Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

The following morning Catherine Morland is determined to set things right with Miss Tilney. She goes to the pump-room, receives the address of the Tilneys' lodging, and goes to the house. Upon admittance to the house the servant tells her Eleanor Tilney is in and takes her card. However, he returns to say he was mistaken.

Catherine is mortified and leaves. She looks back, expecting to see Eleanor looking out the window. She doesn't, but in a few moments, she sees Eleanor and General Tilney leaving the house. She is offended but also aware she has caused offense the day prior.

She debates skipping the theater, but she has been looking forward to it. Upon arriving, she initially sees no Tilneys, but they arrive. Henry Tilney keeps his focus on the stage, and when he does look her way, it is not with warmth.

Afterward, Henry comes to the box, and she explains herself in a passionate outburst. Henry softens. Catherine further expresses his sister is angry with her, but he corrects her misconception there—explaining it was simply that Eleanor was leaving with their father just then. The two speak at length. They make plans for a walk, and when he leaves, Catherine is quite happy.

The chapter closes with Catherine noticing John Thorpe speaking to General Tilney, and then John telling her about the conversation. He expresses he's played cards with General Tilney—which may or may not be true, considering his ongoing lying—and that he won. He adds that Tilney spoke positively of her, declaring her the "finest girl in Bath," a claim with which Thorpe expressed his agreement.

Analysis

Here, then, is a chapter that is clearly demonstrating the novel-of-manners aspect of the book more so than any previous chapter. The importance of etiquette, expectations, and misunderstandings is evident throughout:

  • Catherine Morland is snubbed.
  • She admits she was also in violation of the rules of decorum the day prior.
  • Henry Tilney's response to seeing Catherine is unexpected.
  • She ignores the rules of polite society to bluntly tell Henry what had happened.
  • Catherine goes so far as to point out that Henry was angry and that she knew so by his look.

Catherine's forthrightness is consistently the thing that wipes away possible offenses and missed moments. She is bold in a way that is in direct conflict with the unspoken communications of mannerly traditions. However, her own inability to navigate the intrigues of a society ruled by etiquette is also a factor. She refuses Henry's initial invitation of a dance, as well as misses his visit because she is manipulated by the Thorpe siblings.

The close of the chapter indicates John Thorpe has expressed his regard for Catherine to the father of the chief rival for her affections. Thorpe has, in essence, let General Tilney know he has intentions toward Catherine. She is pleased the general thought well of her, not alarmed that John had intimated interest in her.

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