Chapter 5 Summary

Catherine and Isabella become inseparable, but this does not keep Catherine from wondering about Mr. Tilney, who seems to have disappeared from Bath. Every time Catherine goes for a walk, she looks for him. She talks to Isabella about him, and Isabella suggests that Mr. Tilney is probably a good man. Isabella adds that maybe Catherine should have been a bit more forthcoming about her interest in him. Maybe that would have kept him in Bath.

Catherine goes to the theater in the evening with Isabella. They go together to the ballroom to dance. There is never any sign of Mr. Tilney no matter where they go or when they are out. However, rather than dismaying Catherine, his absence only increases her interest in him. She cannot get him off her mind.

Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe also form a friendship. They, too, spend a lot of time together. They do not have a lot in common except that they both enjoy having a friend with which they can talk. Mrs. Thorpe is constantly talking about her children, and Mrs. Allen only talks about clothes and fashion. She is secretly pleased that her clothes are of better quality than Mrs. Thorpe’s are.

Catherine and Isabella see each other every day. They most often spend their days out on the town, but even when it rains, they visit one another’s houses and read together. They prefer reading novels, mostly light reading, which is often criticized by literary reviewers. But they pay little attention to the critics and continue to enjoy their tales of heroes and heroines.

The narrator interjects to editorialize about the nature of fiction and how it is perceived. Novels are read mostly by women, the narrator informs the reader. These women mostly read in the privacy of their homes. When someone enters the room where they are reading, they tend to put the book down immediately as if they are ashamed of what they are reading. They know the novels they enjoy are not as deep as are books of history or philosophy. They are aware that much of the fiction they love is referred to as “trash.”

The narrator adds that novelists are completely underrated. Novelists work hard at their creations, which require genius and wit. A novelist, the narrator writes, must know human nature in all its varieties and must also master language. In contrast, books that people are told are important or that cover a more serious subject are often dull to read and contain “unnatural characters.” They also discuss topics that are no longer favorable to the reader.