Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

Catherine Morland is increasingly upset by the attention Isabella Thorpe gives Captain Frederick Tilney. She worries Isabella is hurting both Frederick and James Morland. When she speaks to Henry Tilney about it, expressing her worry that Frederick's actions are upsetting James, Henry points out, "No man is offended by another man's admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment."

Catherine continues to question Henry, going as far as to ask if his father ought not to send Captain Tilney away. Henry points out it should not require Frederick to be absent for Isabella to be constant in her affection. He does, however, note that his brother must soon rejoin his regiment.

Analysis

Although Catherine Morland is increasingly aware of the problems of accepting things at face value, she also struggles to find an answer that is more positive. She wants to see Isabella Thorpe as innocent, and therefore she suggests to Henry Tilney the problem is Captain Frederick Tilney. Henry, on the other hand, points out that Isabella attracting attention is not the problem, but her choice to respond to it is the source of the conflict. If Isabella were constant in her affection for James Morland, she would not encourage Frederick.

Still, Catherine wants to "solve" the dilemma, and her suggestion to Henry is that perhaps his father could intervene. Her kindheartedness includes worry for all three parties: James, Isabella, and Frederick. This continues her tendency to be the opposite of Isabella. The further into the novel the reader reaches, the more the contrast between the two women is obvious. The same can be said about Henry Tilney and John Thorpe. However, neither James Morland nor Frederick Tilney is portrayed as positively as Henry: James has tried to manipulate his sister for his own interests or to support Isabella's interests, and Frederick is not demonstrating a regard for James's relationship with Isabella. Further, Henry is not in any way worried over his brother; he sees no indication of genuine feeling for Isabella from his brother or he simply knows his brother's character.

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