A discussion on the development of Catherine Morland's character during her stay at Northanger Abbey . (Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen)

Essay by TerhaCollege, Undergraduate April 2005

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Austen introduces her heroine in a remarkable manner. The focus is on Catherine Morland's plainness and her rather unimportant situation in life. She is in fact introduced as a Gothic Literature anti-heroine. "The standard heroine of a sentimental Gothic novel was refined, accomplished, unassailably virtous, and, of course, fount of sensibility" (Ehrenpreis, 13). Her 'thin, awkward figure," "inattentiveness" and "occasional stupidity"(Austen, 7) provides great potential for improving. Catherine's maturation process starts when she steps out of her comfortable, familiar home environment right into the busteling excitement of Bath and there, "Catehrine, named in the first sentence of a novel, is sure to be a heroine, whatever that means" (Brownstein, 36).

Catherine's development is not due solely to her own efforts. She is constantly pushed down the road of maturity by many characters, but especially by the much admired Henry Tilney. "Catherine's necessary hero is introduced to her altogether prosaically, as a dance partner, by the master of ceremonies whose job it is to make such introductions"(Brownstein, 38).He

is one of the first people she befriends in Bath, and "she is most powerfully struck, of course, by the seemingly inexhaustible brilliance of Henry Tilney"(Castle, 32). The manner in which she loses her heart so completely and immediately on him emphasises her naïveté.

Another friend Catherine made while staying in Bath is Isabella Thorpe, who is much m ore accustomed to the sophisticated society they are expected to form a part of. Catherine's trusting heart is quickly manipulated by the superficial Isabella. Isabella flutters into Catherine's life like a butterfly, resting only long enough to be admired, but never long enough to be caught or understood. She becomes Catherine's confidant and with a superficial air Isabella gains Catherine's trust. Isabella is not accountable to anyone and often does not mean what she...