University of Washington
Friendships in Northanger Abbey
Northanger Abbey tells a story of a young girl, Catherine Morland, who is at the marriage-ripe age of seventeen, who after having read a numerous work of Gothic novels, dream and aspire to be an unlikely heroine of one. Catherine who is one of ten children from a country clergyman in Fullerton, England was fortunate enough to be invited by the Allens, who are the wealthier family in the neighborhood to accompany them on their visit to Bath, and engage in the balls, theater and social gatherings. During her visit she made two friends Isabella Thorpe, and Eleanor Tilney. This essay will discuss the difference in the two main friendships in Northanger Abbey by examining the characteristics of Isabella and Eleanor, alongside the importance of friendship as a theme in this novel.
In the disappointment of not seeing Henry Tilney again, Catherine was introduced to Isabella by Mrs. Allens, who was the childhood friend of Isabella’s mother, Mrs. Thorpe, a poor widow. The two became friends very quickly as described by the narrator “Catherine and Isabella, arm in arm, again tasted the sweets of friendship in an unreserved conversation; they talked much, and with much enjoyment” (Austen, chapter 5). Isabella who is very free and open with her friendship swore to do anything for her newfound friend, despite to have only known Catherine for not even a day. But this friendship was a coping mechanism for Catherine as to how devastated she was when she did not get to see the man of her interest again at the ball, “Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.” (Austen, chapter 4). This excerpt from the narrator further informed the reader that Catherine is very much in love with Henry from their little exchange at the ball, and this friendship is a way for Catherine to heal from the wound of a love that has yet to happen. Isabella, the elder of the two has much more societal knowledge than young naïve Catherine picked up the hints that Catherine is very fond of Henry from her questioning to the Thorpe’s, and this trait initially made Catherine to admire Isabella and considered herself lucky to meet such a friend that can teach her a new skill.
In contrast, the friendship between Catherine and Eleanor was very gradual. Eleanor being from a far wealthier family than Isabella was more sophisticated. She took her time to get to know who Catherine is, rather than jumping into the friendship arms-in-arms. As readers, we first saw their friendship to flourish during Catherine’s stay at Northanger Abbey, which was first mentioned near the middle-end of the novel.
There are many difference between the friendship of Catherine to Isabella and Catherine to Eleanor. One key difference that any reader of the novel can pick up on is the vast difference in the style of speech and language that the two uses. Isabella was for mentioned to be a very free spirit, she...