Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 8

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 8 from Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey.

Northanger Abbey | Chapter 8 | Summary



The four attend the Upper Rooms, along with Mrs. Thorpe, the younger Miss Thorpe, and the Allens. John Thorpe leaves to go to the card-room, and initially Isabella refuses to dance with James Morland. She explains she doesn't want to leave Catherine Morland, but her refusal doesn't last very long. She leaves with James, and Catherine is left alone with the chaperones.

As she is waiting for John to return, she sees Henry Tilney arrive with a woman on his arm. The narrator notes Catherine is missing an "opportunity of considering him lost to her forever, by being married already." Instead, she assumes, rightly, that the young woman is his sister.

Catherine is thrilled to see him, and after a few moments he approaches her and greets her warmly, as well as addressing Mrs. Allen. Miss Tilney and her chaperone join them. Henry asks Catherine to dance, which she refuses as those dances were promised to John, who is still in the card-room. Henry leaves the small group.

John rejoins the group and asks Catherine to dance, but she points out his two dances are both passed. He missed them. He is unconcerned and asks her to join him as he quizzes people. She excuses herself instead, and the rest of the evening is "dull."


The previous day John Thorpe has engaged two dances with Catherine Morland, but he has gone to the card-room to speak with a friend. Because he is expected back shortly, she cannot accept a dance with someone else.

Had Catherine been more experienced in the nuances of society, she would have been better able to navigate the situation. However, this is a novel of manners. The difficulty of the social rules is part of these sorts of novels.

Here, too, we see Isabella Thorpe's inconstancy. She refuses James Morland in order to stay with Catherine, but only long enough to demonstrate she is a loyal friend.

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