Northanger Abbey Volume 2 Chapters 10-12

Chapter 10

The visions of romance were over. Catherine was completely awakened.

What a great opening.

We find that Catherine hates herself. She has ruined everything forever. Nothing was to be done. All was finished.

One would expect that this would go on for days and poison the rest of her life. In fact, it last about ½ hour, and within a few more hours, Henry, by his kindness, has made everything better. I love Henry.

And I love that Catherine is able to let this go and be happy. Her mind made up on these several points, and her resolution formed, of always judging and acting in future with the greatest good sense, she had nothing to do but to forgive herself and be happier than ever; and the lenient hand of time did much for her by insensible gradations in the course of another day.

She is so healthy! I so want to be more like Catherine.

The letter from James is so sad to Catherine. It pains her to see her brother so upset, but she has also lost a friend. She begins to doubt all that has come before.

Yet, even while unhappy with Fred Tilney, Catherine recognizes that nobody is wholly good or wholly bad. This is another Austen theme, that no one is 100% pure or 100% evil, except for Donald Trump. She was so prescient.

I love that Catherine can’t completely renounce Isabella. Surely, if she marries Fred, she will be constant. Henry’s response is of course, priceless:

“But perhaps,” observed Catherine, “though she has behaved so ill by our family, she may behave better by yours. Now she has really got the man she likes, she may be constant.”

“Indeed I am afraid she will,” replied Henry; “I am afraid she will be very constant, unless a baronet should come in her way; that is Frederick’s only chance. I will get the Bath paper, and look over the arrivals.”

Chapter 11

From this time, the subject was frequently canvassed by the three young people; and Catherine found, with some surprise, that her two young friends were perfectly agreed in considering Isabella’s want of consequence and fortune as likely to throw great difficulties in the way of her marrying their brother. Their persuasion that the general would, upon this ground alone, independent of the objection that might be raised against her character, oppose the connection, turned her feelings moreover with some alarm towards herself. She was as insignificant, and perhaps as portionless, as Isabella; and if the heir of the Tilney property had not grandeur and wealth enough in himself, at what point of interest were the demands of his younger brother to rest? 

I once again bow to Austen. I’d forgotten this, that she does such a great job foiling Catherine and Isabella here. If Isabella’s fortune is so small the General will not approve, then Catherine won’t be approved either. Tension as Catherine remembers all the times that the General has mentioned money. But surely…

Catherine wants Henry to warn the General of this engagement and the part that Fred played in ruining James’ chances. Catherine is worried about all the duplicity. But I like that Henry will not bring tales to the General, and that he believes his brother must tell his story. Catherine, of course, is right to believe that Fred will lie; and Henry is right to suggest, that doesn’t matter. Bascially the whole family has Fred’s number. Even telling a piece of the story will suffice. Austen knows her characters so well.

The whole situation with the General telling Henry to go while not to go is terrific. The General, while a bully, is also passive-aggressive at the same time. So frustrating. I love this response from a confused Catherine:

He went; and, it being at any time a much simpler operation to Catherine to doubt her own judgment than Henry’s, she was very soon obliged to give him credit for being right, however disagreeable to her his going. But the inexplicability of the general’s conduct dwelt much on her thoughts. That he was very particular in his eating, she had, by her own unassisted observation, already discovered; but why he should say one thing so positively, and mean another all the while, was most unaccountable! How were people, at that rate, to be understood? Who but Henry could have been aware of what his father was at?

It is all very Alice in Wonderland to me. I also find people like this quite disconcerting. Illogic bugs me too.

One final deeply important comment upon Henry. His friends are a Newfoundland dog and several Terrier puppies. Please do not mention hunting, for I have head cannoned that he gives hunting up and takes it up no more. In my annotated text, I learned that Newfoundlands are, not surprisingly, from Canada, and they were new at the time of the novel.

Interesting additional fact from my edition, is that attached to parishes were glebe lands. These were for farming purposes and the minister could do whatever he wanted with the lands. Some ministers, like Catherine’s father, turned their hand at making orchards, building greenhouses, and planting crops and gardens. Any monies that came from these belonged to the minister. For many ministers, this was their chief source of income, and such seems to be the case with Catherine’s father.

Chapter 12

Serious question:

Is Isabella really so stupid, or so unselfaware? Or does she think Catherine is, or all three?

Catherine has been so badly used, and for Isabella to continue to push is audacious!

Second serious question:

Catherine finally, truly sees Isabella. She still is struggling to assess others. This exchange with Henry over Fred Tilney’s responsibility is really interesting to me, and I don’t understand completely Henry’s response. I do get the explanation that follows it, but this initial statement is almost Greek to me. Someone help me!

“There is but one thing that I cannot understand. I see that she has had designs on Captain Tilney, which have not succeeded; but I do not understand what Captain Tilney has been about all this time. Why should he pay her such attentions as to make her quarrel with my brother, and then fly off himself?”

“I have very little to say for Frederick’s motives, such as I believe them to have been. He has his vanities as well as Miss Thorpe, and the chief difference is, that, having a stronger head, they have not yet injured himself. If the effect of his behaviour does not justify him with you, we had better not seek after the cause.”

Finally, Catherine shows how far she has come when she says “there is not great harm done [in Fred ending the relationship] because I do not think Isabella has any heart to lose.”

Wow.  All of this in less than a month (I think). It’s a lot.

6 thoughts on “Northanger Abbey Volume 2 Chapters 10-12”

  1. Maybe all three. I think Isabella wants a husband with money so she can live comfortably, even though she claims nothing matters but her heart. She longs for attention, praise about her beauty, and material wealth. I think she seriously thought James would indulge her whims and Catherine would give her the benefit of the doubt. Catherine has given her the benefit of the doubt numerous times. Given her background and her friendship with the Tilneys, she has started to understand and question odd behaviors more. Isabella is selfish and aware of her own desires but “self-aware” probably not in a conscientious way.

    I think the Tilney siblings are on to bro Fred. He likes the chase but he’s not going to get caught, especially with a woman who has no fortune. He’s a “player.” Again, Isabella comes off worse because of gender politics.

    1. I think you are right. And I love your calling him a player. To be fair, Isabella was the person who was engaged, so I do think hers is the greater wrong in the scheme of things. Of course, I am pleased this happened because marriage to James would have been a disaster for him. He has been saved. But the quote from Henry I italicized: I don’t quite understand what he is saying. I am probably overthinking it. Can you explain it to me?

      That Isabella–I also think she wrote to Catherine because she is now desperate. She blew her chances with James–not enough money, but 80,000 is better than 0, and 0 is what she is getting with Fred. I don’t think she would have written otherwise, ever. Oddly, Catherine doesn’t like being used. It took a bit, but I think that is what is significant about the amount of time that has passed. I don’t think I thought of that before. Not much time has passed for such emotional upheaval, or for Catherine to open her eyes and alter her own behavior. I am once again really impressed with her.

  2. Donald Trump should read this novel. Or any novel, really.

    I don’t know what Henry is talking about in the passage you italicized. But it’s Very Henry to be forgiving? passive? uninvolved? unconcerned? when he speaks of his brother. The ’cause’ of what? The reason for Frederick’s vanities? Or the reason for Catherine’s ultimate disapproval of him? I think Henry speaks ambiguously, not directly. He is distant. Yes, yes, he is kind. But he has a guard up. I see it. I hear it.

    Perhaps his role is to serve as a guide for Catherine and not a husband. He always seems to say the logical thing, often to help her feel better, but he is not very affectionate toward a young woman who he can sense hates herself for how carried away she gets and self-doubting she is. He does help her work through her emotions. But what about HIS emotions? Are we to read him as the grown up who is helping the innocent young lady become a woman? Or the young man who has no interest in her, or a veiled interest in her? Or could he be gay and sees her as a friend? Could he be emotionally stunted somehow?

    He seems to like Catherine well enough, but where is the romance? Am I missing it? I think he’s going to fade out of the picture. I don’t think he’s going to propose to Catherine. I’d be shocked.

    To his credit, he has a Newfoundland puppy, so he scores HUGE points with me because that is my favorite dog.

    One thing that keeps creeping me out a little is the General and his obsession with money and how that translates to Catherine. He likes Catherine and wishes for her to be a part of the family, but the grand tour of NA was filled with such oddities because it was the General’s thing to control the tour completely on his own terms. Grandstanding, as if the house were his biggest point of pride (pride means more to him than love, or so he shows through his behavior). And when they get to Henry’s place, it’s the General and not Henry being the Big Man showing everyone around. Honestly, I think he’s working harder than Henry to woo Catherine. But then, Henry’s ability to be so independent and somewhat unattached could be a guard has he up or a simple laissez faire attitude about life, about romance, about Catherine. I really think there are some odd things about the Tilney family that I am going to discover by the end of the book.

    Catherine is growing into her own. She is seeing people like Isabella–users–for what they are. Her behavior at NA, based on her reading AND her subsequent imagination, though socially inappropriate and selfish, were mind-blowing because she was going through a dark tunnel in the story, in her life, there…of discovery all on her own…of getting carried away and coming back. Reaching reality. Reaching adulthood. Darkness to light. Goosebumps. But now it appears we are starting to wind down. I’m on pins and needles about how JA is going to pull all this together.

    1. I love the way you are reading this book, and now my favorite thing is you view Catherine as going through a dark tunnel. I think you are absolutely right.
      As for Henry, I disagree with you, but I totally get it. I think in some ways he is unavailable to Catherine. I love it when he lets go–like the excited discussion of books and later the teasing of his sister in Bath, and his playing with Gothic Northanger Abbey (though that comes back to bite him later).
      I still am troubled by his words. Don’t know why they can’t enter my brain, but I think it is two-fold: I think he has a really troubled relationship with his brother, and is unsure what to say. Like, deeply uncomfortable, family secret kind of way. And I also think that the General stifles everything. Eleanor is the same when the General is around.
      I think you absolutely nailed the General–his is despicable, and his children (except Fred for the most part) are under his control.
      I am eager to hear what you think of the ending!

  3. Oh my gosh. Family secrets yes. That’s it! The General is a tyrant, and so his children, survivors of that, have social and behavioral issues, I think. Those kids suffer, including Player Fred who with his awfulness might be suffering the most. At least Henry and Eleanor have each other. (I was SOOOOH touched by a comment Henry made to Catherine at one point early on at NA, that he would do untying for his sister. Almost made me cry.) But WOAH…the death of the mother adds another layer of family secrecy…And it is BRILLIANT that JA shows us how our heroine is magnificently intuitive and imaginative! What a heroine she is to be intuiting that there is a skeleton in the closet regarding this family. That there is something amiss. She just sees it in Gothic action terms…high level high wind drama. But Catherine has uncovered something, seen something, without actually knowing it cognitively and naming it analytically. She knows it romantically, with her heart. I LOVE this book!

  4. I love that you love this book!!!
    That is my favorite.
    And yes–again, not surprisingly, I agree with you about Catherine’s intuitiveness. She does spot something amiss, and I hadn’t thought of that that before. I think this is an indication of her maturing. She sees it through the Gothic lit lens, but then unfortunately, will realize that things can be worse than fiction.

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