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Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen

Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained

Isabella, embracing Catherine, thus began: - "Yes, my dear Catherine, it is so indeed; your penetration has not deceived you. - Oh! that arch eye of yours! - It sees through every thing."

Catherine replied only by a look of wondering ignorance.

This scene, from Volume I, Chapter XV, is one of the funniest in the novel. Isabella Thorpe, the speaker, has been flirting with Catherine's brother, James, for nearly a week. They have become engaged, and Isabella is just about to tell Catherine. Typically, Isabella assumes that Catherine is as gossipy and perceptive as Isabella is herself. By now we realize that Catherine is not very perceptive, is even obtuse, and here she has no idea what Isabella is talking about. The passage demonstrates Catherine's flawed powers of perception. She cannot fathom the motivations of people, particularly when they are negative, and she cannot read people or their behavior. In this case, she did not guess at the engagement that the entire town of Bath assumed was imminent. Her obliviousness stems from a combination of naiveté and innocence. Catherine needs more experience and a better understanding of what drives people before she can make accurate assumptions about how they will behave.