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
...and will marry him. They both know the answer to this question very well. The Narrator explains that it was Catherine’s partiality for Henry that attracted him to her in the... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 16
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
...book can see from the very few remaining pages that it will soon end, the Narrator remarks, and so they cannot share Henry and Catherine’s anxiety. But how could the General... (full context)