Study Guide

Northanger Abbey Quotes

By Jane Austen

  • Language and Communication

    "My dearest creature, I have been looking for you this hour. What could have induced you to come into this set, when you knew I was in the other? I have been quite wretched without you."

    "My dear Isabella, how was it possible for me to get at you? I could no even see where you were."

    "So I told your brother all the time - but he would not believe me. Do go and see for her, Mr. Morland, said I - but all in vain - he would not stir an inch. Was it not so, Mr. Morland?" (8.12-14)

    Isabella excels in verbally disconcerting, or confusing, people. She talks constantly in an effort to keep everyone else off balance, and in an effort to keep herself in the position of never being wrong.

    Catherine's silent appeal to her friend, meanwhile, was entirely thrown away, for Mrs. Allen, not being at all in the habit of conveying any expression herself by a look, was not aware of it being ever intended by any body else. (9.6)

    Non-verbal communication is often the most problematic and the most frequently misunderstood in this text. Mrs. Allen is shown to be someone totally oblivious to it. Catherine has a much more hit-and-miss record with non-verbal cues.

    She followed him in all his admiration as well as she could. To go before, or beyond him was impossible. His knowledge and her ignorance of the subject, his rapidity of expression, and her diffidence of herself put that out of her power; she could strike out nothing new in commendation, but she readily echoed whatever he chose to assert. (9.27)

    Different personalities often have trouble communicating in this text. John practically steamrolls the shy Catherine here. Communication is frequently a matter of finding common ground, but in this instance John opts to dominate the conversation, forcing Catherine to become an echo.

    She reflected on the affair for some time in much perplexity, and was more than once on the point of requesting from Mr. Thorpe a clearer insight into his real opinion on the subject; but she checked herself, because it appeared to her that he did not excel in giving those clearer insights, in making those things plain which he had before made ambiguous. (9.31)

    Unclear communication stem from two places here. On the one hand, Catherine herself is perplexed and can't interpret what John is saying, or not saying. On the other hand, John is not expressing himself clearly. Learning how to be a good translator is a key aspect of Catherine's development here.

    "I am glad of it, for we shall all be there." - This civility was duly returned; and they parted - on Miss Tilney's side with some knowledge of her new acquaintance's feelings, and on Catherine's, without the smallest consciousness of having explained them. (10.20)

    Catherine is once again unconsciously communicating her sentiments to someone else, in this case the perceptive Eleanor Tilney. Catherine had been attempting to question her about Henry, but subtlety is definitely not Catherine's strong suit.

    The three others still continued together, walking in a most uncomfortable manner to poor Catherine; sometimes not a word was said, sometimes she was again attacked with supplications or reproaches, and her arm was still linked within Isabella's, though their hearts were at war. At one moment she was softened, at another irritated; always distressed, but always steady. (13.8)

    Catherine faces up to some intense peer pressure, where the Thorpes and James alternate between an array of persuasive tactics: flattering her, sweet-talking her, attacking her. This war of wills is fought with language, and Catherine is essentially under siege.

    "Henry," said Miss Tilney, "you are very impertinent. Miss Morland, he is treating you exactly as he does his sister. He is forever finding fault with me, for some incorrectness of language [....] The word 'nicest,' as you used it, did not suit him [....]"

    '"I am sure," cried Catherine, "I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a very nice book, and why should not I call it so?"

    "Very true," said Henry, "and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! it is a very nice word, indeed! - it does for everything." (14.14-16)

    Henry's obsession with word choice is a recurring theme. Henry ridicules people, especially Catherine, for using words incorrectly, or for using vague words. Henry seems to be commenting on lazy word-choice here, since 'nice' is such a generic word that it practically means nothing at all.

    "I do not understand you."

    "Then we are on very unequal terms, for I understand you perfectly well."

    "Me? - yes; I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible."

    "Bravo! - an excellent satire on modern language." (16.20-23)

    Catherine makes one of the best thematic statements of the entire book here, with her assertion that she can't speak well enough to be unintelligible. Catherine implies that overeducated speakers are often the least intelligible, though this text gives us plenty of examples of idiotic speakers as well. Henry agrees with Catherine, since he is often satirizing, or making fun of, the way people speak.

    "A famous good thing this marrying scheme, upon my soul! A clever fancy of Morland's and Belle's. What do you think of it, Miss Morland? I say it is not a bad notion."

    "I am sure I think it a very good one."

    "Do you? - that's honest, by heavens! I am glad you are no enemy to matrimony however. Did you ever hear the old song, 'Going to one wedding brings on another'?


    "And then you know" - twisting himself about and forcing a foolish laugh - "I say, then you know, we may try the truth of the same old song."

    "May we? - but I never sing. Well I wish you a good journey." (15.31-36)

    This is one of the funniest scenes in the whole book, and one of the best examples of communication gone hilariously awry. John and Catherine each mistakenly assume they are on the same page here.

    "Well, then, I only meant that your attributing my brother's wish of dancing with Miss Thorpe to good-nature alone, convinced me of your being superior in good-nature yourself to all the rest of the world."

    Catherine blushed and disclaimed, and the gentleman's predictions were verified. (16.27-28)

    Here Catherine's opinions and assumptions about other people tell Henry more about herself than about Captain Tilney and Isabella.

    "You are a very close questioner."

    "Am I? - I only ask what I want to be told."

    "But do you only ask what I can be expected to tell?"

    "Yes, I think so; for you must know your brother's heart."

    "My brother's heart, as you term it on the present occasion, I assure you can only guess at."


    "Well! - Nay, if it is to be guess-work, let us all guess for ourselves. To be guided by second-hand conjecture is pitiful." (18.20-26)

    Catherine assumes Henry is able to communicate and explain things that he in fact cannot. Henry's "guess-work" is quite good, but he isn't omniscient, or all-knowing, in the way that Catherine is thinking here.

  • Lies and Deceit

    "I assure you," said she, "I would not stand up without your dear sister for all the world; for if I did we should certainly be separated the whole evening." Catherine accepted this kindness with gratitude, and they continued as they were for three minutes longer, when Isabella, who had been talking to James on the other side of her, turned again to his sister and whispered, "My dearest creature, I am afraid I must leave you, your brother is so amazingly impatient to begin." (8.2)

    There are lots of different kinds of lies in this text. Here Isabella exaggerates her desire to stay with Catherine, then promptly turns around and ditches her anyway, which turns her earlier "kind" sentiment into something hollow.

    In this common-place chatter, which lasted some time, the original subject seemed entirely forgotten; and though Catherine was very well pleased to have it dropped for a while, she could not avoid a little suspicion at the total suspension of all Isabella's impatient desire to see Mr. Tilney. (8.21)

    Isabella has a habit of saying things that sound very nice, but that she doesn't mean. Isabella might not be actively lying all the time, but her white lies, exaggerations, and omissions really start adding up.

    Catherine listened with astonishment; she knew not how to reconcile two such very different accounts of the same thing, for she had not been brought up to understand the propensities of a rattle, nor to know to how many idle assertions and impudent falsehoods the excess of vanity will lead. (9.31)

    John's "idle assertions" point to his carelessness with what he says – his ultimate agenda is to serve himself, not to say things that are clear or even true.

    Catherine could not tell a falsehood even to please Isabella, but the latter was spared the misery of her friend's dissenting voice, by not waiting for her answer. Her own feelings entirely engrossed her. (9.33)

    Catherine stands out here for her inability to lie to people. Catherine is shown to be more considerate of other people's feelings, while Isabella is only concerned with her own.

    "We soon found out that our tastes were exactly alike in preferring the country to every other place; really, our opinions were so exactly the same, it was quite ridiculous! There was not a single point in which we differed." (10.3)

    Isabella is clearly altering her opinions in order to match whatever James says here. Once again, Isabella is transforming herself into someone else in order to please another person and to ultimately get something she wants.

    "How could you deceive me so, Mr. Thorpe? - How could you say that you saw them driving up the Lansdown-road? - I would not have had it happen so for the world [....] How could you say, you saw them driving out in a phaeton?" Thorpe defended himself very stoutly, declared he had never seen two men so much alike in his life, and would hardly give up the point of its having been Tilney himself. (11.53)

    John Thorpe shows one way of dealing with getting caught telling a lie – complete denial. John won't even tell another lie in order to convince Catherine that he was mistaken. Instead, he sticks to his original lie, even as Catherine calls him on it. For more discussion of this scene, check out John Thorpe's "Character Analysis."

    "This will not do," said Catherine; "I cannot submit to this. I must run after Miss Tilney directly and set her right."

    Isabella, however, caught hold of one hand; Thorpe of the other; and remonstrances poured in from all three [....] When every thing was settled, when Miss Tilney herself said that Tuesday would suit her as well, it was quite ridiculous, quite absurd, to make any further objection.

    "I do not care. Mr Thorpe had not business to invent any such message." (13.17-19)

    What constitutes a lie is debated here. The Thorpes and James think that it's fine to tell a convenient white-lie, while Catherine objects to lying of any kind. She especially objects to John interfering and lying on her behalf.

    To Catherine's simple feelings, this odd sort of reserve seemed neither kindly meant, nor consistently supported; and its unkindness she would hardly have forborn pointing out, had its inconsistency been less their friend; - but Anne and Maria soon set her heart at ease by the sagacity of their "I know what;" and the evening was spent in a sot of war of wit, a display of family ingenuity; on one side in the mystery of an affected secret, on the other of undefined discovery, all equally acute. (15.26)

    The diction (or way of speaking) here really hammers home to true nature of the Thorpe family, who are really good at using wit and deceit. The Thorpes are inconsistent, unkind, and ingenuous, or good at inventing things.

    What could be meant by such unsteady conduct, what her friend could be at, was beyond her comprehension. Isabella could not be aware of the pain she was inflicting, but it was a degree of willful thoughtlessness which Catherine could not but resent. (19.1)

    This passage suggests that deceit and careless behavior can be a matter of inattention. Though Catherine's internal use of the world "willful" suggests that she is somewhat aware of the degree to which Isabella is aware of her callous, or mean, behavior.

    Catherine trembled at the emphasis with which he spoke, and sat pale and breathless, in a most humble mood [...] and the General, recovering his politeness as he looked at her, spent the rest of his time in scolding his daughter, for so foolishly hurrying her fair friend, who was absolutely out of breath from haste, when there was not the least occasion for hurry in the world. (21.5-56)

    It is interesting that politeness can be lost and then "recovered" here. For the General, politeness is used to conceal certain aspects of his personality and to deceive others into thinking he is something that he is not, even if what he actually is is rude and unpleasant.

    But the inexplicability of the General's conduct dwelt much on her thoughts. That he was very particular in his eating, she had, by her own unassisted observation, already discovered; 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? (26.15)

    This is one of the best thematic statements in the whole book on how lying gets in the way of communication between people. Catherine doesn't understand how to translate people's meaning, nor does she understand why it is necessary to deliberately lie and expect people to know that the opposite is meant. Lying is actually inefficient.

    Thorpe, most happy to be on speaking terms with a man of General Tilney's importance, had been joyfully and proudly communicative [...] his vanity induced him to represent the family as yet more wealthy than his vanity and avarice had made him believe them. With whomsoever he was, or was likely to be connected, his own consequence always required that theirs should be great, and as his intimacy with any acquaintance grew, so regularly grew their fortune. (30.12)

    John lies for purely self-serving purposes here. His own pride and vanity cause him to exaggerate everything around him, including the wealth of his friends.

  • Foolishness and Folly

    He looked as handsome and as lively as ever, and was talking with interest to a fashionable and pleasant-looking young woman, who leant on his arm, and whom Catherine immediately guessed to be his sister; thus unthinkingly throwing away a fair opportunity of considering him lost for her for ever, by being married already. But guided only by what was simple and probable, it had never entered her head that Mr. Tilney could be married. (8.3)

    Catherine actually avoids folly here, by using common sense to not make a faulty assumption. While Catherine makes a lot of foolish assumptions, it's important to note that she does have common sense to draw upon.

    Catherine's expectations of pleasure from her visit in Milsom-street were so very high, that disappointment was inevitable; and accordingly [...] she found, on her return, without spending many hours in the examination of her feelings, that she had gone to her appointment preparing for happiness which it had not afforded. (16.1)

    Overly high or foolish expectations are a running theme throughout this text. Catherine here sets herself up for a fall by having overly high, and romantic, expectations for her visit to the Tilneys' house in Bath.

    "Nay, my sweetest Catherine, this is being quite absurd! Modesty, and all that, is very well in its way, but really a little common honesty is sometimes quite as becoming. I have no idea of being so overstrained! It is fishing for compliments. His attentions were such as a child must have noticed [....] So it is in vain to affect ignorance." (18.11)

    This speech is highly ironic coming from the often phony Isabella. She is berating, or scolding, Catherine for the folly of ignorance, or pretended ignorance, regarding John's "obvious" marriage proposal.

    She felt humbled to the dust. Could not the adventure of the chest have taught her wisdom? A corner of it catching her eye as she lay, seemed to rise up in judgment against her. Nothing could now be clearer than the absurdity of her recent fancies. To suppose that a manuscript of many generations back could have remained undiscovered in a room such as that, so modern, so habitable! (22.2)

    Catherine makes a foolish assumption here, regarding the "manuscript" that turns out to be a laundry list. Catherine's imagination has run amok, a motif in this book, and led her into folly.

    Catherine's interest in the deceased Mrs. Tilney augmented with every question, whether answered or not. Of her unhappiness in marriage, she felt persuaded. The General certainly had been an unkind husband. He did not love her walk: - could he therefore have loved her? (22.37)

    Catherine's folly is two-fold here. First, she makes a disastrous assumption about General Tilney's character based on really flimsy evidence. Secondly, Catherine's wild imagination leads her to behave thoughtlessly to Eleanor. Instead of sympathetically talking with Eleanor about her mom, Catherine interrogates her, hunting for juicy details.

    Something was certainly to be concealed; her fancy, though it had trespassed lately once or twice, could not mislead her here. (23.6)

    Catherine's faulty confidence in the power of her imagination is highlighted here.

    Catherine's blood ran cold with the horrid suggestions which naturally sprang from these words. Could it be possible? - Could Henry's father? - And yet how many were the examples to justify even the blackest suspicions! (23.13)

    The "examples" Catherine draws from here are Gothic novels, which she uses to indict General Tilney for murder. Catherine foolishly applies fiction to the real world, using Gothic literature as solid evidence.

    Astonishment and doubt first seized them; and a shortly succeeding ray of common sense added some bitter emotions of shame. She could not be mistaken as to the room; but how grossly mistaken in everything else! - in Miss Tilney's meaning, in her own calculation! [....] She was sick of exploring, and desired but to be safe in her own room, with her own heart only privy to its folly [....] (24.6)

    Upon seeing Mrs. Tilney's rooms for herself, Catherine realizes the extent of her folly. Catherine is embarrassed and ashamed by her realization.

    "Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you - Does our education prepare us for such atrocities?" (24.29)

    Henry delivers a climactic address to Catherine here, scolding her for letting her imagination get out of control and encouraging her to use common sense. It's interesting that Henry draws upon patriotic pride – the idea that the English are civilized and "reasonable" – to get through to Catherine.

    The visions of romance were over. Catherine was completely awakened. Henry's address, short as it had been, had more thoroughly opened her eyes to the extravagance of her late fancies than all their several disappointments had done. Most grievously was she humbled. Most bitterly did she cry [....] Her folly, which now seemed even criminal, was all exposed to him. (25.1)

    The narrative style shifts here to emphasize Catherine's distress. Shorter and blunter sentences highlight Catherine's agitated emotions. Notably, Catherine required some sort of intervention, in this case from Henry, to "wake" her up from her foolish delusions.

    There were still some subjects indeed, under which she believed they must always tremble; - the mention of a chest or a cabinet for instance [...] but even she could allow, that an occasional memento of past folly, however painful, might not be without use. (25.4)

    Catherine notes that memory plays a large role in preventing folly, and that forgetfulness often allows for folly. As such, Catherine accepts the need for having the occasional "reminder" of past transgressions, or mistakes, around her to keep her imagination in check.

  • Literature and Writing

    "But, perhaps, I keep no journal"

    "Perhaps you are not sitting in this room, and I am not sitting by you. These are points in which a doubt is equally possible. Not keep a journal! [...] How are the civilities and compliments of every day life to be related as they ought to be, unless noted down every evening in a journal?" (3.26-7)

    Henry jokingly links journals to civilized life. The journals Henry speaks of are extensions of polite society, with certain rules that are followed.

    Yes, novels; - for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom, so common with novel writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding - joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine. (5.4)

    Lots of novels don't let their heroines read novels, but Northanger Abbey prominently features Catherine reading novels. Catherine is "corrupted" by her reading habits, much as these other heroines feared they would be. Catherine's corruption is not a serious matter though. Instead it is funny.

    "Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world." (6.7)

    Catherine is showing signs of being obsessed with Gothic novels here, since she is reluctant to go out and socialize.

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

    Catherine, humbled and ashamed, was going to apologize for her question, but he prevented her by saying, "Novels are so full of nonsense and stuff; there has not been a tolerably decent one come out since Tom Jones, except the Monk; I read that t'other day; but as for all the others, they are the stupidest things in creation." (7.33-34)

    John Thorpe isn't exactly an authority on anything, and his sentiments on novels are undermined by the fact that he does in fact read them. Notably, Catherine is embarrassed to like novels in the face of John's opposition. She's something of a closet fan.

    Catherine was then left to the luxury of a raised, restless, and frightened imagination over the pages of Udolpho, lost from all worldly concerns of dressing and dinner, incapable of soothing Mrs. Allen's fears on the delay of an expected dress-maker. (7.54)

    Gothic novels have a major, and humorous, effect on Catherine. She's basically oblivious to the entire world while she's reading. But she also takes getting lost in a good book to a potentially dangerous level, given what Gothic novels do to her imagination. The diction, or word choice, here indicates that Catherine's imagination is getting really worked-up.

    "What, is it really a castle, an old castle?"

    "The oldest in the kingdom."

    "But is it like what one reads of?"

    "Exactly - the very same."

    "But now, really, are there towers and long galleries?"

    "By dozens." (9.24-31)

    Catherine is overly anxious to visit a castle with the Thorpes in order to experience something she has read about. Ironically, the Thorpe's are actually lying about this castle being old, so Catherine would not have had much of a "Gothic" experience if she had gone.

    "But you never read novels, I dare say?"

    "Why not?"

    "Because they are not clever enough for you - gentleman read better books."

    "The person, be it a gentleman or a lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." (14.4-7)

    Henry makes a statement about the book's sentiments about novels here. Interestingly, Henry notes that novels cross gender lines and are enjoyed by both women and men. Only obnoxious or stupid people would dislike them.

    "I wish I were too. I read [history] a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all - it is very tiresome; and yet I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention [...] and invention is what delights me in other books." (14.22)

    This passage is unusual in that it is Catherine, and not Henry, expressing these sentiments. Henry usually serves as the narrator's mouthpiece, but in this case Catherine does with her hilarious observations on male-dominated history. Catherine also reemphasizes her love of invention and imagination here as well.

    Her passion for ancient edifices was next in degree to her passion for Henry Tilney - and castles and abbeys made usually the charm of those reveries which his image did not fill [....] Northanger turned up an abbey, and she was to be its inhabitant. Its long, damp passages, its narrow cells and ruined chapel, were to be in daily reach. (17.11)

    Catherine's obsession with "Gothic" abbeys and castles has reached a fever pitch here. Her expectations for Northanger Abbey are largely colored by what she has read

    He smiled and said, "You have formed a very favourable idea of the abbey?"

    "To be sure I have. Is not it a fine old place, just like what one reads about?"

    "And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as 'what one reads about' may produce? - Have you a stout heart? - Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?" (20.11-13)

    Henry makes fun of Catherine's tendency to confuse fiction with reality here, noting that "what one reads about" is not likely to happen in reality.

  • Youth

    These powers received due admiration from Catherine, to whom they were entirely new, and the respect which they naturally inspired might have been too great for familiarity, had not the easy gaiety of Miss Thorpe's manners [...] softened down every feeling of awe, and left nothing but tender affection. (4.9)

    Catherine's feelings of awe towards the older and seemingly wiser Isabella are significant here, as they point to Catherine's tendency towards hero worship.

    Perhaps Catherine was wrong in not demanding the cause of that gentle emotion - but she was not experienced enough in the finesse of love, or the duties of friendship, to know when delicate raillery was properly called for, or when a confidence should be forced. (5.2)

    Catherine's lack of experience in relationships, as well as her emotional immaturity, creates uncertain situations for her. Words like "duties" and "to know," suggest the ways in which relationships are conducted by certain rules that the young and inexperienced Catherine will need to learn.

    [B]ut, where youth and diffidence are united, it requires uncommon steadiness of reason to resist the attraction of being called the most charming girl in the world. (7.44)

    Catherine's youth helps to make her gullible, or easily trusting. She is at least partially swayed by John's compliments, even as she finds him increasingly annoying.

    Her manners shewed good sense and good breeding; they were neither shy, nor affectedly open, and she seemed capable of being young, attractive, and at a ball without wanting to fix the attention of every man near her, and without exaggerated feelings of ecstatic delight or inconceivable vexation on every little trifling occurrence. (8.11)

    Eleanor becomes a good example of how to be young without being obnoxious here. The diction, or the words used to describe Eleanor, also places Eleanor in direct contrast to Isabella,

    Catherine did not think the portrait a very inviting one, but it was too late to retreat, and she was too young to own herself frightened. (9.10)

    It seems that Catherine suffers from some youthful pride here, though her youth could again be combining with her shyness to prevent her from speaking up after John scares her with his description of his crazy horse.

    Away walked Catherine in great agitation, as fast as the crowd would permit her, fearful of being pursued, yet determined to persevere. As she walked, she reflected on what had passed. I was painful to her to disappoint and displease them, particularly to displease her brother; but she could not repent her resistance. (13.24)

    Catherine shows strides towards growing up, as she stands up to the peer pressure of the Thorpes and her brother. Though Catherine is still worried about displeasing others, she doesn't cave to pressure.

    "Young people will be young people, as your good mother says herself. You know I wanted you, when we first came, not to buy that sprigged muslin, but you would. Young people do not like to be always thwarted."

    "But this was something of real consequence; and I do not think you would have found me hard to persuade." (13.35-6)

    Mrs. Allen's philosophy on young people is problematic here. She lets Catherine do what she wants, thinking that "young people" like to have their way. But Catherine shows a lot of maturity by noting that she would appreciate some guidance in a strange new place.

    "All those things should be allowed for in youth and high spirits. What one means one day, you know, one may not mean the next. Circumstances change, opinions alter." (18.18)

    Isabella links youth with freedom of behavior here and seems to think that rapidly changing opinions is a prerogative, or privilege, of youth. Isabella seems to suggest that youth shouldn't be held accountable for changing their minds. This makes sense, given Isabella's irresponsible behavior – she doesn't want to face consequences.

    She raised her eyes towards him more fully than she had ever done before. (24.25)

    This is a climactic moment between Henry and Catherine. By looking at Henry "more fully," she both sees him clearly and presents herself to him as a more mature adult, rather than as a meek youth.

    "I never was so deceived in any one's character in my life before."

    "Among all the great variety that you have known and studied." (25.35-6)

    Henry jokes about Catherine's limited acquaintances and experiences here, which are largely a matter of her youth.

  • Gender

    "My dear madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies' ways as you wish to believe me; it is this delightful habit of journalizing which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generally celebrated. Every body allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is particularly female." (3.27)

    Henry is teasing Catherine about the cliché that all young ladies keep journals and write nice letters. Henry is very funny here, as he ridicules gender clichés.

    "I should no more lay it down as a general rule that women write better letters than men, than that they sing better duets, or draw better landscapes. In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes." (3.33)

    Henry seems quite liberal in his opinions on gender here, though he does qualify his statement of equality by linking it to matters of taste. Interestingly, Henry lists the abilities in which Catherine is rather deficient – so says the narrator at least.

    for if it be true, as a celebrated writer has maintained, that no young lady can be justified in falling in love before the gentleman's love is declared, it must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamt of her. (3.51)

    Gender expectations even govern how men and women can behave in matters of love and romance here.

    […] Catherine, after listening and agreeing as long as she could, with all the civility and deference of the youthful female mind, fearful of hazarding an opinion of its own in opposition to that of a self-assured man. (7.32)

    Catherine is silenced and subdued by the overbearing John Thorpe here. Her youth is acting together with expectations for women's behavior to make her timid around John.

    Little as Catherine was in the habit of judging for herself, and unfixed as were her general notions of what men ought to be, she could not entirely repress a doubt, while she bore with the effusions of his endless conceit, of his being altogether completely agreeable. It was a bold surmise. (9.32)

    Catherine has the double problem of not being confident enough to express her opinions, especially around men, and not being confident enough to have formed opinions worth expressing.

    It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire […] Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it. (10.21)

    The narrator humorously highlights communication problems between the sexes in terms of fashion, where many women are convinced men notice what they wear.

    "In marriage, the man is supposed to provide for the support of the woman; the woman to make the home agreeable for the man [....] But in dancing, their duties are exactly changed; the agreeableness, the compliance are expected from him, while she furnishes the fan and the lavender water." (10.34)

    Henry jokingly compares marriage and dancing here, and comments on gender roles and gender expectations in polite society. Expectations for women are rather low and tend to revolve around pleasing men, while men are expected to care for women.

    "You [Eleanor] are fond of history! - and so are Mr. Allen and my father; and I have two brothers who do not dislike it. So many instances within my small circle of friends is remarkable!" (14.24)

    Gender biases even extend to reading material. Eleanor likes reading history, which is generally considered "male" reading material. This is a notable detail about Eleanor's character. She is intelligent and is not afraid to push against some gender boundaries.

    She was heartily ashamed of her ignorance. A misplaced shame. Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind, is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it was well as she can. (14.27)

    The narrator is satirizing, or ridiculing, romantic relationships and social expectations for women here. Women are supposed to be many things in this society, but well-informed isn't one of them.

    "Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much, that they never find it necessary to use more than half." (14.46)

    Henry jokes about his feelings on women's intelligence here. As a rich man, Henry likely had many women targeting him for his money, and behaving ridiculously while doing it.

    "But," said Eleanor, after a short pause, "would it be to promote his happiness, to enable him to marry such a girl? - She must be an unprincipled one, or she could not have used your brother so." (25.30)

    Eleanor is speaking of Isabella and her relationship with Captain Tilney here. Isabella's reputation is pretty much ruined. Though Eleanor is related to the Captain, it is notable that she comments on Isabella's reputation and behavior and not so much on his.

    He went; and, it being at any time a much simpler operation to Catherine to doubt her own judgment than Henry's, she was very soon obliged to give him credit for being right, however disagreeable to her his going. (26.15)

    Catherine definitely hero-worships Henry, and frequently bows to his judgment.

  • Friendship

    "Thank you; for now we shall soon be acquainted, as I am authorized to tease you on this subject whenever we meet, and nothing in the world advances intimacy so much." (3.50)

    Henry's ideas on friendship are closely linked to his sense of humor, which contrasts to some of the other views of friendship and 'intimacy' that we get in the book, namely those of Isabella.

    Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love. (4.6)

    This is one of the best thematic statements in the whole text, since Northanger Abbey is not only concerned with romantic love, but with friendship as well. In fact, friendship might arguably play a more important role in the bulk of the text than romantic love.

    The progress of the friendship between Catherine and Isabella was quick as its beginning had been warm, and they passed so rapidly through every gradation of increasing tenderness, that there was shortly no fresh proof of it to be given to their friends or themselves. (5.4)

    Friendship has a lot to do with performance here, and it can be demonstrated or "proven" to others. The speed with which Catherine and Isabella pass through all the stages of friendship suggests that they are following some sort of prescribed, or set, route for being friends.

    "There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong." (6.14)

    Isabella's sentiments on friendship are a bit confusing. She is selfish, but her attachment to Catherine is, or appears to be, very strong. Isabella seems to hint that she has high expectations for friendships as she places an emphasis on people who are "really" her friends.

    […] having gone through the usual ceremonial of meeting her friend with the most smiling and affectionate haste, of admiring the set of her gown, and envying the curl of her hair, they followed their chaperons, arm in arm, into the ball-room, whispering to each other whenever a thought occurred, and supplying the place of many ideas by a squeeze of the hand or a smile of affection. (8.1)

    This paints a nice picture of the affectionate friendship between Isabella and Catherine, but two words put a bit of a damper on things: "ceremonial" and "haste." It sounds like Isabella is rushing to do what's expected as a friend.

    Catherine began to doubt the happiness of a situation which confining her entirely to her friend and her brother, gave her very little share in the notice of either. (10.9)

    Catherine experiences the woes of being a third-wheel here, while Isabella and James come off as somewhat rude for ignoring Catherine.

    Catherine thought this reproach equally strange and unkind. Was it the part of a friend thus to expose her feelings to the notice of others? Isabella appeared to her ungenerous and selfish, regardless of everything but her own gratification. (13.3)

    Catherine begins to spot the contradictions within Isabella's statements, which leads her in turn to start doubting how good a friend Isabella really is.

    A few days passed away, and Catherine, though not allowing herself to suspect her friend, could not help watching her closely. The result of her observations were not agreeable. Isabella seemed an altered creature. (19.1)

    Notably, Catherine beings to actually watch and observe Isabella after growing suspicious of her, and she begins to see Isabella as she really is.

    Isabella, on hearing the particulars of the visit, gave a different explanation. "It was all pride, pride, insufferable haughtiness and pride! She had long suspected the family to be very high, and this made it certain. Such insolence of behavior as Miss Tilney's she had never heard of in her life! Not to do the honours of her house with common good-breeding! To behave to her guest with such superciliousness! - Hardly even speak to her!" (16.1)

    Here Isabella "proves" her friendship to Catherine by bashing Catherine's new friend, Eleanor Tilney, who was oddly quiet during Catherine's visit to her house. Isabella's tactics place her in a worse light than Eleanor, however.

    Miss Tilney, whose trust in the effect of time and distance on her friend's disposition was already justified, for already did Catherine reproach herself with having parted from Eleanor coldly; with having never enough valued her merits or kindness [....] The strength of these feelings, however, was far from assisting her pen; and never had it been harder for her to write than in addressing Eleanor Tilney. (29.14)

    Catherine's mature and meaningful friendship with Eleanor is highlighted here. Catherine pays attention to her friend's feelings, which shows growth on Catherine's part. And the fact that Catherine has trouble writing a sincere letter shows that she is moving away from the "ceremonial" and ultimately hollow friendship she had with Isabella.

  • Family

    A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the word, for they were in general very plain. (1.1)

    We get a very satirical, or joking, to introduction to the Morlands here, and the novel as a whole.

    Everything indeed relative to this important journey was done, on the part of the Morlands, with a degree of moderation and composure, which seemed rather consistent with the common feelings of common life, than with the refined susceptibilities, the tender emotions which the first separation of a heroine from her family ought to excite. (2.3)

    Expectations are once again disrupted here as the Morlands fail to conform to typical Gothic and romantic literature. Rather, the Morlands are here connected more with common life and reason than with romantic imagination.

    "Here come my dear girls," cried Mrs. Thorpe, pointing at three smart looking females, who, arm in arm, were then moving towards her. "My dear Mrs. Allen, I long to introduce them; they will be so delighted to see you: the tallest is Isabella, my eldest; is not she a fine young woman? The others are very much admired too, but I believe Isabella is the handsomest." (4.3)

    With this lovely introduction, Mrs. Thorpe thus creates severe inferiority complexes in her younger daughters. Mrs. Thorpe does show blatant, or obvious, favoritism and seems to value looks above other traits in her daughters.

    "Ah, mother! how do you do?" said he, giving her a hearty shake of the hand: "where did you get that quiz of a hat, it makes you look like an old witch? Here is Morland and I come to stay a few days with you, so you must look out for a couple of good beds some where near." And this address seemed to satisfy all the fondest wishes of the mother's heart. (7.43)

    The Thorpe family dynamic is definitely an odd one. John is very rude to his mother and Mrs. Thorpe seems to allow any and all sort of behavior from her children.

    "Indeed he is, Mrs. Allen," said Mrs. Thorpe, smiling complacently; "I must say it, though I am his mother, that there is not a more agreeable young man in the world."

    This in applicable answer might have been too much for the comprehension of many; but it did not puzzle Mrs. Allen, for after only a moment's consideration, she said, in a whisper to Catherine, "I dare say she thought I was speaking of her son." (8.33-34)

    Mrs. Thorpe seems oblivious to the actual nature's of her children, and she also seems to read a compliment to them into anything anyone says. Mrs. Allen was speaking of Mr. Tilney, but Mrs. Thorpe "complacently," or smugly, assumed Mrs. Allen was speaking of John.

    Her own family were plain, matter-of-fact people, who seldom aimed at wit of any kind; her father, at the utmost, being contented with a pun, and her mother with a proverb; they were not in the habit therefore of telling lies to increase their importance, or of asserting at one moment what they would contradict the next. (9.31)

    The Morlands are contrasted to the other families in the book, who engage in witty displays and falsehoods. Catherine is mystified by the Thorpe's double-speak, or by how they say one thing and mean another. Catherine recalls her family's plain-spoken attitude fondly, noting how they do not lie or deliberately contradict themselves.

    "Thank you, Eleanor; - a most honourable testimony. You see, Miss Morland, the injustice of your suspicions. Here was I, in my eagerness to get on [...] keeping her in suspense at a most interesting part, by running away with the volume, which, you are to observe, was her own [....] I am proud when I reflect on it, and I think it must establish me in your good opinion." (14.6)

    Henry and Eleanor have a fun sibling relationship and often joke around with one another. Eleanor even manages to embarrass Henry in front of Catherine with a story about how he stole her book, but the witty Henry manages to turn it into a joke.

    "You think me foolish to call instruction a torment, but if you had been as much used as myself to hear poor little children first learning their letters and then learning to spell, if you had ever seen how stupid they can be for a whole morning together, and how tired my poor mother is at the end of it, as I am in the habit of seeing almost every day of my life at home, you would allow that to torment and to instruct might sometimes be used as synonymous words." (14.25)

    This is one of the few descriptions we get of what it must be like to grow up in a house with nine siblings, as Catherine has done. Given her degree of agitation, Catherine (one of the eldest children) most likely had to help her mother instruct, or torment, her siblings.

    It could not be General Tilney's fault. That he was perfectly agreeable and good-natured, and altogether a very charming man, did not admit of a doubt, for he was tall and handsome, and Henry's father. He could not be accountable for his children's want of spirit, or for her want of enjoyment in his company. (16.1)

    Catherine assumes that, since Henry is great, the rest of his family must be too. It takes Catherine some work to learn that not all families, or members of families, are exactly alike. General Tilney is in fact an oppressive, mood-killing force on his otherwise fun and talkative children.

    The means by which their early marriage was effected can be the only doubt: what probable circumstance could work upon a temper like the General's? The circumstance which chiefly availed was the marriage of his daughter with a man of fortune [...] an accession of dignity that threw him into a fit of good humour, from which he did not recover till after Eleanor had obtained his forgiveness of Henry, and his permission for him to "be a fool if he liked it!" (31.4)

    General Tilney cares about money and status, even at the expense of his children's happiness. He only agrees to forgive Henry after Eleanor marries a rich man.

    in the embrace of each, as she stepped from the carriage, she found herself soothed beyond any thing that she had believed possible. So surrounded, so caressed, she was even happy! In the joyfulness of family love every thing was for a short time was subdued [...]. (29.9)

    Catherine has a heartfelt reunion with her family, proving that family bonds can soothe Catherine even after being traumatically expelled from Northanger Abbey.

  • Society and Class

    Catherine began to feel something of disappointment - she was tired of being continually pressed against by people, the generality of whose faces possessed nothing to interest, and with all of whom she was so wholly unacquainted. (2.10)

    Though Catherine is sociable and is excited to be in Bath, this reveals that Catherine isn't a fan of just being at a nice party for the sake of it. Catherine shows some signs of preferring smaller domestic gatherings and possibly even quieter, country life, as opposed to the press of strangers in a more urban setting.

    "Only conceive, my dear Catherine, what your brother wants me to do? He wants me to dance with him again, though I tell him that it is a most improper thing, and entirely against the rules. It would make us the talk of the place, if we were not to change partners."

    "Upon my honour," said James, "in these public assemblies it is as often done as not." (8.21-22)

    Isabella and James have competing views on the rules that govern public dances, though Isabella is most likely lying in order to play hard to get. She really has no intention of not dancing with James. Isabella does draw our attention to the problem of gossip and rumors in polite society, though.

    and though in all probability not an observation was made, nor an expression used by either which had not been made and used some thousands of time before, under that roof, in every Bath season, yet the merit of their being spoken with simplicity and truth, and without personal conceit, might be something uncommon. (10.8)

    The narrator is critical of Bath high society here, noting that the members of this "polite" society are often quite phony and insincere. Conversation in Bath is usually frivolous, or pointless.

    "You are not fond of the country."

    "Yes, I am. I have always lived there, and always been very happy. But certainly there is much more sameness in a country life than in a Bath life. One day in the country is exactly like another."

    "But then you spend your time so much more rationally in the country." (10.46-48)

    Country society and urban society are debated once again here. Catherine is fond of both, though she enjoys the social life she has in Bath. Henry implies that there is something irrational and ridiculous about life in Bath.

    She knew not how such an offense as hers might be classed by the laws of worldly politeness, to what a degree of unforgiveness it might with propriety lead, nor to what rigours of rudeness in return might justly make her amendable. (12.3)

    Learning the rules of polite society is a difficult task for Catherine, who is experiencing "worldly" urban society for the first time.

    "These schemes are not at all the thing. Young men and women driving about the country in open carriages! Now and then it is very well; but going to inns and public places together! It is not right; and I wonder Mrs. Thorpe should allow it." (13.30)

    Mr. Allen notes that such behavior is improper and bordering on scandalous. Catherine had a rather fortunate escape from gossip here, since she went out riding unchaperoned with the Thorpes multiple times.

    for what would the Tilneys have thought of her, if she had broken her promise to them in order to do what was wrong in itself – if she had been guilty of one breach of propriety, only to enable her to be guilty of another? (13.40)

    Catherine has a lot of anxiety about doing the proper thing and behaving well in polite society. Social rules are complicated and mysterious, and Catherine is having to figure things out as she goes along.

    "If there is a good fortune on one side, there can be no occasion for any on the other. No matter which has it, so that there is enough. I hate the idea of one great fortune looking out for another. And to marry for money I think the wickedest thing in existence." (15.48)

    Catherine has very decisive opinions on people marrying for money. Implicitly, Catherine holds more romantic views on marriage and does not look at it as just an economic transaction, or as a way to become rich, or richer.

    "But I confess, as soon as I read this letter, I thought it a very foolish, imprudent business, and not likely to promote the good of either; for what were you to live upon, supposing you came together? You have both of you something to be sure, but it is not a trifle that will support a family now-a-days; and after all that romancers may say, there is no doing without money." (18.16)

    Isabella has a much more pragmatic and practical view of marriage than Catherine, and she is rather mercenary, or greedy, in her pursuit of wealth. Though Isabella is speaking of John and Catherine, she voicing doubts concerning her match with James, who does not have much money, in the subtext.

    Nay, perverse as it seemed, she doubted whether she might not have felt less, had she been less attended to [...] She felt utterly unworthy of such respect, and knew not how to reply to it. (20.2)

    General Tilney is going overboard with attention to his guest, Catherine. This makes Catherine uneasy and more aware of her own lower social status than she would have been if the General behaved more naturally.

  • Love

    She had reached the age of seventeen, without having seen one amiable youth who could call forth her sensibility; without having inspired one real passion, and without having excited even any admiration but what was very moderate and very transient. (1.10)

    Austen is mocking Gothic literary conventions here, where no self-respecting heroine would exist without some sort of passionate romance. Catherine's relative youth and inexperience are highlighted here as well.

    But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way. (1.12)

    There's some definite foreshadowing here. While Catherine has been introduced to us as an atypical heroine, the narrative hints here that in this respect she will be like most other literary heroines and will soon meet her 'hero.' Romance is on the horizon.

    This sort of mysteriousness, which is always so becoming in a hero, threw a fresh grace in Catherine's imagination around his persona and manners, and increased her anxiety to know more of him. (5.2)

    The words used to describe Henry here, "mysteriousness" and "hero," are linked to the emphasis on Catherine's "imagination." These words suggest that Catherine might be viewing Henry as a romanticized, fictional character rather than as a real person.

    Every young lady may feel for my heroine in this critical moment, for every young lady has at some time or other known the same agitation. All have been, or at least all have believed themselves to be, in danger from the pursuit of some one whom they wished to avoid; and all have been anxious for the attention of some one whom they wished to please. (10.21)

    Catherine finds herself in a love triangle here, a universally understood situation. Given how many ludicrous situations Catherine finds herself in, it is notable that this one is so common. She is pursued by John Thorpe and longs for the attention of Henry.

    "You will allow that in both [marriage and dancing], man has the advantage of choice, women only the power of refusal; that in both it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavour to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere." (10.53)

    Henry makes a surprisingly good analogy, or comparison, between marriage and dancing, both of which have certain obligations aside from two people simply loving one another.

    "But so it always is with me; the first moment settles every thing. The very first day that Morland came to us last Christmas - the very first moment I beheld him - my heart was irrecoverably gone." (15.12)

    Isabella promotes a doctrine of love at first sight here. Given that this is coming from Isabella, these assertions might not be very true. Isabella is greedy, so her idea of love at first sight probably has more to do with money than love.

    Once or twice indeed, since James's engagement had taught her what could be done, she had got so far as to indulge in a secret "perhaps" but in general the felicity of being with him for the present bounded her views. (17.1)

    Catherine is rather naive about relationships still, and needs James's "example" to show her that marriage might even be possible for herself. It is notable that Catherine focuses on the present though, a trait she carries into other aspects of her life as well.

    "Oh! no, not flirts! A woman in love with one man cannot flirt with another."

    "It is probable that she will neither love so well, nor flirt so well, as she might do either singly. The gentlemen must each give up a little." (19.15-16)

    Catherine's naiveté about relationships shines through here, when she assumes that a woman in love can't flirt with someone else. Given that the woman in question is Isabella, this statement is even funnier. Henry picks up on the irony, of course.

    "[…] depend upon it therefore, that real jealousy can never exist between them; depend upon it that no disagreement between them can be of any duration. Their hearts are open to each other, as neither heart can be to you; they know exactly what is required and what can be borne; and you may be certain, that one will never tease the other beyond what is known to be pleasant." (18.28)

    Henry outlines an ideal relationship here, where the couple has good communication and a high degree of openness and trust. His final statement about "teasing" one another reveal that Henry's own opinions about relationships, possibly his own with Catherine, are sneaking in here.

    Here was another proof. A portrait - very like- of a departed wife, not valued by her husband! - He must have been dreadfully cruel to her! (22.40)

    Catherine demonstrates that she still understands love and relationships in fairly superficial terms here. She takes the General's dislike of a portrait of his wife to mean that he disliked his wife. It is probable that the General just found the picture painful to look at after his wife's death.

    his first purpose was to explain himself, and before they reached Mr. Allen's grounds he had done it so well, that Catherine did not think it could ever be repeated too often. She was assured of his affection; and that heart in return was solicited, which, perhaps, they pretty equally knew was already entirely his own. (30.9)

    Henry's proposal to Catherine is very sweet and sincere, which may be why we don't get the actual dialogue here. Henry likely reigned in his sense of humor during his proposal. Since this book is a comedy, it may have opted out of printing lines of love and sincerity.