Thursday, July 15, 2010

Northanger Abbey, Chapters 9-14

For the first time in this project, I’ve read ahead of schedule — I’m a few chapters beyond 14, so I’ll try to refrain talking about anything after that. Here’s a quick recap.

The social world of Bath is still a marvel for Catherine, who decides to befriend Eleanor Tilney. Before she can pay her a visit, Isabella, James Morland and John Thorpe arrive to take Catherine for a ride. Catherine gets stuck riding with John, who is manipulative and exaggerates. Despite James and Isabella’s fondness for John, Catherine looks on him with disdain. She learns that her guardian, Mrs. Allen, ran into the Tilneys while she was out, and Catherine kicks herself for missing them.
Catherine remains oblivious to the new romance between Isabella and James, because she’s caught up in her interest in the Tilneys. She meets Eleanor at the Pump-Room, they hit it off, and she awkwardly asks Eleanor about Henry. Eleanor figures out that Catherine likes Henry, but Catherine doesn’t realize that she shared this information.

At a ball, Catherine dodges John and dances with Henry. He tells her that dancing is like a brief marriage, and each side has responsibilities. The Tilneys set up a walk with Catherine for the next day. The Thorpes arrive to take Catherine to Bristol, and John lies and tells her that he saw Henry driving in the opposite direction. Since it's raining, Catherine believes him and goes along. When they set off, she sees the Tilneys walking toward her house, but John refuses to turn around.

Catherine goes to apologize to the Tilneys the next morning, but they won’t see her. She then confronts Henry at the theater and explains everything. She learns that General Tilney, their father, thinks that she’s the finest girl in town.

The Thorpes plan yet another ride, and when they try to get Catherine, she turns them down. She goes to the Tilneys’ house, and meets the General, who invites Catherine to dinner. At the Allens, Mr. Allen tells Catherine not to see John Thorpe anymore. The Tilneys take Catherine on a walk the next day, and Catherine and Henry discuss books again, as well as drawing. When she goes back home, Catherine learns that one of the Thorpe sisters took her place on that day’s drive.

In these chapters, Catherine is beginning to stand up for herself and make her own decisions, instead of having Isabella help navigate for her. She recognizes that some social acquaintances can be hurtful, and that others are much better matches in terms of friendship. It’s actually kind of interesting how the intelligent, funny, down-to-earth Tilneys seek the companionship of Catherine, a girl who is only beginning to develop social graces and desires that her life resemble a Gothic novel.

Henry Tilney is shaping up to be a great Austen hero — he’s funny, charming, smart, and has no problem teasing Catherine. He seems more well-rounded than recent heroes we’ve encountered — Mr. Knightley, Edmund Bertram — and doesn’t seem to have any flaws to overcome.

For next week, read Chapters 15-20.


  1. Reading all these books one after the other has made me realize just what makes Henry Tilney so particularly endearing-- he's the only Austen hero who makes JOKES. It was an amazing revelation-- for an author so renowned for her humor, she really has gifted us with a lot of upright, handsome, wealthy humorless stiffs, hasn't she? Obviously, they appreciate humor, because the women they love are so frequently funny, and they know their way around a wry witticism, but when you compare them to Henry, my god, what a difference. They have senses of humor the way women in Judd Apatow movies do-- they don't get to make jokes, but you can tell their sense of humor is great because they always laugh at the main characters'. Henry, on the other hand, is a jokes-a-minute goofball. If all priests were so adorable, I'd marry one in a second.

  2. I'm new to your wonderful blog. I'm having a grand time reading your posts and following your links. Thank you so very much for sharing!

  3. Cassandra - You're totally right about that. Mr. Darcy steals the spotlight in terms of Austen heroes, and Henry Tilney doesn't get the attention he deserves.

    Leaking Moonlight - Thanks for reading!

  4. Mr. Knightley has the flaw that if he doesn't marry Emma, he may turn out to be a small, cranky man like his brother.