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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 5 | Summary



The Thorpes and Allens attend the theater, and Catherine Morland looks in vain for Henry Tilney. Afterward, the Thorpes and Allens retire again to the pump-room. It is so crowded they leave it for the Crescent, an outside promenade area. Again, Henry is not there, and again Catherine is disappointed.

Catherine and Isabella Thorpe speak at length, and Isabella encourages Catherine's affections for Henry. This is especially true when Isabella learns he is a clergyman; she says she is "very partial to the profession."

Mrs. Allen shifts from disappointment in the lack of acquaintances to happiness that Mrs. Thorpe is there. At the same time, Catherine and Isabella quickly become close friends—walking arm in arm, using their given names, and spending much time together.

At this point the narrator interjects again to discuss the reading of novels (an activity the two girls enjoy) and the popular disdain for novels. She names several novels ("It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda") and defends their value.


The novels named—"Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda"—were all popular fiction by women: Cecilia and Camilla were written by Frances Burney, and Belinda was by Maria Edgeworth. In this section, after several chapters of being in the story itself, Jane Austen reminds readers yet again this is a novel that addresses novels she speaks directly to the reader, and she also interjects historical grounds: the novels she references are near contemporaries. All three were published between 1782 and 1801. Northanger Abbey was initially sold in 1803, although it was not actually published for 15 years.

Additionally, this chapter highlights the quick friendship that develops, as well as the degree to which that friendship is driven, by the beautiful but wealthy Isabella Thorpe. The Thorpes have joined the Allens, and neither Mrs. Allen nor Catherine Morland seems suspicious of their intentions.

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