Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

The Allens, Thorpes, and Morland siblings attend the theater. Isabella Thorpe speaks at length to Catherine Morland, who is disappointed to not see Henry Tilney. Isabella's interest in James Morland is increasingly apparent. She tells Catherine: "You would have told us that we seemed born for each other, or some nonsense of that kind." After a few moments' talk, her focus is on James.

The next morning Catherine is resolute in her plan to meet Eleanor Tilney. She worries there will be another interruption. However, she successfully reaches the pump-room and meets Eleanor. When Catherine speaks to Eleanor, she artlessly exclaims over Henry's dancing skills. She explains she had to turn down Henry's invitation to dance—even though she was dismayed by it—because she had to honor her obligation to John Thorpe. Continuing, she asks about his absence from Bath and if they'll be at the cotillion ball the next day. Eleanor begins to say she isn't sure but stops mid-answer and says they will.

The next day brings worry over dress and a general distraction over seeing Henry. That evening she attends the dance, worrying when the Thorpes join her that John will monopolize her. Isabella obliviously misunderstands Catherine's worry and tells her John will be back.

Fortunately, however, Henry arrives, asks her to dance, and successfully has her dance with Henry. He is charming, and Catherine is quite happy. She thinks Henry has asked her "as if he sought her on purpose" and does not think her "life could supply any greater felicity."

Their dance is interrupted by John, who boorishly says he thought they were to dance. It is awkward, but Henry is patient and kind. After John has left, Catherine and Henry have another witty conversation.

As the evening continues, Catherine notices an older, but still handsome, gentleman looking at her and speaking to Henry. She's afraid she's made some mistake, but Henry lets her know the man is his father, General Tilney.

Analysis

In this chapter Catherine Morland's tendency to be forthright serves her well: she tells Eleanor Tilney why she refused Henry Tilney, and Eleanor steps forward in such a way that she can help resolve the confusion. Further, when she is at the dance, Catherine benefits from the rules of social etiquette, not promising any dances to John Thorpe. Instead, she is able to dance with Henry.

Dance allowed a couple to converse briefly. Dancing too often with one person was a statement. John Thorpe is attempting to assert a claim over Catherine. He has done so by reserving two of her dances previously, interrupting her dance with Henry, and speaking to General Tilney. While the particulars of this conversation are not explained to the reader until the end of the novel, it is evident that what was said captures General Tilney's interest. He stares at Catherine, and in the following chapters, he begins to encourage an alliance between Catherine and his son. The reader eventually learns John has expressed his mistaken belief that Catherine is the goddaughter and heir of the childless Allens. To this, he adds—in his boastful way—that she will receive a financial settlement far more significant than is realistic. General Tilney believes John and makes decisions based on this misinformation.

Catherine is oblivious to such things. She is aware only of the man who has caught and held her interest, sought her out, danced with her, and intends to see her again.

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