Essay on Discuss the role of friendship in Northanger Abbey.

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Discuss the role of friendship in Northanger Abbey.

This essay will discuss the role of friendship in Northanger Abbey by examining the different types of friendships between Catherine
Morland, Isabella Thorpe and Eleanor Tilney in the novel, alongside the significance of friendship to the plot and themes of the novel.
Whether one can regard only true friendships as important will also be explored. In Northanger Abbey (NA) there are two main friendships, that of
Catherine and Isabella and Catherine and Eleanor. These two friendships can be seen as a total contrast to one another.
Catherine is very pleased to meet Isabella after being disappointed in not seeing Mr Tilney again. The narrator informs the reader that
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Isabella’s artificial and affected speech contrasts sharply with Eleanor’s polite and reserved small talk. Isabella tends to chatter constantly, changing topics continually. She seems to speak without thinking of the consequences. She is so determined to achieve her own desires she forgets to consider others before she acts. It could be argued that there is no real malice in Isabella’s actions, just a lack of thoughtfulness. Henry Tilney describes Isabella as ‘open, candid, artless, guileless, with affections strong but simple, forming no pretensions, and knowing no disguise.’. He makes no mention of her being wilfully malicious. At the end of the novel Isabella treats
Catherine and James badly but whether she had intended to do this is questionable. It is her desire to improve her station in life that leads to her trying to manipulate people for her own purposes. Austen uses free indirect speech to portray Isabella as an ironic character –
‘…it was inconceivable, incredible, impossible’ (p.48 NA). These words are not actually direct speech yet mimic the character’s way of speaking. Isabella tends to hyperbolise and use colloquialisms in her speech. Austen uses Isabella to demonstrate and exaggerate society’s desire for wealth and good marriages.

As the novel progresses the reader is given more of an insight into
Isabella’s inconsistencies. Whilst she professes that ‘There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my

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