Updated: Jun 26, 2019
‘No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine.’
We love Northanger Abbey for two reasons: Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney.
Catherine is such a young, sweet, naive protagonist. Her imagination is fuelled by Gothic Romance, even as her reality is filled with the mundane. She leaves her tiny village, the home she has always known, and is thrust into the wild world of Regency Bath.
The narrator both mocks and supports Catherine's faux pas as she learns to navigate the rights and wrongs of polite society, and we cannot help but feel for her as her trusting nature is abused by those around her. Her chaperones, Mr and Mrs Allen, are sweet but oblivious; Catherine's new friend, Isabella Thorpe, does not have Catherine's best interests at heart; and her brother James is too enamoured of his new lady to notice Catherine at all.
The only ones to see Catherine's true worth are a new acquaintance, Eleanor Tilney, and her brother, our Hero, Mr Henry Tilney.
As is the way of all teenage girls, within minutes of meeting him, Catherine supposes herself to be in love.
Can we blame her?
He is considerate, intelligent, and a good dancer. He understands fine fabrics and has a kind sister. He reads novels! He is, in every way, the opposite of the lecherous Mr John Thorpe, who attempts to ensnare Catherine into a courtship and marriage she neither desires, nor indeed even suspects.
For our heroine to achieve her happy ending, she must go on a journey, examine her own concept of the world around her, decide to take a moral stand, and learn to choose her friends wisely.
Northanger Abbey is a brilliantly insightful novel on the dangers, and pleasures, of a healthy imagination.
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”