Catherine Morland. The growth of a heroine’s mind

Term Paper, 2013

9 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents

1 Introduction: The journey of a young lady begins

2 Catherine Morland – The growth of a heroine’s mind
2.1 The city of Bath
2.2 Northanger Abbey

3 Conclusion

4 References

1 Introduction: The journey of a young lady begins

“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine”[1]. The first sentence of Jane Austen’s novel “Northanger Abbey” on its own already suggests that Catherine Morland is, or will be, an heroine, but truly an unlikely one. It notes the future gap between the life of an ideal heroine in a novel and the flawed main character. And when thinking of the common meaning of an heroine in gothic novels, one does indeed expect something different than a young lady’s troublesome way to maturity.

Catherine Morland does not have the childhood of an elegant woman whom is expected to become a heroine. At age 10, she’s described as a girl who preferred cricket to dolls and who liked nothing better than rolling down a grass hill. She was never outstandingly good in either her studies or other activities like playing the piano. Her parents were kind and didn’t believe in forcing their children to grow up a certain way with defined skills and so Catherine grew up the way she was – not extraordinarily smart or in any way impressive. However, when turning 15, she starts to take more interest in her looks and, more importantly, reading gothic novels which largely contribute to her imagination.

Her journey begins when she is asked by Mr. and Mrs. Allen, good friends and neighbors of the Morland’s, to accompany them to the city of Bath for a few weeks. Catherine is utterly thrilled with the prospect of finally being able to face the handsome strangers and all the adventures that await outside her homely environment, as she perceives the real world through the eyes of a passionate reader of gothic novels. It is then that she agrees unconsciously to leave the person she is now behind and start growing. Apart from her family and everything well acquainted, she takes the chance without knowing, who she will be after her return. But those are all thoughts the current Catherine does not knowingly concern with.

Catherine may not be a traditionally heroic heroine, she is also not an unchanging character.

2 Catherine Morland – The growth of an heroine’s mind

2.1 The city of Bath

Catherine resembles a rather unbelievable naivety upon her arrival in the city of Bath. She is a child still but her upcoming experiences help her to develop at a quick pace. She has left her mother and the rest of her family is out of sight which is a significant factor contributing to her changing traits. In Bath, it is all about reputation, false personalities and ruthless manipulation for own purposes; in a nutshell, everything the kind and sweet 17-year-old girl has never encountered before.

She is astonished by the liveliness and glamour at first when attending a ball with Mr. and Mrs. Allen, but quickly perceives the importance of climbing the social ladder and following the dictations of etiquette. It is her first real experience with high society life and it’s clearly noticeable that, while Mrs. Allen is greatly concerned with fashion and complaining about the lack of acquaintances in Bath, Catherine’s mind is more set out to be asked to dance. When being introduced to the young gentleman Henry Tilney, she finds him utterly charming for he gently mocks high society conventions.

Only one day after, Catherine meets the Thorpe’s family for Mrs. Thorpe and Mrs. Allen used to be former schoolmates. Mrs. Thorpe’s children John and Isabella seek Catherine’s acquaintance instantly and just like Henry, they will be a teacher to her, though in a very different way. That’s when Catherine’s real education begins. In the beginning, she’s smitten by Isabella’s charms and John’s dour advances and fails to see the lies and false intentions that hide behind the mask of words. Catherine’s subservient behavior is especially visible in her conversations with Isabella, while latter takes over the lead, talking at people and not with them. Catherine thus gets confused many times and cannot see her friend’s fake earnestness when saying one thing and doing another. Combined with her natural naivety, she is unable to perceive the simplest things and takes every word for what it is.

Hence one part is greatly influenced: love. But not only concerning herself is she oblivious. The young heroine can neither interpret John’s unsubtle ways to impress her by bragging about his horse nor the praises her enamored brother James drops about Isabella being “a most amiable girl”[2]. Even on the following carriage ride she’s still unaware of the flirtation and doesn’t suspect anything of the probably upcoming engagement between them. It is only due to the irritating conversations during the ride that Catherine decides she does not like John, despite Isabella’s and James’ encouraging words. Yet again she fails to see that her friends’ praises of John only served the purpose of them falling in love and perhaps getting engaged too. So far Catherine has embarrassed herself unconsciously mainly by not perceiving hints and obvious behavior.


[1] Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 1, p. 2

[2] Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 20, p. 34

Excerpt out of 9 pages


Catherine Morland. The growth of a heroine’s mind
University of Coimbra  (Faculdade de Letras)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
420 KB
Catherine, Morland, Northanger, Abbey, heroine
Quote paper
Julia Schönmann (Author), 2013, Catherine Morland. The growth of a heroine’s mind, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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