Follow TV Tropes


Characters / Northanger Abbey

Go To

Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey

"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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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 naive 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.
  • Naïve 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.
  • Naïve 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 approaches proposal 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.
  • 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 book).
  • 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).
  • 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.

  • 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."
  • 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, James thought John Thorpe was a good friend. It went downhill from there.
  • 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 and 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.
  • Gold Digger: She throws over James Morland once she realizes he's not as rich as she supposed (and certainly not as much 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 fiance 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Your Cheating Heart: An engagement is soon made between her and James Morland. But she shamelessly flirts with Captain Tilney, in front of James.

John Thorpe

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

  • Big Bad: The main source of Catherine's problems. 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).
  • The Ghost: Doesn’t appear in the second half of the novel.
  • Gold Digger: Like his sister, he assumes the Morlands to be much richer than they actually are.
  • If I Can't Have You...: see Malicious Slander.
  • 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 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: His description of people as "rich as a Jew."
  • 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.

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, Isabella 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 naive, Sarcasm-Blind Catherine.
  • 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: Especially when it comes to literature. He enjoys novels, but he likes to point out all their cliches.
  • 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, 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 saying 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 position, 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.
  • 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.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: 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. Given how Thorpe is, it might fall under Kick the Son of a Bitch.

Captain Frederick Tilney

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

  • The Casanova: Henry describes him as “well enough, sowing his wild oats”.
  • Jerkass: Described as having inferior manners and taste compared to his younger brother.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: The first thing mentioned when he first appears is that he’s well-dressed and handsome.


Example of: