Thursday, July 22, 2010

Northanger Abbey, Chapters 15-20

Confession: I've already finished this book. That makes it hard to remember specific things from each section I wanted to remember, so after today, I'll write just one final post on the last day of July. Here's a recap:

Catherine learns that Isabella and James are engaged, and the Morlands consent to the marriage. John Thorpe tries to hint to Catherine that maybe they can be engaged too, but she blows him off and he takes it as a good sign. At the beginning of volume two, Catherine dines with the Tilney family, and is pleased by how nice General Tilney is to her. The other Tilney son, Captain Frederick, comes to Bath as well.

After James tells Isabella that they will have a long engagement while he waits to inherit a living, she’s pretty upset, which makes Catherine angry. Things get better for Catherine though, since the Tilneys invite her along to their abbey for a visit. Not only is she excited to spend time with Henry, she’s thrilled about the idea of staying in an abbey like the ones found in her novels.

Catherine tells Isabella that she isn’t interested in her brother, after he writes to say that he wants to propose. Isabella’s flirtation with Frederick also bothers Catherine, but Catherine chalks it up to Isabella being polite. She starts to get worried for James, and talks to Henry, who tells her to leave the situation alone.

The ride to Northanger Abbey is pleasant -- Henry and Catherine ride together, and he tells her stories about the mysteries she’ll encounter there, complete with a hidden passage and violent storms. They arrive in time for dinner.

Catherine consistently misreads social situations -- she misreads the situation between Isabella and Frederick, even though Isabella seems to make it clear, telling Catherine that there’s more than one way for the two of them to be sisters. She also misreads her relationship with John Thorpe, not understanding that he wants to marry her. And, as we’ll soon see, she misreads the situation at the Abbey, where she allows her imagination to run rampant.

The lessons she’s applying to her life in Bath and at the Abbey come straight from the pages of novels and from the Allens, who can’t offer much guidance. Like the other Austen heroines we’ve seen, Catherine is missing a strong, positive influence in her life who is able to teach her the ways of the world. Each heroine, whether by death or poverty, is deprived of at least one parent who could alert her to the fact that she’s choosing friends unwisely or misreading social cues. But then, how would anyone ever figure out anything for herself?

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