Northanger Abbey Vol. 2 Chs. 1-3

These chapters have me feeling all out of sorts.

First, such an odd/interesting way to begin Vol. 2. I realized later it made sense. Catherine was to visit the Tilneys, so that was a key event, and the second key event was awaiting the letter from James to find out what his father would do for him and Isabella monetarily.

The visit made Catherine unhappy, and as someone who cares about C I felt bad for her. She had so much hope pinned on this.

Meeting with Isabella made things slightly better in that Isabella so castrophized what happened that even Catherine began to realize it wasn’t quite as bad as she made out. And what a great line of Isabella’s “In all things in the world inconstancy is my aversion.” Truer words have never been spoken, I attest.

I love the turn that seeing the Tilneys again restored C’s good spirits, and after dancing and talking with him “and in finding him irresistible, becoming so herself” was lovely to me. Such a lovely way to show how she has been falling for him.

But this next passage is remarkable to me:

Henry smiled, and said, “How very little trouble it can give you to understand the motive of other people’s actions.”

“Why? What do you mean?”

“With you, it is not, How is such a one likely to be influenced, What is the inducement most likely to act upon such a person’s feelings, age, situation, and probable habits of life considered—but, How should I be influenced, What would be my inducement in acting so and so?”

“I do not understand you.”

“Then we are on very unequal terms, for I understand you perfectly well.”

“Me? Yes; I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.”

“Bravo! An excellent satire on modern language.”

“But pray tell me what you mean.”

“Shall I indeed? Do you really desire it? But you are not aware of the consequences; it will involve you in a very cruel embarrassment, and certainly bring on a disagreement between us.”

“No, no; it shall not do either; I am not afraid.”

“Well, then, I only meant that your attributing my brother’s wish of dancing with Miss Thorpe to good nature alone convinced me of your being superior in good nature yourself to all the rest of the world.”

He has such great respect for Catherine (always), and this passage shows how well he knows her. I also think he is concerned for her and sees the potential for great hurt since Catherine believes that people have the best of intentions.

This is powerful stuff.

The chapter could end here on this powerful note, but instead ends on further hurt to Catherine, hearing her father impugned as being cheap towards his son. I love the comment that Catherine didn’t know how much money her father had. The same was true as me. Finances weren’t discussed with the children in my family. Catherine knows her parents to be generous and kind, and to have Isabella imply (actually that’s being kind to Isabella) that he isn’t is mean. Even Mrs. Thorpe gets that her daughter is being unjust.

400 pounds in approximately 1800 would now be equal to about $40,000. That’s how much James would make as a minister. His father is going to add another $40,000 to that, so James would have $80,000 a year. This is not enough for Isabella, and Isabella sees this as Mr. Moreland being niggardly towards her. Mrs. Thorpe’s hope is that in time, Mr. Morland might be willing to give a little more. The amazing misunderstanding about how much Mr. Morland has and also that he has 9 other children to be concerned about is breathtaking to me.

One other note: did anyone else pick up on how Isabella, early on in the chapter, feels disdain for Henry and Eleanor but only praise for the General?

Chapter 2

I love Cahterine’s sense of gratitude. When she is invited to Northanger Abbey, everything in her life is going well. She is grateful to her parents, and to the Allens, to Isabella, and to the Tilneys.

I love her sense of joy at being at a real abbey. Is she more happy about being with Henry Tilney or with being at  a possibly haunted Abbey? I think it is a toss-up. After all, the chapter ends on her fantasizing about what she will discover. (I just had a thought that I feel like Northanger Abbey might in some ways be a precursor to Nancy Drew! I love that idea.)

Chapter 3

Chapter 2 was such a lovely respite. Everything is going well, and then in Ch. 3, Catherine gets zinged multiple times.

Anyone elss surprised that Isabella’s favorite out of the way spot is actually pretty much at the center of things?

The letter from John is infuriating. Marriage was serious business. Becoming engaged was major and life-changing. His assertion that Catherine was in all agreement and in effect, egging him on is so aggravating. And to someone of Catherine’s honesty, and her clear dislike of his actions towards her…but then to have Isabella push John’s claims…

As Catherine protests fervently, quite upset, Isabella throws logs on the fire by a) suggesting that the possibility of engagement is foolish because what would they live on? After all, Catherine’s father would give them so little money, and b) maybe John overreacted but it was promoted by Catherine’s high spirits. After all, we as readers certainly know that Catherine and Isabella are like one, and that Catherine gives her feelings easily to all who ask. (Ugh)

 “Oh! As to that,” answered Isabella laughingly, “I do not pretend to determine what your thoughts and designs in time past may have been. All that is best known to yourself. A little harmless flirtation or so will occur, and one is often drawn on to give more encouragement than one wishes to stand by. But you may be assured that I am the last person in the world to judge you severely. All those things should be allowed for in youth and high spirits. What one means one day, you know, one may not mean the next. Circumstances change, opinions alter.”

“But my opinion of your brother never did alter; it was always the same. You are describing what never happened.”

“My dearest Catherine,” continued the other without at all listening to her, “I would not for all the world be the means of hurrying you into an engagement before you knew what you were about. I do not think anything would justify me in wishing you to sacrifice all your happiness merely to oblige my brother, because he is my brother, and who perhaps after all, you know, might be just as happy without you, for people seldom know what they would be at, young men especially, they are so amazingly changeable and inconstant. What I say is, why should a brother’s happiness be dearer to me than a friend’s? You know I carry my notions of friendship pretty high. But, above all things, my dear Catherine, do not be in a hurry. Take my word for it, that if you are in too great a hurry, you will certainly live to repent it. Tilney says there is nothing people are so often deceived in as the state of their own affections, and I believe he is very right. Ah! Here he comes; never mind, he will not see us, I am sure.”

This is what Tilney was warning Catherine about, though she didn’t see it. She trusts people, yet in this whole long comment by Isabella, Isabella is projecting onto Catherine her own belief system. Isabella does not know Catherine at all. And that is for me the chief sin. Catherine has been a placeholder for Isabella this whole time, and a means to get her brother. Which, I think we can safely gather, may not be what Isabella wants anymore.

There is a lot of betrayal and inconstancy in these three chapters. Although I laughed a few times, and felt joy a few times, I came away mainly feeling terribly sad and angry on Catherine’s behalf.

5 thoughts on “Northanger Abbey Vol. 2 Chs. 1-3”

  1. I don’t have a lot of time to comment and am a bit tired, but here is my best: These chapters threw me. It seems like Austen hit a re-set button and continued on with her story but now with a stronger focus on the characters who would directly challenge our heroine’s convictions and actions. By now we are used to the characters and how well they are getting to know each other. The introduction of the new character, the Tilney brother, was created to show Isabella’s ruthlessness and possible ficklness. By now we are used to Isabella’s selfishness. Does she REALLY not care about money? And how rude, yes, she is to suggest Mr. Morland is cheap. And I don’t know if we’ve ever talked about Isabella’s man-demeaning comments. She really does say some things that lead me to believe she does not like men (but she needs one??) or it was custom then for women to assert their opinions by saying to other women how odious men are. Don’t know.

    I am glad that C was invited to NA by the Tilneys. How exciting for her, and her Gothic-loving self reflected on some things she might find there that made me laugh. However, there is something about the Tilneys that don’t quite sit well with me. There’s something about the father especially that puts me on guard. I will give this more thought and comment upon it later.

    Katherine, the scene you referenced between Tilney and Catherine was striking. However, I read it differently. I read it as somehow as though Tilney does not respect Catherine enough. I read it as though he is warning her that she could come off as acting as though she is superior to others. And that she does not think roundly about things including others’ motives, which to me sounds like a criticism:
    Catherine says: “I do not understand you.”
    Tilney says: “Then we are on very unequal terms, for I understand you perfectly well.”
    Marcia thinks: Wow, Tilney. How patronizing.
    I site this because I am starting to feel like Catherine is awash in a sea of her own. What is going to happen to her???? Yes, there lots of betrayal. Yes, there is lots of inconstancy. Characters are moving around now, and I’m not sure who Catherine’s allies are. So I am a worried reader at the end of Chapter III.

    Last note, a Q: What do you make of Catherine insisting she does not recall the conversation with John that prompted him to write and ask Isabella to speak on his behalf?? It was such a clear scene in my mind. Catherine…forget?? That doesn’t seem like her.

    1. OMG, I love your comments, always, Marcia. I am desperate to respond (and not in an Isabella way), but as regards Henry, I’m going to wait on that to see what others say.
      I am really eager to talk about what I think is the most important thing you’ve said, or rather you’ve pointed out something really key. I love it: that Catherine is awash in a sea of not knowing whom to trust. I agree! When I told someone (I think Laurie) that Jane Austen was my favorite writer, she was surprised. She said, “Not a mystery writer?” And I’ve been thinking about that ever since. Here’s a new thought I’ve just had because of you, Marcia. Closely akin to mystery for me (though I don’t think as well written usually–fight me on this later, anyone) is the spy genre. One of the key tropes of the spy genre that I sometimes like, but mostly get really annoyed by is this idea that even as a master spy, you can never know completely whom to trust. There are red herrings and moles and undercover agents and duplicity and double-dealing. IN the hands of a good writer, this is delicious. Look at what Austen is doing here! She is putting Catherine in the situation without family (except James, and how much do we trust him? And James himself may be so infatuated he doesn’t know/can’t be self-aware); who is relatively naive but incredibly honest. She was raised in a happy family with people who trust her and want the best for her, and now she is out in the world and already we see a few people who want to take advantage of her and possibly there are others. She has her goodness and moral compass and honesty on her side, but could these also be used against her? Sounds very spy thrillery to me. Sure, she probably won’t lose her life, but in those days, getting married was a life sentence (I wrote that for Mark’s benefit.)
      As for the conversation with John: I don’t see it as nefarious. Look at the conversation. I pasted it into a blog post because I thought it was so funny. For John, it was important. And Marcia, was it you who suggested some pity to John because he was trying hard to express feelings? I had a little of that for him, but mainly I couldn’t stand him so it blocked a lot of positive feelings for him. To him, this was a momentous occasion. To Catherine, it was being with an odious man who was talking about songs and the wedding of his sister and what did Catherine think of weddings and did she like to sing (she’s very literal–that’s how she took the question.) She’s thinking, this guy is odious and why doesn’t Isabella come down, and I can’t wait to get home. She’s waiting for him to leaving, and he is rattling on about stuff that means nothing to her, because John never makes the attempt to talk to anyone at an honest level. I think, to bend over backwards he might be trying to come to her hat in hand? But I think that gives him too much credit. Still, he doesn’t talk to Catherine in words she can understand. Look at the passage (LOOK!!!) 😉 I believe that she has no clue that he is talking about engagement or courtship or love or even like. He’s just a stupid jerk who is for reasons unaccountable delaying his leaving. I think she’s like, yeah, I might have spoken for a few minutes….small talk to a guy who rattles on and on. What do you think?
      (by the way, I don’t know if you saw a notice of it or not, but I responded to an earlier comment of yours from yesterday.) I am having so much fun with this.

      1. I will read the above and your reply to my comments about chapters 13-15 and reply back AFTER I re-read and re-think the character of Henry. I am having fun with this!! It’s almost like I am back in school. :).

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