- The intricacies and tedium of high society, particularly partner selection.
- The conflicts of marriage for love and marriage for property.
- Life lived as if in a Gothic novel, filled with danger and intrigue, and the obsession with all things Gothic.
- The dangers of believing life is the same as fiction.
- The maturation of the young into sceptical adulthood, the loss of imagination, innocence and good faith.
- Things are not what they seem at first.
- Social criticism (comedy of manners).
- Parody of the Gothic novels' "Gothic and anti-Gothic" attitudes.
In addition, Catherine Morland realises she is not to rely upon others, such as Isabella, who are negatively influential on her, but to be single-minded and independent. It is only through bad experiences that Catherine really begins to mature and grow up.