Evil Villains in Northanger Abbey Essay

This essay has a total of 1348 words and 6 pages.

Evil Villains in Northanger Abbey

Evil Villains in Northanger Abbey


In Jane Austen's, Northanger Abbey, John Thorpe and General Tilney are portrayed as
unpleasant villains. Villains are defined as, "a wicked or evil person; a scoundrel" (The
American Heritage Dictionary http://www.dictionary.com/search?q=VILLAIN). Austen
description of both men as power-hungry, easily upset, and manipulative follows this
definition. She introduces both characters in separate parts of the book, however
simultaneously she delivers a stunning example of their identical villainous
personalities. Through the portrayal of John Thorpe and General Tilney as villains, Austen
comments on the male supremacy that permeates through her time.

In the first half of the novel, John Thorpe stands out as the villain of the novel. He is
introduced as a, "stout young man of middling height, who, with a plain face and
ungraceful form, seemed fearful of being too handsome unless he wore the dress of a groom,
and to much like a gentleman unless he were easy where he ought to be civil, and imprudent
where he might be allowed to be easy" (Austen 25). Following the initial description, John
is introduced to Catherine. Rather than engaging in personable dialogue, he brags about
the quality and speed of his horses, his authority on ascertaining distances, and his
proficiency in leading his horses. Immediately, the reader is struck with the similarity
of John to an immature ‘schoolboy'. Although Austen continues to portray John as
juvenile, she does not develop him into the villain until later in the novel.

While Catherine's love grows for her hero, Henry Tilney, John also develops affection for
Catherine. During this struggle for Catherine's love, John begins to mature into the
‘classic villain.' For example, during a normal evening at the ball, Catherine had
promises to dance with Henry Tilney. However, Thorpe approaches Catherine and declares,
"What is the meaning of this? - I thought you and I were to dance together" (Austen 46).
Catherine is flustered since this declaration is false. After a barrage of half-truths,
John once again talks about his beloved horses and his knowledge of them. Suddenly without
any type of closure, he is wisped away by the "resistless pressure of a long string of
passing ladies" (Austen 47). In this section of the novel, John Thorpe quickly becomes
dislikeable and Jane Austen's image of men as self-centered begins. However in Catherine's
next meeting with him, Thorpe is transformed from a selfish, immature man into a
disgusting villain.

Much to Catherine's pleasure, she has a walk scheduled with her sweetheart, Henry Tilney,
and her dearest friend, Eleanor Tilney. However, on the morning of the walk, it rains.
Austen uses the rain to foreshadow the upcoming unpleasant events. In the afternoon, the
rain subsides leaving a muddy mess. Unexpectedly, Isabella Thorpe, John Thorpe, and James
Morland arrive at her house. They request that Catherine go along on their trip to
neighboring cites. However, Catherine feels obligated to stay in the house and await Henry
Tilney and Eleanor Tilney. In his typical self-centered manner, John Thorpe declares that
he saw Tilney engaging in other activities, "I saw him at that moment turn up the Lansdown
Road, - driving a smart-looking girl" (Austen 53). Although perplexed as to why the
Tilneys did not send word that their engagement should be broken, she consents to the
proposed carriage ride. While riding out of her neighborhood, Catherine spots Eleanor and
Henry Tilney walking towards her house. Catherine, exclaims, "Pray, pray stop, Mr. Thorpe.
- I cannot go on. - I will not go on. - I must go back to Miss Tilney." (Austen 54). John
Thorpe disregarding Catherine's plea, "laughed, smacked his whip, encouraged his horse,
made odd noises, and drove on" (Austen 54). During this scene, Austen magnifies the
villainy of John Thorpe by whisking away with innocent Catherine.

After developing John Thorpe's character, the author moves onto the second villain of the
novel. Initially, Catherine's first encounter with Henry's father, General Tilney, was
very positive. Although no words were exchanged, General Tilney observes Catherine from
across the ballroom and inquires to Henry about her identity. She was immediately struck
with, "How handsome a family they are" (Austen 50). In her second appearance the General
continued his politeness with, "such anxious attention was the general's civility carried,
that not aware of her extraordinary swiftness in entering the house, he was quite angry
with the servant whose neglect had reduced her to open the door of the apartment herself"
(Austen 65). When Catherine was ready to leave, the General asked her, "if she would do
his daughter the honour of dining and spending the rest of the day with her" (Austen 65).
Although she declines, Catherine accepts the Generals next invitation to visit their home,
Northanger Abbey.
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