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Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Quotes


But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of 40 surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.

Narrator, Chapter 1

The novel's tone starts out very self-consciously, pointing out that Catherine Morland is a heroine and that the story will be about the acquisition of a hero. This focus is typical of both a novel of manners and a Gothic Romance.


'I see what you think of me,' said he gravely—'I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow.'

Henry Tilney, Chapter 3

Henry Tilney teases about women writing in journals, but Catherine Morland's character is as an avid reader rather than journal keeper. Notably, Henry is lighthearted in his flirting with Catherine throughout the novel, as opposed to John Thorpe who is boastful about his every trait (and deceitful as well).


This sort of mysteriousness, which is always so becoming in a hero, threw a fresh grace in Catherine's imagination around his person and manners, and increased her anxiety to know more of him.

Narrator, Chapter 5

This quotation continues the thread of the authorial voice highlighting the hero and heroine of the story. Henry Tilney is mysterious to her, among other fine traits, and she is intrigued. Interestingly, Henry serves as a fine hero if the novel were only a novel of manners, but also as the hero if this were only a Gothic novel. He is quite the "catch" for a young woman, but he also rescues Catherine Morland. His rescues may not be from the clutches of a villain, but he rescues her from the attentions of John Thorpe, from her own sorrows, and ultimately, he is exactly the right love interest for her.


I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong.

Isabella Thorpe, Chapter 6

This remark is particularly telling when the reader realizes Isabella Thorpe willingly casts off James Morland. She also transfers her attention to James, ignoring Catherine Morland in the process. Her actions as the novel progresses reveal she is either lying about her attachments being strong, or she is lying to say she has attachments.


Udolpho! Oh, Lord! Not I; I never read novels; I have something else to do.

John Thorpe, Chapter 7

John Thorpe reveals he is completely incompatible with Catherine Morland, who loves nothing so much as novels. This also contrasts with Henry Tilney's response to Catherine's initial remarks on novels. Further, it reveals how little her opinion matters to John, as Catherine is clearly fond of the very thing he is disparaging.


She had not been brought up to ... know to how many idle assertions and impudent falsehoods the excess of vanity will lead.

Narrator, Chapter 9

Catherine Morland is an innocent. Her ability to understand and respond appropriately to John Thorpe's ongoing boastfulness, lies, and manipulations is a direct result of her inexperience. Dealing with such men, who were a part of society, is plainly outside of her skill set.


You will allow, that in both, man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal.

Henry Tilney, Chapter 10

Henry Tilney wisely points out the difference in power between men and women, both in dance and marriage. This is one of the myriad moments in which the fine traits of Henry show through the pages. He is self-aware (in direct contrast to John Thorpe). He acknowledges the unfair advantage that men have over women. Unlike Catherine Morland, Henry is not unfamiliar with the nuances of society. Here and elsewhere, his characteristics are such that he is a hero—not in enacting sweeping rescues, but in being a man of moral and intellectual prowess.


And after all that romancers may say, there is no doing without money.

Isabella Thorpe, Chapter 17

This is the crux of the dilemma Isabella Thorpe faces. It is easy for a modern reader to disparage her actions in the novel, but a woman's options for advancement were limited to marriage. To better her position in the world, to achieve financial comfort for herself and future children, she must marry well. In this, Isabella bluntly notes the reality for women like her.


No man is offended by another man's admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment.

Henry Tilney, Chapter 19

This is said is response to Catherine Morland's trying to understand the flirtation between Isabella Thorpe and Frederick Tilney. Henry Tilney points out it is not Frederick, but Isabella, who is hurting James Morland. Isabella's responsiveness to Frederick is the source of the distress.


The money is nothing, it is not an object, but employment is the thing.

General Tilney, Chapter 22

General Tilney explains to Catherine Morland and Eleanor Tilney that he believes all men ought to be employed. He cites his sons as examples and notes it is not about the income but about working.


Catherine had read too much not to be perfectly aware of the ease with which a waxen figure might be introduced, and a supposititious funeral carried on.

Narrator, Chapter 24

Catherine Morland's fascination with Gothic novels leads to a wholly irrational series of doubts about General Tilney. This is part of the satire of the Gothic novel. Catherine's reading, and the conventions of such novels, lead her to come to conclusions that the reader realizes are unsupported by the facts. Had this been a Gothic novel in truth, however, such extremes would be a part of the plot.


Could you have believed there had been such inconstancy and fickleness, and everything that is bad in the world?

Catherine Morland, Chapter 25

Catherine Morland is shocked that Isabella Thorpe breaks her engagement to James Morland and turns to Captain Frederick Tilney. She is, just now, truly grasping Isabella's duplicity. Her awareness of this comes about directly as result of Henry Tilney helping her see through the lies that Isabella continues to express.


But why he should say one thing so positively, and mean another all the while, was most unaccountable! How were people, at that rate, to be understood?

Narrator, Chapter 26

In this instant Catherine Morland is confused. More specifically, however, this is telling as to the entire situation in the first half of the book. The quote highlights exactly why Catherine struggled with the engagements with high society.


Wherever you are you should always be contented, but especially at home, because there you must spend the most of your time.

Mrs. Morland, Chapter 30

Catherine Morland's mother has a rather basic but perhaps wise assessment. She suggests Catherine ought to find peace in her lot in life. This is in response to Catherine's mood upon returning to Fullerton after six weeks in Bath and another six at Northanger Abbey.


She was guilty only of being less rich than he had supposed her to be.

Narrator, Chapter 30

The crime for which Catherine Morland is dismissed from Northanger Abbey is not her own. General Tilney believes John Thorpe's lies, both in Bath and in London, and Catherine is held accountable. The same deceits that she has been unable to manage or understand in her time in Bath continue to be at play—and from one of the same sources, John Thorpe.

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