Northanger Abbey

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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.


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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 4 Quotes

Miss Thorpe, however, being four years older than Miss Morland, and at least four years better informed, had a very decided advantage in discussing such points; she could compare the balls of Bath with those of Tunbridge; its fashions with the fashions of London; could rectify the opinions of her new friend in many articles of tasteful attire; could discover a flirtation between any gentleman and lady who only smiled on each other; and point out a quiz through the thickness of a crowd. These powers received due admiration from Catherine, to whom they were entirely new; and the respect which they naturally inspired might have been too great for familiarity, had not the easy gaiety of Miss Thorpe's manners, and her frequent expressions of delight on this acquaintance with her, softened down every feeling of awe, and left nothing but tender affection.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, Isabella Thorpe
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine is thrilled and bowled over to meet a friend who can serve as a role model. Isabella is fashionable, pretty, sociable, and well-integrated into Bath society. Catherine knows only the dim-witted Mrs. Allen, while Isabella has studied Bath society, is trying to master it, and is more than happy to explain every phenomenon they see in Bath to her younger friend. Catherine is utterly devoted to Isabella, and Isabella (seemingly) to Catherine. Catherine looks up to her friend to learn how best to conduct herself and how to understand the behavior of other young people. For instance, Isabella can point out when someone is “quizzing” someone else, or playing a practical joke on them, and explain the meaning of the “quiz.” For the inexperienced, country-bred and literal-minded Catherine, this kind of social activity specific to the young in fashionable society would have been particularly hard to decipher without Isabella’s guidance. Isabella’s strong opinions about fashion, however, indicate that she may be status-obsessed and vain.

Volume 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

Isabella was very sure that he must be a charming young man and was equally sure that he must have been delighted with her dear Catherine, and would therefore shortly return. She liked him the better for being a clergyman, “for she must confess herself very partial to the profession” and something like a sigh escaped her as she said it. Perhaps Catherine was wrong in not demanding the cause of that gentle emotion—but she was not experienced enough in the finesse of love, or the duties of friendship, to know when delicate raillery was properly called for, or when a confidence should be forced.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, Isabella Thorpe, James Morland, Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine has confided to Isabella that she met a man named Henry Tilney and found him charming, but that she has not seen him since. Isabella (we later learn) hopes to marry Catherine’s brother James, so she is trying to become as close as possible to Catherine. She flatters Catherine by saying that Henry Tilney must have been just as interested in Catherine as she was in him. Isabella then goes on to hint that she also has a love interest that she would like Catherine to ask her about—another clergyman, just like Henry. Catherine, however, is far behind Isabella in her understanding of both romance and the indirect ways people hint at their romantic feelings. By saying she is interested in men who are clergymen and then sighing, Isabella is providing Catherine with the opportunity to question her about which specific clergyman she is in love with, but Catherine comes from a family that always speaks directly and honestly, so she lacks the experience to interpret such hints. Catherine knows that Isabella has met her brother James and knows that he is in training to be a clergyman, but she does not know to put these pieces of information together with the new information about Isabella’s preference for clergymen and her eager friendliness towards Catherine to arrive at a suspicion that Isabella may have feelings for James.

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.

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

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.

“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 1, Chapter 13 Quotes

It was painful to her to disappoint and displease them, particularly to displease her brother; but she could not repent her resistance. Setting her own inclination apart, to have failed a second time in her engagement to Miss Tilney, to have retracted a promise voluntarily made only five minutes before, and on a false pretence too, must have been wrong. She had not been withstanding them on selfish principles alone, she had not consulted merely her own satisfaction; that might have been ensured in some degree by the excursion itself, by seeing Blaize Castle; no, she had attended to what was due to others, and to her own character in their opinion.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney (Miss Tilney)
Related Symbols: Old Buildings / Northanger Abbey
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine has refused to change her plans for a walk with the Tilneys to go on a drive with the Thorpes—so John Thorpe takes it upon himself to reschedule Catherine’s walk with the Tilney’s without her permission. Catherine refuses to accept this and is running away from Isabella, James, and John to rush to the Tilneys and confirm that she does want to go on the walk they had planned. Once again, John Thorpe has proven that he has no scruples when it comes to lying to get his way. Catherine on the other hand, has a strong sense of propriety and of loyalty to a promise given.

Catherine has already let the Tilneys down once, when John lied and told her he saw them leaving town to convince her to go on a drive with the Thorpes instead of waiting for the Tilneys to go on a walk. On this occasion, she saw how angry it made Henry Tilney when he thought she had purposefully ignored her commitment to take a walk. Henry has told her that he believes commitments should be honored, and Catherine shares this priority. For Henry and Catherine, it is important to follow through and keep your word not only when you want to, but at all times. This is a distinction that Henry sees as important to being well-mannered, honorable, and a gentleman or gentlewoman.

Although Catherine’s priority is to keep her promise to the Tilneys, she insists to herself that this is not only out of a selfish desire to spend time with Henry, but out of a commitment to do what is right. She feels sure of her own motives in insisting on sticking to her plan with the Tilneys, because she has a competing desire to see and explore Blaize Castle, which John Thorpe told her was a grand old castle like those described in the Gothic novels she loves. Catherine has said before that interest in reading the Gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho has stopped her from being too forlorn in Henry’s absence. In fact, her interest in old buildings is often just as keen as her interest in Henry Tilney. It is as if Catherine has not yet decided whether she would prefer her story to be like a Sentimental novel, centered around a romance, or a Gothic novel, in which the romance takes place in an exotic and frightening location. What Catherine does not know, however, is that Blaize Castle was built only a few years before, so the promise that it is an old castle is just another of John Thorpe’s lies.

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 1, Chapter 15 Quotes

“Morland says exactly the same,” replied Isabella; “and yet I dare not expect it; my fortune will be so small; they never can consent to it. Your brother, who might marry any body!”
Here Catherine again discerned the force of love. “Indeed, Isabella, you are too humble.—The difference of fortune can be nothing to signify.”
“Oh! my sweet Catherine, in your generous heart I know it would signify nothing; but we must not expect such disinterestedness in many. As for myself, I am sure I only wish our situations were reversed. Had I the command of millions, were I mistress of the whole world, your brother would be my only choice.”
This charming sentiment, recommended as much by sense as novelty, gave Catherine a most pleasing remembrance of all the heroines of her acquaintance; and she thought her friend never looked more lovely than in uttering the grand idea.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland (speaker), Isabella Thorpe (speaker), James Morland
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

Isabella and James are engaged, but James has not yet gotten his parents’ permission for the marriage. Isabella believes the Morlands to be wealthy and fears that they will object to her as a daughter-in-law on the grounds that she has no fortune. Unaware that Isabella thinks the Morlands are wealthier than they are, Catherine believes all of Isabella’s anxiety to arise from her fear of losing the man she loves. In fact, if Isabella knew the actual extent of the Morlands’ fortune, she would not be interested in James at all, but she conceals her true motives by hypocritically saying how little she cares for money and overstating her absolute devotion to James. Catherine has read many novels about love across class lines, so Isabella’s hypocritical speech seems to Catherine just like a sincere and romantic declaration drawn from a Sentimental novel. To Catherine, the fact that her family is not much richer than Isabella’s makes Isabella’s fear of rejection seem like an even more potent sign of Isabella’s love for James.

Volume 2, Chapter 1 Quotes

“It is not on my own account I wish for more; but I cannot bear to be the means of injuring my dear Morland, making him sit down upon an income hardly enough to find one in the common necessaries of life. For myself, it is nothing; I never think of myself.”
“I know you never do, my dear; and you will always find your reward in the affection it makes every body feel for you. There never was a young woman so beloved as you are by every body that knows you; and I dare say when Mr. Morland sees you, my dear child—but do not let us distress our dear Catherine by talking of such things. Mr. Morland has behaved so very handsome you know. I always heard he was a most excellent man; and you know, my dear, we are not to suppose but what, if you had had a suitable fortune, he would have come down with something more, for I am sure he must be a most liberal-minded man.”
“Nobody can think better of Mr. Morland than I do, I am sure. But every body has their failing you know, and every body has a right to do what they like with their own money.” Catherine was hurt by these insinuations. “I am very sure” said she, “that my father has promised to do as much as he can afford.”

Related Characters: Catherine Morland (speaker), Isabella Thorpe (speaker), Mrs. Thorpe (speaker), James Morland, Mr. Morland
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

Isabella has received a letter from James informing her of how much they can expect to receive from his father upon their marrying—and it is a much smaller amount than Isabella had hoped for. Mrs. Thorpe may have been the source of the Thorpes’ mistaken idea that the Morlands are a very wealthy family; she went to school with Mrs. Allen and knows the Allens to be wealthy. She may have heard from her son John that he had met someone named James Morland and told John to cultivate a friendship with James, just as Isabella has cultivated a friendship with Catherine, in the hope that her children would marry into money.

Isabella’s disappointment in the provision promised by Mr. Moreland does not prevent her from continuing to hypocritically declare how little she cares for money. She claims that she is disappointed only because she feels that by marrying her, James will miss out on his fair share of the family wealth. It was not uncommon for parents to give a smaller amount of money to children who wanted to marry someone that the parents did not approve of. Isabella and Mrs. Thorpe seem not yet to have realized that Mr. Morland has provided for his son as generously as he can. They believe that Mr. Morland is withholding his money out of a desire that his son marry a richer woman. They may hope to test this theory out, then, by dropping such broad hints to Catherine that they are disappointed in what Mr. Morland will provide.

Volume 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

“'Well, proceed by all means. I know how much your heart is in it. My daughter, Miss Morland,” he continued, without leaving his daughter time to speak, “has been forming a very bold wish. We leave Bath, as she has perhaps told you, on Saturday se'nnight. A letter from my steward tells me that my presence is wanted at home; and being disappointed in my hope of seeing the Marquis of Longtown and General Courteney here, some of my very old friends, there is nothing to detain me longer in Bath. And could we carry our selfish point with you, we should leave it without a single regret. Can you, in short, be prevailed on to quit this scene of public triumph and oblige your friend Eleanor with your company in Gloucestershire? I am almost ashamed to make the request, though its presumption would certainly appear greater to every creature in Bath than yourself. Modesty such as yours—but not for the world would I pain it by open praise. If you can be induced to honour us with a visit, you will make us happy beyond expression. 'Tis true, we can offer you nothing like the gaieties of this lively place; we can tempt you neither by amusement nor splendour, for our mode of living, as you see, is plain and unpretending; yet no endeavours shall be wanting on our side to make Northanger Abbey not wholly disagreeable.”

Related Characters: General Tilney (speaker), Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney (Miss Tilney)
Related Symbols: Old Buildings / Northanger Abbey
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

General Tilney has walked into the room just as Eleanor is about to invite Catherine to come stay at her home, Northanger Abbey, and he issues the invitation himself. It is the first time in the novel that he gives a long speech and its content reveals a great deal about him. He says that he will let his daughter continue, but then cuts her off seemingly without even realizing it. This reveals that he is not a very considerate or accommodating parent.

The General then goes on to invite Catherine in very flattering and self-effacing terms. This scene comes only one chapter after we see that Isabella Thorpe has been disappointed to find out how much money the Morlands have, so the General’s flattering speech to Catherine suggests that he is another hypocrite seeking to cultivate a relationship with Catherine in order to improve his social standing in the false belief that she is an heiress. But based on Eleanor and Henry’s obvious good education and Eleanor’s elegant way of dressing, it does not seem likely that the Tilneys really live as plainly as the General contends.

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 4 Quotes

“My dear Miss Morland,” said Henry, “in this amiable solicitude for your brother's comfort, may you not be a little mistaken? Are you not carried a little too far? Would he thank you, either on his own account or Miss Thorpe's, for supposing that her affection, or at least her good-behaviour, is only to be secured by her seeing nothing of Captain Tilney? Is he safe only in solitude?—or, is her heart constant to him only when unsolicited by any one else?—He cannot think this—and you may be sure that he would not have you think it. I will not say, 'Do not be uneasy' because I know that you are so, at this moment; but be as little uneasy as you can. You have no doubt of the mutual attachment of your brother and your friend; depend upon it therefore, that real jealousy never can exist between them; depend upon it that no disagreement between them can be of any duration. Their hearts are open to each other, as neither heart can be to you; they know exactly what is required and what can be borne; and you may be certain, that one will never tease the other beyond what is known to be pleasant.”

Related Characters: Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney) (speaker), Catherine Morland, Isabella Thorpe, James Morland, Frederick Tilney (Captain Tilney)
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine has told Henry Tilney that she is worried about the growing flirtation between his brother Frederick and Isabella, who is engaged to Catherine’s brother James. Catherine then asks Henry to tell his father to intervene and send Frederick away, but Henry refuses. Catherine is still moving from girlhood, when anyone who misbehaved was told that they were doing the wrong thing, to womanhood, when there are many decisions that individuals make on their own. She does not realize that Frederick, James, and Isabella are all adults and cannot simply be told that they are behaving badly and should do something differently.

In explaining his refusal, Henry stresses the importance of loyalty to love. He explains that a relationship must be based on an understanding between two people: only these two people can be responsible for their own conduct as it affects one another. It is up to the two halves of a couple to decide what is and is not acceptable behavior. What Henry does not say, but follows from this principle, is that if Isabella cannot remain loyal to James without any outside interference, James will be best served by learning that fact before he marries her, so that he can break the engagement.

Henry’s insistence on the importance of a commitment between two people that cannot be interfered with by anyone else foreshadows how he will act later in the novel, when his father tries to interfere in his relationship with Catherine.

Volume 2, Chapter 8 Quotes

To be kept up for hours, after the family were in bed, by stupid pamphlets, was not very likely. There must be some deeper cause: something was to be done which could be done only while the household slept; and the probability that Mrs. Tilney yet lived, shut up for causes unknown, and receiving from the pitiless hands of her husband a nightly supply of coarse food, was the conclusion which necessarily followed. Shocking as was the idea, it was at least better than a death unfairly hastened, as, in the natural course of things, she must ere long be released. The suddenness of her reputed illness; the absence of her daughter, and probably of her other children, at the time—all favoured the supposition of her imprisonment.—Its origin—jealousy perhaps, or wanton cruelty—was yet to be unravelled.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, General Tilney, Eleanor Tilney (Miss Tilney), Mrs. Tilney
Related Symbols: Old Buildings / Northanger Abbey
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

The General has said that he will stay awake after Catherine and Eleanor go to bed. Excited to be staying in an old building like Northanger Abbey, Catherine is on the lookout for signs of something mysterious or sinister that would be familiar to her from the Gothic novels she loves. She finds the General unpleasant and domineering, but she is not used to making such judgments for herself. Instead of imagining him to be a harsh man whose company she dislikes, Catherine concocts a theory that the General is a dramatic and murderous villain. When she hears that the General plans to stay up after everyone else goes to bed, she instantly remembers the way that Montoni in The Mysteries of Udolpho keeps the heroine’s aunt locked up in the castle. She knows of no motive for a crime against Mrs. Tilney, nor is she sure that Frederick and Henry were not home at the time of their mother’s death. But despite these many gaps in her knowledge, Catherine decides that she has finally found a mystery worthy of investigating. Earlier in the novel, Catherine was afraid even to think ill of someone—but now she swings to the opposite extreme, thinking the absolute worst of the General. Both attitudes reflect her lack of experience analyzing other people and the world around her.

Volume 2, Chapter 9 Quotes

“If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to—Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you—Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing; where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay every thing open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”

Related Characters: Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney) (speaker), Catherine Morland, General Tilney, Mrs. Tilney
Related Symbols: Old Buildings / Northanger Abbey
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine has been looking at everything she sees at Northanger Abbey through the lens of the Gothic novels she has read, and has concocted a theory that General Tilney either murdered his wife or keeps her prisoner somewhere in the house. She has just realized that this was a foolish fantasy after sneaking into the deceased Mrs. Tilney’s room to investigate, when she runs into Henry and reluctantly reveals to him that she suspected his father of committing some terrible crime against his mother. Henry, who knows that Catherine was excited about visiting an Abbey because so many Gothic novels are set in such old buildings, instantly understands that the basis for her suspicion was not her real observations, but the things she has read about in books. Henry has already had several conversations with Catherine during which he appreciated her ability to listen, learn, and mature. It is likely because of this trusting relationship that he gives her such a direct lecture about how far she let herself get carried away by baseless fantasies.

Henry has two main points. First, that Catherine should consider the society that they live in and what is probable to happen in it. Whereas in Gothic novels, the abbey or castle where a heroine may be kept captive is often far away from any town, on a cliff in the Italian countryside, Northanger is located in the middle of England. Catherine has been brought up in English society to respect the moral principles and codes of conduct that govern it (and presumably to assume, as Henry does, that England and the Christians living in it are more “civilized” than people in more exotic locations). She herself worries that she will violate these principles out of ignorance and inexperience and has a deep respect for them. Henry then feels that she should recognize that these principles restrain and guide other people’s actions just as they do hers.

Second, Henry urges Catherine to think for herself and consult her own understanding instead of relying on other guides, whether they are novels or unreliable people around her. One of the book’s central questions is whether Catherine will learn to analyze the behavior and motivations of other people. In suspecting the General of murdering his wife, she has failed at this analysis very dramatically—but Henry has faith that she can do better. From what he knows of her, he thinks that she can learn from this failure and begin to exercise her own judgment moving forward.

Volume 2, Chapter 10 Quotes

Charming as were all Mrs. Radcliffe's works, and charming even as were the works of all her imitators, it was not in them perhaps that human nature, at least in the midland counties of England, was to be looked for. Of the Alps and Pyrenees, with their pine forests and their vices, they might give a faithful delineation; and Italy, Switzerland, and the South of France, might be as fruitful in horrors as they were there represented. Catherine dared not doubt beyond her own country, and even of that, if hard pressed, would have yielded the northern and western extremities. But in England it was not so; among the English, she believed, in their hearts and habits, there was a general though unequal mixture of good and bad. Upon this conviction, she would not be surprized if even in Henry and Eleanor Tilney, some slight imperfection might hereafter appear and upon this conviction she need not fear to acknowledge some actual specks in the character of their father, who, though cleared from the grossly injurious suspicions which she must ever blush to have entertained, she did believe, upon serious consideration, to be not perfectly amiable.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland (speaker), Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney), General Tilney, Eleanor Tilney (Miss Tilney)
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine had felt sure that Henry would no longer like her after he discovered her horrible suspicions about his father, but Henry, recognizing that she will feel embarrassed, treats her with kindness. Catherine soon moves on from the humiliation of the moment to reflect on what she can learn from it. She begins to compare the characterizations in Gothic novels to those of the people she knows. Her conclusions are in some ways exactly the ones that Henry suggested she ought to draw: that she should look around her and recognize that she lives in a society that is tightly controlled both by laws and codes of conduct, where gruesome crimes are unlikely to go undiscovered. She also takes his other piece of advice to heart, however, and begins to try to think for herself. In doing this, she recognizes that she may have been wrong about the General being a murderer, but this does not mean that he is a paragon of virtue. She recognizes that everyone has their good and bad qualities, and that she should take her own perceptions seriously and use her own mental powers to assess the people around her.

Volume 2, Chapter 11 Quotes

He went; and, it being at any time a much simpler operation to Catherine to doubt her own judgment than Henry's, she was very soon obliged to give him credit for being right, however disagreeable to her his going. But the inexplicability of the General's conduct dwelt much on her thoughts. That he was very particular in his eating, she had, by her own unassisted observation, already discovered; but why he should say one thing so positively, and mean another all the while, was most unaccountable! How were people, at that rate, to be understood? Who but Henry could have been aware of what his father was at?

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney), General Tilney
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

Henry Tilney has left Northanger to return to his home at Woodston and prepare for a visit from his family and Catherine. The General said that they would come on Wednesday, but that Henry should not worry about providing them with an elaborate meal. Henry has nevertheless rushed off to prepare this meal, much to Catherine’s amazement. Although Catherine is progressing in her ability to assess people’s characters, she is still unable to see through most hypocrisy. Catherine wants to decode the General’s intentions, but is puzzled. For instance, the General’s children believe that there is no way he would support the marriage of Isabella and Frederick, because of Isabella’s small fortune. But Catherine cannot understand why Eleanor and Henry believe the General cares about money, because the General often speaks about how little money means to him, and, moreover, he obviously seems to want her and Henry to marry, although she herself has a small fortune. But the General also often talks about his modest taste in food, décor, and real estate, while Catherine has observed that he cares a great deal about these things. As Catherine meditates on the question of why the General says he does not care about food, while in reality he is extremely picky about it, the question of why he wants her to marry his son, if he cares so much about money and she has no large fortune, cannot be far from her thoughts. The fact that the General speaks hypocritically is becoming clear to Catherine, but what this means for her future with Henry remains a mystery to her.

Volume 2, Chapter 12 Quotes

“I am quite uneasy about your dear brother, not having heard from him since he went to Oxford; and am fearful of some misunderstanding. Your kind offices will set all right:—he is the only man I ever did or could love, and I trust you will convince him of it. The spring fashions are partly down; and the hats the most frightful you can imagine. I hope you spend your time pleasantly, but am afraid you never think of me. I will not say all that I could of the family you are with, because I would not be ungenerous, or set you against those you esteem; but it is very difficult to know whom to trust, and young men never know their minds two days together. I rejoice to say, that the young man whom, of all others, I particularly abhor, has left Bath. You will know, from this description, I must mean Captain Tilney, who, as you may remember, was amazingly disposed to follow and tease me, before you went away. Afterwards he got worse, and became quite my shadow. Many girls might have been taken in, for never were such attentions; but I knew the fickle sex too well. He went away to his regiment two days ago, and I trust I shall never be plagued with him again.”

Related Characters: Isabella Thorpe (speaker), Catherine Morland, James Morland, Frederick Tilney (Captain Tilney)
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 202-203
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine has already heard from James that his marriage with Isabella has been called off, because she is presumably going to marry Frederick Tilney. Now, after it has become clear to Isabella that Frederick will not propose to her, she writes to enlist Catherine’s help to salvage her relationship with James. In this context, and set down in a letter where each statement can be carefully considered, Isabella’s true motivations could not be any more transparent. For instance, when Isabella writes that “many girls might have been taken in,” she suggests that, in her place, anyone would have believed that Frederick Tilney meant to marry her judging by how much attention he paid her. Logically, though, it would not matter if Frederick did or not deceive Isabella about his intention to marry, if Isabella truly loved James and wanted to marry him, as she says earlier in the letter. But Isabella cannot help bragging about how much attention she received from Frederick, which makes her hypocrisy even more glaring.

Isabella is right about one thing: Frederick was fickle. He never intended to marry her, only to lead her on. But when she describes all men as “the fickle sex,” after her disloyalty to James led to the breaking off of their engagement, it becomes clear that she is once again assigning faults to others that are actually her own.

Volume 2, Chapter 13 Quotes

That room, in which her disturbed imagination had tormented her on her first arrival, was again the scene of agitated spirits and unquiet slumbers. Yet how different now the source of her inquietude from what it had been then—how mournfully superior in reality and substance! Her anxiety had foundation in fact, her fears in probability; and with a mind so occupied in the contemplation of actual and natural evil, the solitude of her situation, the darkness of her chamber, the antiquity of the building were felt and considered without the smallest emotion; and though the wind was high, and often produced strange and sudden noises throughout the house, she heard it all as she lay awake, hour after hour, without curiosity or terror.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland
Related Symbols: Old Buildings / Northanger Abbey
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine is being expelled from Northanger Abbey by the General without any explanation. She here looks back on when she first arrived at Northanger, when she naively hoped to uncover a mystery like those she had read about in Gothic novels—when she wanted to be scared and agitated. Now she faces the mystery of why the General would turn on her so suddenly, but it is not a tantalizing, romantic mystery with supernatural undertones, although she still finds it inexplicable and painful. Catherine has matured a great deal since coming to Northanger in search of drama. She has realized that she much prefers a normal country parsonage, like the one where she grew up and the one where Henry lives, to an old building that could be the scene for a Gothic novel.

This comparison of Catherine’s real anxieties to the anxieties portrayed in a Gothic novel also recalls the opening lines of the novel, which mocked the conventions of many of the novels of the time in only choosing certain types of heroines—beautiful, talented, very rich or very poor—and only placing them in certain very dramatic situations—kidnapping, elopement, rape. The novel suggests that this moment of suffering for the unremarkable, middle-class Catherine is just as meaningful to her and worthy of reading about as any of the dramatic scenes of suffering portrayed in the Gothic novels that were most popular during that era.

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.

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.

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.

Volume 2, Chapter 16 Quotes

To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty-six and eighteen, is to do pretty well; and professing myself moreover convinced, that the General's unjust interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity, was perhaps rather conducive to it, by improving their knowledge of each other, and adding strength to their attachment, I leave it to be settled by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney), General Tilney
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel’s last sentence emphasizes the importance of a commitment between two people to make love work. In this instance, Henry and Catherine’s love is tested by the interference of the General, who seeks to split them up once he realizes that Catherine is not an heiress. It is Henry’s decision to stand by Catherine through this that proves he loves her, and eventually the General gives his permission for Henry and Catherine to marry. The experience of having to wait and hope for permission that might never come provides Catherine and Henry with yet another test of their love. They can only communicate during the period of separation by letter, and through these letters they are able to learn about how they each deal with difficulties. Unlike Isabella and James, who failed to stay unified and committed to one another in the face of outside interference by Frederick, Catherine and Henry pass this test, and thus “begin perfect happiness” together.

No matches.