Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 4

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 4 from Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey.

Northanger Abbey | Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

The following day Catherine Morland and Mrs. Allen return to the pump-room. Catherine hopes to see Henry Tilney again. Instead, there are many people, but none they know. Again, Mrs. Allen repeats she wishes they had an acquaintance there. This has been expressed so often by Mrs. Allen that Catherine is unconcerned. However, today, they are joined by Mrs. Thorpe, who is a self-defined "former schoolmate and intimate." The women talk, and in short order Mrs. Thorpe's daughters arrive. One of the young women, Isabella, is four years older than Catherine. Mrs. Thorpe is a widow of good temperament and indulgence but not of great wealth. Her eldest daughter, Isabella Thorpe, is described as being of "great personal beauty."

Analysis

Catherine Morland is presumed to be wealthy due to Mrs. Allen. They are at a place (the pump-room) where members of society gather, and Mrs. Allen is childless. Whether Mrs. Thorpe genuinely does know Mrs. Allen is questionable. Mrs. Allen's personality is not robust, and she is eager for company. Nonetheless, Mrs. Thorpe has insinuated herself into Mrs. Allen's life and introduced her daughters to Catherine.

Isabella Thorpe's beauty matters, not only as a contrast to Catherine but also because it is her chief asset. Her family is not of consequence in society, and she has no wealth to bring to a marriage. Coming to Bath is her best option for finding a wealthy husband, and she should be married before her younger sisters can be. As part of her pursuit of a husband, Isabella wants to make good social connections. Mrs. Allen, a wealthy woman, is a good connection, and as the novel advances, the Thorpes join them in public repeatedly.

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