I love how during the storm, all is mystery, but during the light of day, it is all simple and clear. Also, it is funny to me that she blames Henry for being so fearful the night before.
Henry teases Catherine about her new found love of flowers and suggests that that will draw her outside. This is meant ironically. He knows Catherine’s love the outdoors. He is parroting conduct books. I’m realizing during this Austen project that I’m doubly lucky, having studied history and English, so I know some cool stuff!
Conduct books had been around forever (not the historical term) and were also popular in the medieval era, but for women, conduct books were key to basically surveilling every aspect of a woman’s life. They hit their high point in the 18th century, but persisted through the 19th century. Conduct books were rules for women that controlled their behavior. A famous example is from a poem called “The Angel in the House,” which became a goal for women to reach toward. Many conduct books explained to young girls and women how to reach this peak of perfection and included advice such as upon waking the first thought should be for the husband. What can I do to help him have a good day? Next, the children. Next, the servants. Next, extended family. Next, the neighbors. And so on. Please note that the needs of the woman are last, if considered at all. She is exerted to not go to bed if even one person’s needs have not been dealt with, for she is to be an Angel to all.
Jane Austen, you might be stunned to know, did not like conduct manuals. People who believe in such stifling rules are not treated well, and thus, Henry mocks these rules throughout the novel, including in this chapter.
I was interested to see that according to my annotated edition, the Army was considered the most prestigious profession. It is interesting that Tilney is a General, and though he is very wealthy, and neither of his sons needs to work, they both are in professions.
Catherine does not like General Tilney, and we have a further comment that once he leaves, everyone breathes easier. That’s terribly sad.
What do you make of the General and the pride in his house?
I find it interesting (clearly, I find a lot of things interesting) that he is most proud of the quarters he provides for his servants. Here is where I am torn. This is actually a really good thing. His servants are treated very well (except by his great impatience.) Catherine’s thought that 2 servants at her house do so much work as compared to the multitudes of people at the General’s house. But the quarters he provides for his people really are to be admired. He is doing right by them, and he is rightly proud. But I still think he’s a jerk.
I do not like how he treats anyone, and rank is way too important to him.
Does anyone else believe, as Catherine does, that Mrs. Tilney is locked away somewhere on the estate?
Catherine has this obsession to find out the truth about her Gothic fantasies. And when we learn that the General is away outside and Eleanor is taking Catherine to the room her mother died in, and is obviously upset about this, Catherine perseveres, ignoring the possible distress she is causing to her friend. This was the second time I got deeply annoyed with Catherine. I don’t think she treats Eleanor very well. This makes four times she operates against her. (I’m thinking of the Thorpes in Bath, so not really Catherine’s fault, but one too many times there). Anyone else feel this way? Am I being unfair to Catherine?
When time passes and Catherine must know what is going on, she takes advantage of time off from social interaction and visits on her own the rooms she has in effect been warned against visiting. Oh, Catherine. I love the line: “It was no time for thought…” no, it wasn’t. It was no time for possible negative consequences to Eleanor or the anger of the General, or, as we see, running into Henry. Catherine didn’t think.
Henry’s comments are strong, but I don’t feel he was unjust. This is the point. He does understand Catherine. He does know what she was thinking. Remember, Catherine wondered if the General had murdered his wife or imprisoned her. Imagine being Henry, finding this woman in the bedroom where he saw his mother die and knowing the types of thoughts she had. Wow.
One other thing I’d like to add: Henry’s commentary on how now in modern Christian England, bad things don’t happen, or at least not bad things like in Gothic novels. This becomes interesting.
I would love to hear what you think.