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Characters / Northanger Abbey

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Characters appearing in Northanger Abbey:

Catherine Morland

"I can not speak well enough to be unintelligible."

  • Ascended Fangirl: She's thrilled to be invited to Northanger Abbey as much for it being a very Gothic, exciting-seeming place as much as for spending time with Henry Tilney.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Catherine's firm belief at the opening of the novel.
  • Bookworm: She is a huge fan of Gothic literature, but this doesn't necessarily make her smart or sensible. Rather the opposite, in some cases.
  • Break the Cutie: Catherine gets this treatment when she is pretty much thrown out of Northanger Abbey.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Catherine has a rather... 'odd' interpretation of the nuances of society - or rather an incredibly naïve and innocent one: she doesn't think that anyone is capable of outright lying and manipulating other people and situations and could never do such a thing herself. To make matters worse, half the time her mind is with her Gothic Novels and a little departed from reality - with an unhealthy slab of Wrong Genre Savvy. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, she comes up with a lot of Armor-Piercing Questions that she'll ask A) without realising that they are in fact armor-piercing, and B) without realising that the question is extremely uncomfortable. She ends up feeling very confused when the person she's talking to suddenly changes the subject.
  • Country Mouse: She came from a rural home where everyone was rational and straightfoward. She becomes very confused by the hypocritical and egotistical behaviour she meets with in Bath.
  • Freaky Is Cool: She really likes Gothic novels, and as a result looks forward to being frightened at what she imagines Northanger Abbey will offer, such as ancient furniture, windy weather, forbidden rooms, mysteries...
  • Heroic BSoD: After the General boots her out, the next days she spends at home are listless and unhappy, to her parents' concern.
  • The Ingenue: She can't even conceive of real people acting in a deceptive manner, which ill prepares her for dealing with the Thorpes.
  • Love at First Sight: She's attracted to Henry Tilney at their first meeting and spends much of the book wanting to get closer to him.
  • Love Triangle: Between Henry Tilney and John Thorpe, not that she's aware of the latter.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Henry points out how unjust her suspicions of General Tilney are, she's truly ashamed of herself and worries that she's lost his good opinion forever. She hasn't, but she still realizes she was wrong to treat the world like a novel.
  • NaÔve Everygirl: She's not a Gothic heroine, but she is this type. Having grown up in the country around honest people, she tries to maintain friendship with both the dishonest Thorpes and the decent Tilneys, which causes her a lot of stress.
  • NaÔve Newcomer: She is completely inexperienced with the world at large and the social life in the cities. This doesn't exactly pan out well for her.
  • Oblivious to Love: She has no idea that John Thorpe is trying to woo her. When he proposes in a rather oblique fashion, she innocently gives him a flat refusal. (Though it should be noted that Thorpe, like Isabella, isn't in love but a Gold Digger.)
  • Outdoorsy Gal: As a little girl, Catherine hated confinement and cleanliness, and loved rolling down the green slope at the back of the house. She liked playing cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country. When she's grown-up, she still loves taking long walks and spending time outdoors and breathing fresh air.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: She reflects that as ill-founded as her Gothic assumptions were, the General turned out to be villain after all.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Good grief. She's a fangirl of Gothic novels and imagines things accordingly. But she misses the fact that her best friend, Eleanor, is the living embodiment of the stereotypical Gothic heroine — estranged lover, dead mother, overbearing father, lives in an abbey with said father and the creatures of the forest, always wears white. Well, she notices but falsely assumes SHE'S the heroine (and is correct, just for the wrong genre).
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She's seventeen and beyond happy that Mrs Allen invited her to accompany her to Bath, and she goes without any husband-hunting schemes or match-making ideas, but she certainly does not mind meeting a clever, sensible Tall, Dark, and Handsome young man (who is rich).
  • Too Dumb to Fool: Unlike the heroines who are Too Clever by Half and use their wits to convince themselves of what they want to be true rather than what is true, naïve and unworldly Catherine instantly sees that John Thorpe is an untrustworthy boor and only puts up with him because he's always around James or Isabella.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: She knows quite a lot about the world of Gothic literature and thinks she's a heroine in one of those stories when she visits a noble family residing in an ancient abbey. However, she is a heroine in a coming-of-age novel, narrated by one snarky, trope-savvy authoress who, luckily for Catherine, had a thing for getting her heroines happily settled with the perfect man.
  • You Watch Too Much X: Henry tells her that she's been taking her novels way too seriously when he catches her snooping around Mrs. Tilney's old suite and on the verge of concluding that she was killed by the General.

James Morland

Catherine's elder brother. He's studying to be a clergyman at Oxford, which is where he met John Thorpe and his family.

  • Big Brother Worship: He's on the receiving end of a bit of this from Catherine; they're very fond of each other. It doesn't keep them from being angry with each other when she wants to spend time with the Tilneys instead of the Thorpes, but they get past it. Later in the book he describes his sister as "my only friend."
  • Exact Words: Catherine thanks him for coming all the way to Bath to visit her. James replies simply, "Indeed, Catherine, I love you dearly" to sidestep her erroneous assumption. He might be happy to see her, but he went there for Isabella.
  • The First Cut Is the Deepest: After Isabella shows her true colors, James' first letter to Catherine proclaims more or less that he's unwilling ever to fall in love again. His parents are sanguine about this since he's still very young.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Gets engaged to Isabella shortly after meeting her. This is par for the course in the era, but in this case it turns out to be a dreadful mistake. (Fortunately, one he's able to rectify.)
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Unlike Catherine, who picks up on John's bad qualities immediately, James thought John Thorpe was a good friend and didn't see through his boasting and ego. In the same line, he didn't question the way Isabella threw herself at him and only realizes she's after a rich man after she learns he isn't one.
  • I Do Not Speak Nonverbal: Averted. He and Catherine frequently do this when they can't put their emotions into words.

Isabella Thorpe

James Morland's intended, Isabella is beautiful and ambitious for a good match.

  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Although she's quick to befriend Catherine and treat her as a sister, she has little regard for her feelings, ignoring her whenever convenient and becoming passive-aggressive and unpleasant whenever Catherine wants to do something different. Isabella disposes of the Morlands as soon as she sees more profitable prospects.
  • Bookworm: She and Catherine bond over books and eagerly discuss their progress through Udolpho.
  • Catchphrase: Everything is amazingly this, amazingly that.
  • Gold Digger: She throws over James Morland once she realizes he's not as rich as she supposed (and certainly not as rich as the Tilneys).
  • Horrible Judge of Character: In spite of her ambitions, she goes after James based entirely on her boastful and dishonest brother's report of the Morlands as rich, and then throws herself at Captain Tilney in the assumption that he would actually marry her.
  • Hypocrite: Depend on it, whenever she declares her decided opinion, her next action will be the complete opposite.
  • It's All About Me: Loudly proclaims what great friends she and Catherine are and how she would do anything for her, while continually ignoring Catherine whenever someone more interesting is present and browbeating Catherine whenever she wants to do something else.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Isabella carelessly mistreats her fiancé James by flirting with Captain Tilney. This results in James breaking the engagement, and it turns out that Captain Tilney is a careless flirt himself, meaning he's not about to propose to her.
  • Love at First Sight: Says "from the moment I first beheld [James], my heart was irrevocably gone." Which is not at all true.
  • Shipper on Deck: She's angling for a Double In-Law Marriage between herself and James, and Catherine and John. Mostly because the Thorpes believe the Morlands to be rich.
  • That Liar Lies: After Captain Tilney loses interest, she writes to Catherine full of assurance that she still loves Catherine like a sister and that James has misunderstood the situation with her and Tilney, and downplays it as a minor tiff rather than an entirely broken engagement. Catherine sees through it at this point and decides not to write back.

John Thorpe

A friend of Catherine's brother James and Isabella's brother.

  • Big Bad: The main source of Catherine's problems throughout the novel. He does his best to drive a wedge between Catherine and Henry and later slanders her to the General.
  • Big Brother Bully: He casually mocks his younger sisters when he sees them, and is very adamant that he didn't come to Bath to drive them around town.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Catherine does not like riding in his one-horse curricle (which was a Rice Burner of its day).
  • False Friend: To James; he only latched onto him because he assumed the Morlands had more money than they really did.
  • Gold Digger: Like his sister, he assumes the Morlands to be much richer than they actually are.
  • Hate Sink: He is James Morland's friend and a boorish Gold Digger who seeks to marry Catherine Morland, mistakenly believing her to be a rich heiress. Desiring to have Catherine all to himself, Thorpe makes repeated attempts to sabotage her attempts to make friends with the Tilney family, making shameless lies to force her to spend time with him. Thorpe also lies to General Tilney about Catherineís wealth to get him to drive up his own prospects. When this backfires with the General pushing Catherine towards his son Henry, Thorpe slanders Catherine to General Tilney by projecting his own situation onto Catherineís family, prompting him to throw Catherine, who is staying with the Tilneys at this point, out of the house in the dead of night. A shameless liar who talks of nothing but carriages and horses and speaks with crude language, John Thorpe is the closest thing to a Big Bad in Jane Austenís novels.
  • Jerkass: Not only is he crude in manners, he's a shameless liar who tries to sabotage Catherine's acquaintance with the Tilneys and then misrepresents the family all over. He is also rude, controlling and entitled towards Catherine, all the while being convinced that she must want nothing but to spend her time with him.
  • Karma Houdini: The only punishment he gets for his actions is not getting Catherine.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: He chatters away on any subject as though he's an expert, such as Gothic lit (on which Catherine has to correct him).
  • Malicious Slander: In high dudgeon over Catherine not accepting (or realizing) his proposal, he tells General Tilney that the Morlands are poor as churchmice, which they're not.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Early on he disparages a novel for no other reason than that the author married a French émegrénote  and throws around the phrase "rich as a Jew" whenever he's discussing someone's wealth.
  • Put on a Bus: Doesn't appear in the second half of the novel.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: There's a lot of "D—" and the like in his conversations. This is a very early indicator that he's a Jerkass, because swearing in front of ladies was absolutely verboten in Austen's time.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: He's always inflating tales of his own adventures and prowess, and he's prone to exaggeration in general. This leads both his sister and the General into error, because Thrope's natural inclination when speaking of the Morlands is to overinflate their wealth and status.

Henry Tilney

A young man who meets and befriends Catherine in Bath.

  • The Gadfly: He teases Catherine by playing up all the Gothic potential of the Abbey before telling her that it's actually a very pleasant building - but if he hadn't, she wouldn't have made such a big deal over the cabinet. When walking together, Eleanor informs Catherine that this is his usual practice.
  • Genre Savvy: He's a fan of novels, which allows him to accurately guess what Catherine suspects about the death of his mother.
  • Grammar Nazi: Goes on a mild rant about how the word "nice" (then meaning precise) is starting to be misused for anything that's pleasant. Sadly for him, the original meaning of the word has completely shifted into the second.
  • Nice Guy: Although he chastises her for her awful assumptions about the General, he never mentions the matter again.
  • Opposites Attract: He's clever, worldly, and sarcastic, and falls in love with naïve, Sarcasm-Blind Catherine because he's charmed by her naïvite (and her obvious crush on him).
  • Real Men Wear Pink: He's surprisingly knowledgeable about cloth, tailoring, and ladies' fashion because he frequently buys cloth for his sister when he goes into town.
  • Sacred Hospitality: After returning home to find that his father has thrown Catherine out, he immediately goes to the Morlands' to apologize for it.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: His brother is a soldier who likes 'sowing his wild oats' whereas Henry is a much more knowledgeable clergyman who likes reading novels.
  • Snark Knight: Henry Tilney derives a lot of amusement by poking fun at the people around him and much of his early attraction to Catherine is because her earnest responses to his witticisms entertain him (although his "quizzing" is more refined and less malicious than Thorpe's). He does this with literature too; although he enjoys novels, he also enjoys pointing out and playing up their clichés.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When he finds Catherine snooping around Mrs. Tilney's old rooms, he reminds her that they're living in civilized times and places, not a Gothic novel, and that just because the General isn't moping around the place doesn't mean he didn't grieve for Mrs. Tilney.

Eleanor Tilney

  • Bearer of Bad News: The General gives her the task of telling Catherine that Catherine will have to leave almost at the crack of dawn for a seventy-mile journey with no escort because of a "forgotten previous engagement." Eleanor is so obviously miserable that Catherine feels just as sorry for her as she does for herself.
  • Blue Blood: She marries into this at the end of the story.
  • English Rose: A long-suffering English country gentry girl who is a beauty but makes no fuss about it, and is a great support to her father (who does not even appreciate her kindness) and has a loving and teasing relationship with her brother Henry.
  • The Gadfly: She gives as good as she gets during pointless sibling arguments with Henry and seems to be making an effort to keep Catherine from being too overawed by him.
  • Glurge Addict: A variation; she really enjoys history books over novels. Catherine doubts that any of the grand, inspiring speeches actually happened as written, but Eleanor enjoys them for what they are.
  • Good Counterpart: To Isabella Thorpe. Eleanor is the sister of one of Catherine's suitors who is keen to be friends, but unlike Isabella, Eleanor's motives are not self-interested.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: She spends a lot of time in the abbey alone or in the pleasant company of the General. Henry even thanks Catherine for coming to stay, considering it a real favor to Eleanor, while Catherine is thrilled with the invitation and thinks she's the one who ought to feel grateful.
  • Marry for Love: When the man she has very quietly loved for a long time unexpectedly inherits a title and money, she's able to do this, and finally get away from her father.
  • Nice Gal: She's polite and proper, and genuinely kind to Catherine and most people around. She could be a bit warmer at times, but it's hard to be happy and sweet all the time when your father is a tyrant and you suffer because your love cannot court you openly.
  • Sacred Hospitality: It falls to her to tell Catherine that she's being kicked out, and the task makes her miserable.
  • Shipper on Deck: Makes a hopeful comment about the possibility of Catherine and Henry's marriage when he's snarking about the possibility of Isabella becoming their sister-in-law.
    Henry (about Isabella): Prepare for your sister-in-law, Eleanor, and such a sister-in-law as you must delight in!-Open, candid, artless, guileless, with affections strong but simple, forming no pretensions, and knowing no disguise.
    Eleanor (smiling): Such a sister-in-law, Henry, I should delight in.

General Tilney

  • Abusive Parents: Obsessive and domineering; Catherine observes that when he leaves the Abbey, the mood of the place brightens considerably.
  • Blatant Lies: After hearing John Thorpe's revised account of the Morland's wealth, the General claims that the family has a "previously held engagement" which he has only just remembered and therefore he has no choice but to turn Catherine out immediately. Although Catherine acts as though she believes it for Eleanor's benefit, it's too flimsy a pretext for her to accept.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: His renovations on the Abbey are all modern and expensive. His tour includes pointing out the newly-invented sash windows and more energy efficient fireplaces, fully-staffed greenhouses (hothouses) in which he grows exotic fruits such as pineapple, outrageously expensive flower gardens, and many brand-new constructions on the grounds.
  • Creature of Habit: He's an absolute stickler for punctuality and will upbraid his children in front of guests if they're not on time.
  • Hypocrite: Somewhat like Isabella, he's in the habit of expressing one opinion while really believing and acting in the opposite manner, and much of what he says about his property would be called humblebragging if he lived a couple of centuries later.
  • Never My Fault: After finding out that Catherine is of less impressive wealth than he'd heard, the General becomes angry with "everyone in the world except himself."
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Forbids Henry from seeing or thinking about Catherine again, thinking that she deceived them (when really, he was misguided by the Thorpes' assumptions and then slander). Henry defies this.
  • Sacred Hospitality: He violates this by turning Catherine out early in the morning and forcing her to undertake a 70-mile journey alone, shocking his children.
  • Shipper on Deck: During Catherine's stay, he starts alluding to the possibility of her marrying Henry with such little subtlety that even she notices, and it makes her uncomfortable. As the narrator wryly points out, the General is grateful to John Thorpe for informing him about Catherine's circumstances as undoubtedly a very wealthy heiress, and then immediately sets about trying to put his own son in Thorpe's way.

Captain Frederick Tilney

Henry and Eleanor's elder brother and heir to Northanger Abbey.

  • The Casanova: Henry describes him as "...a lively and perhaps sometimes a thoughtless young man....".
  • Jerkass: Described as having inferior manners and taste compared to his younger brother. He has no compunctions about flirting with a woman he knows to be engaged and likewise no scruple about raising hopes in her that he has no intention of fulfilling.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: "But we must first suppose Isabella to have had a heart to that case, she would have met with very different treatment." In other words, Isabella was definitely inviting his attention, though she's engaged.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Catherine herself only meets him when eating at the Tilneys' lodgings and when she witnesses his behavior with Isabella. However, his idle flirtation with her sets off James' broken engagement, John Thorpe's slander of the Morlands, and consequently the General throwing Catherine out of the Abbey and his attempted Parental Marriage Veto.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: The first thing mentioned when he first appears is that he's well-dressed and handsome.