Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 14 | Summary

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Summary

Catherine Morland expects another complication by way of the Thorpes, but nothing happens. She joins Henry and Eleanor Tilney for a walk, remarking on how the view reminds her of the French coast. Henry Tilney asks if she's been abroad, and once again, Catherine refers to Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho.

The day is spent in conversation and walking with the Tilney siblings. They speak at length of novels, of history, of gender, and of landscape. Eleanor points out that her brother is being light-hearted and hopes Catherine understands that he thinks highly of women. She suggests Catherine ignore any nonsensical things he says of women or of his sister. For her part, Catherine is delighted.

Afterward, Catherine goes to the shops where she sees Anne Thorpe, one of the younger sisters. They speak, and Catherine learns Maria Thorpe accompanied her brother on the trip Catherine refused.

Analysis

In direct contrast to the reaction Catherine Morland received from John Thorpe when she spoke to him of novels, Henry Tilney's response is positive. Henry reveals himself to be surprisingly forward-thinking. He does not share the historical disdain for popular fiction, nor he seem to regard women as lesser in intellect or ability. Despite this, Eleanor Tilney adds he still sometimes says things that sound negative and requests Catherine ignore them. The reader should recall that General Tilney has now been incredibly solicitous of Catherine. Although Henry and Eleanor have been kind to her all along, and Henry has been flirtatious, the overt friendliness and attention paid to Catherine should also be considered in the context of their father's orders.

Both Mrs. Thorpe and General Tilney are interested in seeing their children attain successful matches. And both Isabella Thorpe and Eleanor Tilney aid these goals as they pursue Catherine's affections. It is, therefore, difficult to overlook the fact that Catherine is aware of the Tilneys' concerns for Henry to marry well, but not of the Thorpes' plans for John Thorpe. One critical possibility is that she has greater clarity with the Tilneys because she is less innocent after spending time in Bath and seeing the maneuvering the Thorpes have done. Another possibility is that her own interest in Henry makes her more aware of it. The third, of course, is she is more aware of John's interest than she acknowledges within the novel.

Another note on this chapter is that, like her siblings, Anne Thorpe lies. In this case, it is to say she was not interested in the trip. At this juncture, coming after Mr. and Mrs. Allen's remark that Isabella has a mother to advise her, there is an implied commentary on the entire family.

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