Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey Volume 1, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Catherine and Isabella follow the two young men, but are prevented from crossing the street by traffic. Isabella is complaining about this, when she realizes that one of the carriages being driven on the street, very recklessly, is her brother’s. As it turns out, Isabella’s brother is accompanied by Catherine's brother, whom she is surprised and pleased to see. James Morland greets his sister warmly, although Isabella seeks his attention with her smile. If Catherine had watched James’s face as he spoke to Isabella she might have realized that there was an attraction between them.
Catherine innocently assumes that her brother has come to see her and that Isabella’s brother has come to see the rest of his family. The fact that she has always grown up far from any young man of her social rank is on clear display. She does not even suspect the possibility of a love affair despite the clear evidence on both Isabella and James’s faces that they have a connection.
Themes
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
John Thorpe, Isabella’s brother, approaches the other three. He is stout and not very tall, and acts as if he is always at his ease, which comes across as rudeness. He begins to ask Catherine questions about his horse and carriage, topics about which she knows little, and cannot make conversation. He claims that they have come 25 miles in two and a half hours, although James Morland says they have come 23 miles in three and a half hours. John asks Catherine how much she thinks the carriage cost, and she says she cannot guess. When he tells her, she says she is not sure whether that was a good deal or a bad deal, and he says it was neither: he could have gotten it for less but he didn't want to haggle.
John Thorpe is another character who shows that he is no gentleman by failing to suit his conversation to the person with whom he is speaking. Moreover, he brags about things that no one else cares about or is impressed by, seeking to show that he is the owner of a marvelous horse and carriage by lying about how long it took them to reach Bath. He brags about the price he paid for the horse and carriage, wanting to be seen both as having gotten a good deal and having been generous with his money.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
The gentlemen then decide that they will escort the two ladies back to the Thorpes’ lodgings. Isabella pays such complete attention to James that she only looks at the two young men that she and Catherine had followed from the Pump-room three times. John Thorpe walks with Catherine and continues to talk to her about his horse, and tells Catherine that he will drive her around in his carriage every day. Catherine thanks him although she is not sure that this is proper. Isabella says that she would like to ride with them too, but John Thorpe says he did not come to Bath to drive his sisters about town. After this, John talks exclusively about whether passing women are pretty or ugly, and Catherine is not confident enough in her judgment to make any reply.
Although Catherine has not yet figured out Isabella’s desires, the reader gets a hint that, while Isabella wants James’s attention, he is not the only man she is interested in. Meanwhile, John continues to choose a topic of conversation of no interest to Catherine, then suggests a date which Catherine is not sure would be appropriate behavior for two young unmarried people. When he says he will not drive his sisters around, Thorpe shows that he is vain about who he is seen with. Finally, he chooses another, even more inappropriate topic of conversation by commenting on women’s appearances.
Themes
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
After a while Catherine asks John if he has ever read the novel Udolpho. He says that he never reads novels, which are all trash, except that he reads books by Mrs. Radcliffe occasionally. In embarrassment, Catherine tells him that Udolpho also was written by Mrs. Radcliffe, but he is not embarrassed and goes on to criticize another novel.
The narrator warned us in the last chapter that denying enjoyment of novels is a sign of hypocrisy, and here John Thorpe shows how far this hypocrisy can go. He does not even know the author of the books he calls trash.
Themes
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
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They arrive at the Thorpes’ lodgings and John Thorpe rudely greets his two other sisters, saying they look ugly. He tells his mother to find a place for him and James to stay near them. Mrs. Thorpe is charmed to see her son. Catherine does not like John Thorpe’s manners, but she reserves judgment because he is Isabella's brother and James's friend, and because he asks her to dance at a ball that night. When James asks her if she likes John, she says that she does.
It is clear how little Catherine trusts her own judgment now. John Thorpe is obviously rude, but instead of wondering why her brother is friends with him, Catherine imagines that her own impressions of John must be inaccurate. While she lacks the confidence to draw this conclusion, it is clear that this is not because she is unperceptive.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon