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Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 16

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 16 from Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey.

Northanger Abbey | Chapter 16 | Summary



Catherine Morland goes to see the Tilneys and is put off by their chilly reception. She tells Isabella Thorpe, who proceeds to speak negatively about them. Catherine corrects every misconception of Isabella's and has hopes for seeing them that evening.

Upon seeing them, Catherine also meets Captain Frederick Tilney, Henry and Eleanor's eldest brother. Captain Tilney sends a request to dance with Isabella, but Catherine—believing Isabella's earlier words—sends a refusal. She is shocked shortly thereafter when she sees Isabella dancing with Captain Tilney. This sparks a conversation with Henry Tilney wherein he remarks on Catherine's goodness and her inability to think of people's baser motives.

Afterward, Isabella explains she was pressured, that James Morland wouldn't want her to sit out the evening, and that she put the captain in his place several times.

A letter from James arrives explaining the amount settled on him, the property settled on him, and the delay before he can marry Isabella. She is disappointed, and Catherine is unhappy about Isabella's reaction—until she resolves that it is the delay that is the source of the disappointment, not the financial aspects.


As in the earliest conversations with Isabella Thorpe, here the reader sees how quickly Isabella speaks negatively about others. At this point the reader has seen her lie, gossip, and manipulate. To these, another flaw is added. The recently engaged woman accepts invitations to dance with the newly arrived Captain Frederick Tilney, and she does so after saying she will not.

Here, the reader sees Henry Tilney stepping further into the role of educating Catherine Morland. There were hints earlier, but in this instance he very directly asks her to think about people's motives. In the development of Catherine's personality and her transition from trusting girl to adult, this is significant.

Catherine exercises this skill when she notes Isabella's reaction to the letter from James Morland. However, she continues to look at things innocently when she dismisses Isabella's reaction by attributing it to sadness over the delay in marriage rather than to the financial amount.

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