Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey Volume 1, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, Catherine wants to become better acquainted with Miss Tilney and plans to seek her out in the Pump-room. She spends the morning reading her book and responding to Mrs. Allen’s idle remarks about clothing. Suddenly, John Thorpe arrives and tells Catherine to hurry and get ready to go on a drive with him, Isabella, and James. Catherine is surprised, because they had not planned to go on a drive. She gives Mrs. Allen a questioning look, but Mrs. Allen does not understand that her feedback is being sought, so Catherine asks Mrs. Allen whether she ought to go. Mrs. Allen says she should do as she likes. Catherine decides to delay her attempt to get to know Miss Tilney better and to go on the drive with the others.
Catherine had a sense that it might not be appropriate to go on a drive alone in a carriage with John Thorpe, but hoped to rely on the guidance of others. Perhaps the unscrupulous John noticed this and decided to spring the drive on her without getting her agreement to go. Mrs. Allen does not give Catherine any guidance, merely agreeing with the proposition in front of her, as is her usual practice. But since Catherine is inexperienced in judging the weaknesses of others, she takes this indifferent answer to mean that the ride will be appropriate.
Themes
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Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Catherine goes out and greets Isabella, who complains that Catherine kept them waiting, praises the ball, and says she has so much to talk to Catherine about, but for now Catherine must hurry into John’s carriage so that they can be off. Catherine overhears Isabella tell James how much she adores her.
Isabella continues to play up how much she cares about Catherine as a friend without actually spending any time with Catherine. Her supposed love for Catherine has become little more than a way of flattering and attracting James.
Themes
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Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
In the carriage, John says his horse is very wild, which frightens Catherine, who is then happily surprised to see that the horse moves quietly. John says the horse’s calmness is due to his skill as a coachman. Catherine wonders why he alarmed her if he can control his horse, and decides to stop worrying about danger and enjoy the ride.
As we have already seen from his exaggerated description of how fast it goes, John’s horse is much more sedate and tame than John Thorpe thinks fits his dashing personality. Catherine does not understand lying about this kind of thing out of vanity.
Themes
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Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
John then asks Catherine if “old Allen is as rich as a Jew” and if he is her godfather. She says she believes him to be very rich, but that he is not her godfather. She affirms that she spends a great deal of time with the Allens. John then asks if Mr. Allen drinks a great deal. Catherine denies this vehemently. John says that people do not drink nearly enough, and brags about how much he drinks at Oxford, saying that people there drink so little that they are impressed when people at his party drink five pints each. Catherine does not understand much of what John says. She concludes that students at Oxford drink a great deal, but thinks that James surely does not.
John Thorpe talks in an informal and sometimes offensive way that he thinks makes him seem tough and experienced, but which Catherine can hardly understand. Catherine does not guess from his asking whether she has a rich godfather that he may be investigating how much money she will bring to an eventual marriage. She is so far from considering him as a possible spouse that she only concerns herself with what he says insofar as it impacts her brother.
Themes
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Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
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Thorpe talks on and on about his carriage. Catherine lacks knowledge of the subject, but she agrees with whatever he says. Catherine, referring to something John said during his endless discussion of horses and carriages, asks if he really thinks that James’s carriage will break down, and he says it is very rickety and will definitely crash. Catherine is very alarmed and says they must stop James, but John responds that James will certainly be safe. Catherine is astonished by the way John can say two opposing things, but she decides that he would not let his sister and friend be exposed to danger, and that she is unlikely to get a clear answer from him. John continues talking in hyperbole about his amazing feats as a coachman and a hunter. Although he is James’s friend and Isabella’s brother, Catherine “boldly” surmises that based on how tiresome she finds his company, he may not be entirely agreeable.
Catherine is apparently having her first extended encounter with a braggart who says things he does not mean. John says that James’s carriage is rickety only to make his own carriage seem fancier in comparison. But Catherine does not care at all whether John’s or James’s carriage is impressive, so long as riding in them is not dangerous to the people she cares about. This is the second time on this ride that John has scared her for seemingly no reason, and although she does not understand his motives, she begins to be fed up with his boring conversation and inaccurate statements.
Themes
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Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
When they arrive back at the Allens, Isabella expresses regret that it is too late for her to accompany Catherine in. She laments that it has been such a long time since she spent time with her “dearest Catherine.” She asks if Catherine agrees that the time passed amazingly quickly, but does not wait to listen to her friend’s answer.
Again, Isabella is using Catherine as a prop in her conversation with James. She wishes to tell him how wonderful a time she had with him, but does so indirectly through Catherine, who she otherwise ignores.
Themes
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Back at the Allens’, Catherine learns that Mrs. Allen ran into Mrs. Hughes in the Pump-room and then walked on the Crescent with Mr. Tilney and Miss Tilney. Mrs. Allen talked to Mrs. Hughes a great deal, but can remember little. She is not sure whether Mr. Tilney is the only son, or if the Tilneys are orphans, but she is sure their mother was rich and is now dead, because Mrs. Hughes told her that a set of pearls Mrs. Tilney received as a gift on her wedding-day have now been passed on to Miss Tilney. Disappointed to have missed this encounter, Catherine decides the drive was no substitute for failing to see the Tilneys, and that John Thorpe is “quite disagreeable.”
Mrs. Allen can only recall facts that relate to clothing and jewelry, the topics that concern her. Although she should have observed Catherine’s interest in Mr. Tilney by this point, she fails to even help Catherine by remembering information about the Tilneys that she is told. Regret at having missed an opportunity to spend time with the Tilneys makes Catherine more sure of her own judgment about John Thorpe’s character than she would have otherwise been.
Themes
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Experience and Innocence Theme Icon