Northanger Abbey

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Themes and Colors
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Northanger Abbey, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon

Northanger Abbey, like all of Jane Austen’s novels, looks closely at the role wealth plays in social relationships, especially those between young people considering marrying. For Austen, social rank is not only determined hierarchically, with the wealthiest and those with the highest rank in the aristocracy at the top and all others below. Instead, most of the characters in Northanger Abbey are not aristocrats (with the exception of Eleanor Tilney after she marries a Viscount, much to her status-obsessed father’s excitement), but members of the landed gentry. In Jane Austen’s portrayal of this class, which drew its wealth from the land it owned and rented to tenants, fortune is important, and rich members of the gentry might strive to marry their children to members of the nobility. But these are far from the only factors that determine social status. Instead, true respectability is wrapped up in possessing the quality of genteelness – of being a gentleman or gentlewoman – which is dependent on each individual’s manners.

Northanger Abbey presents a variety of characters who do not understand the importance of good manners to social status and only a few who do understand this distinction and are, therefore, truly genteel. Henry Tilney is more of a gentleman than his father, for example because he is polite and principled, along with being worldly and well-educated.

Northanger Abbey also satirizes a variety of the ways in which people betray their obsession with money. Some characters fixate on a certain category of material possessions and find themselves unable to talk about anything else, however much they bore their listeners. John Thorpe’s intense interest in horses and carriages, Mrs. Allen’s interest in clothes, and General Tilney’s interest in home improvement all betray their fixation on money and what it can buy, while also making them seem a bit ridiculous. A true gentleman or gentlewoman would show a better sense of what social situations called for and would exercise restraint in expressing themselves.

Another way of parodying the obsession with money is by displaying the lengths that characters will go to hide this obsession. Both Isabella Thorpe and General Tilney claim to care nothing about money, when it is in fact the only thing they truly care about. Eventually, when they realize that the Morlands are not as rich as they had believed, their behavior towards the Morlands changes and their hypocrisy is unmasked.

General Tilney’s terrible treatment of Catherine once he realizes she is not rich proves that he is not actually respectable. As Mrs. Moreland says upon Catherine’s return, General Tilney “had acted neither honourably nor feelingly – neither as a gentleman nor as a parent.” Even today, to send a teenager like Catherine home alone without making sure she had money and without consulting her parents would be considered both unkind and inappropriate. At a time when the protection of young women was so much more of a concern to all, General Tilney’s action showed disrespect for the social codes that governed relationships. This action was not only rude, it was beyond the pale and put his status as a “gentleman” into doubt.

At the same time Northanger Abbey does not discount the importance of money. It is a sign of Catherine’s naïveté that she does not see through the hypocrisy of Isabella, John, and General Tilney, who all say that they care little for money. Because, as any person familiar with the world should know, of course they must care about money at least to some extent. Money is important! Catherine’s own happy ending attests as much. That Henry returns her love is wonderful, but just as excellent is the fact that marrying Henry will bring Catherine much more wealth than she or her family ever thought possible, and the comfort and security provided by that wealth.

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Wealth and Respectability Quotes in Northanger Abbey

Below you will find the important quotes in Northanger Abbey related to the theme of Wealth and Respectability.
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.

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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 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 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 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

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.