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Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 7

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 7 from Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey.

Northanger Abbey | Chapter 7 | Summary



Upon leaving the pump-room and walking, the women encounter their brothers: John Thorpe and James Morland. Isabella Thorpe and James assess each other quite positively—a thing the narrator tells the reader Catherine Morland did not notice. Catherine is the object of interest by John Thorpe, Isabella's arrogant and boastful brother. He expounds on the speed of the trip, his horse, and the deal he made for the carriage; Catherine is innocently unresponsive.

The four set off to see Mrs. Thorpe, and the Thorpe siblings efficiently set up reasons to separate Catherine into John's company for a carriage ride and James with Isabella.

Catherine asks John about Udolpho, which he disparages. He continues to speak ill of novels in general, listing two he enjoyed. He adds "as for all the others, they are the stupidest things in creation." He reveals his ignorance by saying he won't read Udolpho (which was written by Ann Radcliffe)—but that if he reads a novel, it will be by Radcliffe.

Even after Catherine points out his errors, John continues to speak as if he is knowledgeable about novels. His rudeness continues in the way he speaks to his mother when they all arrive at her lodgings. Catherine is displeased, but she keeps her silence.

When alone with her brother, Catherine does not share her opinions because John is her brother's friend, as well as her friend's brother. Moreover, Isabella has already told her John thinks well of her. In the same conversation with James, Catherine learns he is taken with Isabella and is pleased by this. After they speak, Catherine returns to reading her Radcliffe novel.


Although Catherine Morland is not impressed by her friend's brother, she remains quiet. She does not point out the errors in John Thorpe's actions with regard to his driving, boasting, or even his treatment of his mother. She does, however, gently correct him about Ann Radcliffe's novel, not because novels matter more—although novels are important to her—but because of a character trait that continues as the novel advances: Catherine wants to help. Elsewhere when Isabella Thorpe engages in behavior that is improper, Catherine's first thought is to explain it to her. Likewise, when she learns John has romantic intentions toward her, she quickly wants to explain. Similarly, when Captain Frederick Tilney pays untoward attention to an engaged woman, Catherine worries for all of the involved parties. She is kindhearted.

This chapter also highlights an ongoing trait of John Thorpe's. He is boastful and dishonest, willing to say whatever suits his purposes. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe was a very well-known Gothic novel (and is still taught as a prime example of the Gothic novel). He is, apparently, unaware of this as he says he won't read—even as he says he will read one of Radcliffe's novels.

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