Northanger Abbey: Sincerity or Selfishness Essay

Northanger Abbey: Sincerity or Selfishness Essay

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One surrounds themselves with two kinds of people: those in which one can benefit from, and those in which one enjoys the company of. In Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey, the two types of friendships are portrayed through Catherine and Isabella. Although the two girls enjoy the company of one another, their friendship is based only on self-interest.

Once arriving in Bath, Catherine’s lack of acquaintances lead her to spend most of her time with Mrs. Allen. Mrs. Allen is Catherine’s guardian in Bath. As a guardian, Mrs. Allen’s responsibility is to find acquaintances for Catherine. Instead, Mrs. Allen says she wishes she knew people in Bath to introduce Catherine to. The situation that occurs during the ball is extremely humiliating for Catherine. Mrs. Allen and Catherine sit at a tea table together which is considered improper. Mrs. Allen’s role is to find gentlemen for Catherine to dance with. Again, Mrs. Allen complains about her lack of acquaintances. Catherine is determined to avoid these embarrassing situations by finding a friend. When Mrs. Allen introduces Catherine to Isabella, Catherine is pleased to have met someone. Catherine’s friendship with Isabella is based purely on opportunity and self-interest. They lack many of the similarities and traits that friends usually have. One would think that close friends would know a lot about one another, but in this case Catherine and Isabella know very little about one another. The only topics they converse in are fashion, men, gothic novels, and gossip. Close friends tend to know what the other is thinking. Since friends spend most of their time together, they start picking up small details that the other does or implies. Catherine does not notice the hidden mea...


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...lls away from Catherine when she knows that her relationship with James is secure; James wants to marry Isabella. If Isabella did not have her eye on James, she would not have befriended Catherine. If Catherine knew more people in Bath, she would not have befriended Isabella.

In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen uses self-interest as the foundation of Catherine and Isabella’s friendship. They start out being the best of friends and later find themselves drifting apart. At the beginning of the novel they valued each other’s company only for the sake of their wellbeing. Later on, both of their needs are fulfilled and are no longer interested in keeping the friendship alive. Catherine makes more acquaintances and is no longer lonely in Bath while Isabella gets the man she is interested in. In conclusion, both characters act in a way in which benefits themselves.

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