Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

Approximately eight days later, the two young women are again at the pump-room. After a bit of conversation at how much Isabella Thorpe has missed Catherine Morland, they discuss Udolpho (a popular Gothic novel by Ann Radcliffe). Isabella tells Catherine she's made a list of more Gothic novels for her, and names them: "Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries."

Isabella goes on to explain there is nothing she wouldn't do for a friend, whom she doesn't love "by halves," and that Catherine is the sort of girl men will like. In doing so she contrasts Catherine to her friend Miss Andrews, whom she calls "insipid." She continues to encourage Catherine's affection for Henry Tilney.

In further discussing Udolpho Isabella suggests "Mrs. Morland objects to novels." Catherine quickly corrects her, explaining her mother reads and is fond of Sir Charles Grandison (not Gothic but realism).

Isabella continues, flattering Catherine's appearance and attire. Momentarily, Isabella suggests men are "the most conceited creatures in the world"—even as she starts to discuss her taste in them and compare it with Catherine's. This contrast between word and deed continues after the two young women examine the book of names (where guests' names were written). Isabella suggests there are two men staring at them and hopes they won't follow them, despite their attention. However, when they do not, she suggests Catherine join her on a walk, even though that walk is likely to overtake the men.

Analysis

Isabella Thorpe's less-than-honest personality is increasingly apparent, as is Catherine Morland's innocence. Even as Isabella's words and actions are at direct opposition, Catherine believes the best of her. At this point, the reader is well aware Isabella is disingenuous, but Catherine focuses instead on her novel reading. In this, Isabella supports her. In fact, she also supports Catherine's interest in Henry Tilney.

Isabella's actual interest in novels and in Catherine is not ever fully made clear. It is possible that Isabella does feel fondness for both, but the primary motivating force for her is securing her future.

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