Northanger Abbey

Characterization of Isabella in Northanger Abbey

Sir Francis Bacon is often cited as the progenitor of the phrase “knowledge is power”. This sentiment, if true, would render helpless Catherine Morland of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. When the reader first encounters Catherine, she is an ingenuous girl and is unfamiliar with the ways of fashionable society. Her early companion, Isabella Thrope, foils her character. Isabella is sophisticated, beautiful, and seems to be able to behave favorably in the cases of human interaction that puzzle Catherine. However, Isabella’s ruin at the end of the novel indicates that while she may have some knowledge, it is ultimately false and thus puts her into greater jeopardy than her naive friend. In this way, Isabella’s character provides an intriguing study into how social, psychological, and ideological misinformation can lead to personal destruction.

The opening chapters take care to explain that Catherine, the heroine of the text, is very atypical of the heroines in Gothic novels. She is plain, unaccomplished, undesired by lovers, and lives a safe and ordinary life. Isabella, however, appears to be an excellent Gothic heroine. She is beautiful and an undeniable success with suitors. Her wordy and overly emotional speech patterns parallel...

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