Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

Catherine Morland is quite anxious over the rain. She is expecting Eleanor and Henry Tilney, but the rain is fast and constant. When it finally stops, the Thorpe siblings and James Morland arrive and invite her to go with them. Catherine explains she has plans, but John Thorpe tells her he saw the Tilneys and they are otherwise engaged. He lures her in with tales of a castle, and she is tempted. As the Tilneys are reputedly not coming, Catherine joins Isabella Thorpe, James, and John.

However, as they go, she sees the Tilneys on the street walking in the direction of her lodgings. She attempts to get John to let her out, but he spurs the horses faster and ignores her. Her only comfort is in the hopes of seeing a castle, but when they are only partway there, James pulls his carriage up short, pointing out they are not going to make it and ought to turn back.

John makes uncharitable remarks about James, suggesting he ought to be less miserly and that he ought to keep his own carriage. Catherine is confused and points out James cannot afford such things. The return ride is spent mostly in silence, and when Catherine confirms upon returning that she has, in fact, missed a visit from the Tilneys, her mood sinks even lower.

Analysis

John Thorpe's misunderstanding about James and Catherine Morland's finances is alluded to when John suggests James ought to keep his own carriage. Catherine, as with the information Isabella Thorpe has intimated on finances, is largely oblivious to the import of the remarks. This can be attributed to both her innocence and her lack of worry about her financial future.

However, it is useful to also remember Catherine has very consciously been set forth as our innocent heroine. While the initial part of the novel (until Catherine departs Bath) is a novel of manners, Catherine is ultimately also a typical Gothic heroine: pure and innocent. She has repeatedly referenced such novels, and Jane Austen consciously employs aspects of them in Northanger Abbey; it is reasonable to conclude Catherine is genuinely this naive.

Still, the novel also has traits of a novel of manners. By unintentionally rebuffing the Tilneys, Catherine violates social etiquette—even if she does so under John's constraint.

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