Northanger Abbey Chapters 13-15

Chapter 13

We continue to learn about Isabella’s character, and about Catherine’s.

Catherine finally gets to set up the appointment for the walk with the Tilneys, and she is met with entreaties and supplications and then disdain. I love Catherine’s thinking process, that she doesn’t want to disappoint, so she attempts a compromise. That doesn’t work, and while some people might be convinced to do what the majority want, especially people she wishes to continue to like her, she realizes that they are selfish; she understands that they could easily change the day of the walk but just don’t want to. Good job, Catherine!

When John returns from making Catherine’s excuses, my very first thought was “I hate these people!” Anyone else feel that way? Catherine is ill-used by them, and as a reader/observer, I am so upset seeing this. Even her brother James is treating her so terribly. And it dawned on me after I wrote this, they literally are using Catherine for their own ends. Her happiness and needs do not count.

And then I pictured the Tilneys. If you were Eleanor, wouldn’t you be thinking WTF? Things keep being settled and then turned upside down.

“If I couldn’t be persuaded into doing what I thought wrong, I never be tricked into it,” is Catherine’s comment. I think she is wonderful. And she is standing against three very strong-willed people who believe their own happiness is sacrosanct. I believe this is the sort of thing that makes Catherine a heroine.

I am curious: was anyone else surprised or even a bit impressed with Mr. Allen’s response? I really appreciated his comments and attitude and it became clear to me why Catherine’s parents trusted him with their daughter.

Chapter 14

Finally, the walk with the Tilneys occurs.

First, I love that Henry reads novels, and in fact, that he loves them.

Second, I love the banter between Henry and his sister. Well done!

Third, Catherine on history. I loved history as a kid and young adult, so of course, I find her wrong. ;-(  but I do find her very funny…and Henry even funnier:

“That little boys and girls should be tormented,” said Henry, “is what no one at all acquainted with human nature in a civilized state can deny…”  In fact, I think I am Henry.

I was relieved at the end of the chapter that when the walk is over and Catherine is walking home only then did she think of Isabella and James. I love she’d had no thought of them during her time with the Tilneys. I begin to feel that maybe maybe she is finally done with the Thorpes.

Chapter 15

I laughed outloud multiple times in this chapter.

When Isabella is explaining how she had fallen in love with James who is incredibly handsome, we are told that :

Here Catherine secretly acknowledged the power of love; for, though exceedingly fond of her brother, and partial to all his endowments, she had never in her life thought him handsome.

Another great capture of sibling relationships.

Of course, the most important part of this chapter, and really the novel, is the engagement between Isabella and James, an event we have waited for with such eagerness, for Isabella is so in


Pardon my enthusiasm, for I know how great her love is. Why, even if she were in command of millions, or James was, or whatever, she would love him if they were both impoverished. Why, she would live in Richmond in a cottage… (come to find out that Richmond was a very wealthy “suburb” at the time. Sometimes Isabella is a bit loose with her truth).

Of course, one happy wedding should lead to another, always, always in comedies, and fortunately, we see John knows when he has a good thing, and suggests shyly and sweetly that courtship between he and Catherine should also proceed.

I love this exchange:

“Shall not you be late at Devizes?” said Catherine. He made no answer; but after a minute’s silence burst out with, “A famous good thing this marrying scheme, upon my soul! A clever fancy of Morland’s and Belle’s. What do you think of it, Miss Morland? I say it is no bad notion.”

“I am sure I think it a very good one.”

“Do you? That’s honest, by heavens! I am glad you are no enemy to matrimony, however. Did you ever hear the old song ‘Going to One Wedding Brings on Another?’ I say, you will come to Belle’s wedding, I hope.”

“Yes; I have promised your sister to be with her, if possible.”

“And then you know”—twisting himself about and forcing a foolish laugh—“I say, then you know, we may try the truth of this same old song.”

“May we? But I never sing. Well, I wish you a good journey. I dine with Miss Tilney today, and must now be going home.”

OMG! Did anyone else wonder if this was Catherine famously not understanding what was being said to her? Or was she actually deliberately making fun of him? This comment, “May we, but I never sing” is what I desperately hope I would have responded. I love it so much.

And then:

“Nay, but there is no such confounded hurry. Who knows when we may be together again? Not but that I shall be down again by the end of a fortnight, and a devilish long fortnight it will appear to me.”

“Then why do you stay away so long?” replied Catherine—finding that he waited for an answer.

“That is kind of you, however—kind and good-natured. I shall not forget it in a hurry. But you have more good nature and all that, than anybody living, I believe. A monstrous deal of good nature, and it is not only good nature, but you have so much, so much of everything; and then you have such—upon my soul, I do not know anybody like you.”

“Oh! dear, there are a great many people like me, I dare say, only a great deal better. Good morning to you.”

The way they are talking past each completely, neither understanding the other’s meaning, is wonderful to behold. Austen is a master.

So are you eager to hear more of the Isabella and James potential nuptials? Are you eager for the return of John? What do you make of the Tilneys, the brother, the sister?

We have finished volume one at this point. What do you think?

Northanger Abbey Chapters 10-12

What incredibly rich chapters these are!

Chapters 10-12, if nothing else, should cement in us how little we can trust Isabella and John. With Isabella, I suppose, if one wishes to be kind (sigh), we could say she is just overexcited, and self-absorbed, and doesn’t truly mean any harm. I guess we could conclude that on limited acquaintance. But, I think we could also say, she is not to be trusted. I don’t even necessarily mean that darkly, but she exaggerates everything, and she proclaims to deep friendship yet regularly ignores her alleged cherished friend. I think this is in part what draws Catherine to Miss Tilney. Catherine hasn’t realized it completely, but she is definitely feeling left out. I think she is beginning to cotton on that something isn’t quite right about Isabella.

Chapter 10

So I was thinking about how I adore thrillers and mysteries. I love the suspense (though lately with my jangly emotions even fictional suspense is a little difficult). There certainly has been no danger, no sense of possible murder in Northanger Abbey, and yet, for me, this whole business in Chapter 10 as to whether or not Catherine will get to see Miss Tilney carries with it great weight. How does JA do that? This is impressive. And what I realized is this: Catherine really likes Tilney. And I believe she is realizing that Isabella is not the right friend for her and that in Miss Tilney, maybe she could be that new friend. Also, knowing Miss Tilney will help in her relationship with Tilney.  So this new friendship is deeply important.

By this point in the novel, I really like Catherine. And she is a good person, and her desire and goal is pure.  I don’t believe in the end that Isabella can harm Catherine, in that Catherine will make the right decision for herself. But I admire people who do the right thing. So that is the suspense—Catherine will try to do right, but other people can certainly get in her way: Isabella, John….The suspense is, will Catherine be able to overcome these obstacles? Will it take too long and perhaps Miss Tilney and her brother might not want to wait for obstacles to be overcome?  And, simply by Catherine being associated with people who display poor judgment, how much of the bad feelings towards them accrue to her?  In addition, there are social proprieties to observe. These, too, can block relationships from forming. So, suspense is also, will Catherine win or will social mores?

I love that Catherine persists. And I love that there is such great suspense here for me in something that seems so innocuous.

I love the whole exchange with Thorpe at the dance when he claimed that Catherine “owed” him her dances. She is so horrified and appalled, and after he argues with her a bit, he then asks if she thinks Tilney might want to buy a horse. I laughed out loud at this. Here was this great moment of romance, men fighting over her (sort of), and then this. Perfect. Thorpe is such an ass.

The contrast between Tilney and Thorpe is so extreme, it as if they are different species.

I continue to love the exchanges between Tilney and Catherine. She has zero understanding of satire. She takes things at face value (though is learning to see subtlety). She is matter of fact and doesn’t quite grok Tilney’s humor. Since Tilney is kind, and would not harm Catherine, I think he is really good for her. She needs (this is an incredibly biased view on my part) to not be quite so literal.

Chapter 11

Did anyone else think Mrs. Allen’s comment to Catherine that, “I know you never mind dirt” was strange? Mrs. Allen is vapid and self-absorbed, so it probably was just a nothing comment, but I’m an English major. Does it have meaning? Was it judgmental? Hmmm.

This whole business with the walk and the castle are so important.

Here again, Austen takes something that would seem so trivial—going for a walk with new friends, and turns it into a whole social and world catastrophe. Look, Catherine is 17 years old. She’s a teenager! Teenagers (and 57 years old like me) can catastrophize small events. But Austen doesn’t think this is small, and it isn’t. Stupid little social niceties in civilized society (and not so civilized) can doom relationships. And this is part of Austen’s brilliance. She knows that people’s feelings get hurt. She knows that beginning of relationships whether romantic or friendship, are very important. I love that Austen knows when to mock and when to regard something as keen. Added to this is that, again, we like Catherine (I do, anyway) and I want her to be happy.

Is anyone else surprised that Catherine still has any trust at all for Isabella and John?

Was anyone else horrified that John wouldn’t stop the gig?

I think this was played for comedy, but mainly I think it wasn’t. Austen is drawing a connection to Gothic novels throughout. Here is Catherine being kidnapped. Of course Thorpe isn’t going to treat her as a Gothic heroine would be—rushed to his castle where he would threaten rape and abuse and possible murder. But—she wants him to stop, and he doesn’t. Instead, he whips his horses (I hate him), and he shouts at her (I hate him). She is desperate, and she thinks of throwing herself out of the carriage, which would have been dangerous. The text says, she “submits.” I think this is awful.

I feel genuinely upset for Catherine. I hate that she has no control while in the carriage. That she is with an odious man who whips the horses and yells and is a real jerk and she has limited agency. And I hate that she hurts the feelings of the people she cares about and can do nothing about it for the time being. She feels terrible about this. And I believe Austen that Catherine feels desperately upset.

Chapter 12

In praise of Austen again, she does not leave us hanging for long. Catherine delays not in trying to resolve this. She is honest and caring, so she strives to make this better. Her treatment by the Tilneys when she goes to the door is nearly heartbreaking. (Again, isn’t this extraordinary? I love Austen for this, that something as simple as making a social call is raised to such heights. Wow. I am trying to figure out how to do this in my own writing. I think again it comes down to we care about Catherine and her goal and know how sad it will make her to not achieve it. But maybe it is more than that?)

And when at the theater, which she attends with the odious Thorpes (how could she still hang out with them? Yes, I know but still) I love how she rushes out her story to Tilney with no concern that she preserve her own dignity. She accepts responsibility and makes it clear she was upset. And I realized as I was looking at my notes that I forgot to notice that Tilney, while being cold with the bow, does come to the box to talk to her and Mrs. Allen. That’s cool. He didn’t need to do that. He certainly isn’t as open as Catherine, but he went out of his way to come to her. He gave her an opening. He is really mature. I really like him.

Wow, these chapters were so significant to me.  And I haven’t even begun to talk about the importance of money which keeps popping up throughout the novel. The most interesting in these chapters was Thorpe’s insistence that the Morelands are rich, and his inability to understand why James doesn’t own his own carriage.  Needless to say, money is always important in Austen.