Northanger Abbey Volume 1, Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey Volume 1, Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day Catherine receives a note from Isabella, who asks Catherine to come to her lodgings as quickly as possible. When Catherine arrives, Maria Thorpe tells her about the enjoyable day she had with John, Isabella, and James, rushing around and being rained on. Catherine is relieved to learn that they didn’t visit Blaize Castle without her.
Although the day that she describes does not sound fun, Maria, much like her brother John, seeks to describe the day as enviably entertaining, simply because she was involved in it and others were not.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Isabella comes into the room and says she knows Catherine guessed the meaning of her letter. Catherine has no idea what Isabella is hinting at. Isabella continues, saying James is the most charming of men, but she worries about what Mr. and Mrs. Morland will say. Catherine begins to understand and, with a blush, asks Isabella if she is really in love with James. This is only half of it: Isabella and James are engaged. Catherine is bowled over by the unexpected and wonderful news that her friend will become her sister-in-law.
Catherine failed to interpret the many signs that Isabella and James were courting and is now bowled over by the news of their marriage. Whether this experience will teach her to be a better judge of other people’s feelings in the future remains to be seen. Catherine still does not suspect that Isabella may have been using Catherine to become closer to James.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
Isabella gushes about her love of Catherine and James, saying she will love Catherine much more than she ever loved her own sisters, and that she fell in love with James at first sight. Catherine thinks to herself that this demonstrates the strength of love, since James is not handsome. Isabella continues to describe how anxious she has been that she would betray her love for James to Catherine, but says she knew Catherine could keep her secret. Catherine is embarrassed not to have guessed the secret earlier.
Catherine is still unable to detect when Isabella is exaggerating her feelings. The fact that James is not handsome does not make Catherine suspect Isabella of hypocrisy (that she may be pursuing James for his money), but merely believe that Isabella’s love is so sincere that it overcame her powers of objective observation.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Isabella says that James will go to Fullerton to get his parents’ consent and that she is terribly nervous that they will refuse to approve the match, since James “might marry anybody!” Catherine says that the difference in fortune should not be much to signify, and Isabella says that she would still marry James even if she had millions. This reminds Catherine of the heroines in novels, and she says she is sure her parents will be delighted by Isabella. Isabella says that she has the most modest desires, and wants only to live in a cottage in a village. She says that James promises that they will receive an answer the next day, but that she will be terrified to open the letter.
Isabella believes that James is wealthy and that the Morlands may hope for him to marry a woman with a larger fortune. Because she hopes that they will accept her, she pretends that she also places no importance upon how much money she will have. Catherine knows little about how important money is to matchmaking, but has read similar speeches from idealistic heroines, so she believes Isabella to have the sincere, disinterested feelings of a romantic heroine.
Themes
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
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James comes to say goodbye before he sets off to see his parents, but is frequently detained as Isabella calls him back to her, all the while urging him to make haste and leave. The rest of the evening is spent with Isabella scheming about her and James’ future happiness. John and Mrs. Thorpe are aware of Isabella’s engagement, but, in what seems to Catherine like an unkind and unnecessary concealment, Maria and Anne have yet to be told. They know that something is being kept from them, and the evening passes as a “war of wits.”
Isabella shows her affection for James by doing the opposite of what she says, in an imitation of being irresistibly drawn to him. Here, she urges him to leave, while forcing him to stay. Catherine’s perceptions of the Thorpe family’s behavior are beginning to sharpen as she sees John and Isabella exclude their sisters from their secret merely to feel that they are better than them.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
The next day Catherine returns to the Thorpes’ place. Isabella is very agitated as she awaits the letter. When it comes, it is just a quick note to say that the Morlands have happily given their consent. They say that all details about their income and property, and the timeframe within which they could expect to be married would follow in a future note, but Isabella looks at this with disinterest. She imagines that they will be married speedily and that she will be the envy of all, with a carriage and beautiful rings on her fingers.
A rare look into what Isabella is thinking shows that she is most interested in status and wealth, not in marrying James. James clearly does not suspect that Isabella is marrying him for his money, because he leaves out these important details for another letter, which leads Isabella to imagine that marriage will make her as rich as she assumed it would.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
John gets ready to set off for London, but first finds Catherine alone in the parlor. Fidgeting, he says it’s “a famous good thing this marrying scheme!” Catherine agrees and wishes him a good journey, saying she must go home to prepare for her dinner with Miss Tilney. John stops her and says they may not see one another for a long time and that she has more good nature than anyone else. Catherine replies that many people are like her, and says goodbye once again. John asks if he can come to visit Fullerton. She says he may, and her parents will be glad to see him. John asks if Catherine will be glad, and she says there are few people she would not like to see.
John Thorpe seems to have waited to see if the Morlands would approve of Isabella as a daughter-in-law before testing whether Catherine might be interested in marrying him. He is too self-aggrandizing to even humble himself so much as to ask Catherine to dance with him sometimes, and now he goes about trying to understand if she would marry him in the most indirect way imaginable.
Themes
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Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
John then comments that he and Catherine think about most things similarly, and she responds that she does not know her own mind about many things. He agrees, saying he does not care about having opinions, only that he should be with the girl he likes. He says, also, that he cares nothing for fortune. Catherine agrees, saying “to marry for money I think the wickedest thing in existence.” Then she leaves, rushing off to tell the Allens that James and Isabella have gotten her parents’ consent. John feels quite satisfied that Catherine is interested in him as a prospective husband.
John hopes that by showing they agree in their outlook on life, he will demonstrate to Catherine that they should marry. To do this, he hypocritically parrots everything that she says, no matter how absurdly inconsistent this makes his own statements appear. Not knowing that he believes her to be wealthier than he is, Catherine does not realize that John might interpret her saying that she is not interested in money as a hint that she is interested in him.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon