Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 17 | Summary

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Summary

It is the sixth week in Bath for the Allens, and much to Catherine Morland's dismay, they are discussing their departure. They decide to stay three more weeks, and Catherine is relieved to extend her time getting to know the Tilneys. However, upon seeing Eleanor Tilney, Catherine discovers General Tilney has decided to leave. Eleanor starts to ask Catherine a question, but the general arrives and asks if Catherine has agreed before she has heard the question. The general steps in and invites Catherine to join Eleanor at Northanger Abbey when the Tilneys depart Bath a week from Saturday.

Catherine is excited and says she will write home to ask and expects consent to do so from her family. She receives consent and starts imagining the look of the abbey. When she asks Eleanor about the house, she learns it was once a convent and some of the original structure remains.

Analysis

Catherine Morland's invitation to the Tilney home is a sound decision on General Tilney's part. He can remove access to Catherine, whom he believes to be an heiress, and show her the Tilney wealth. The guise of being a companion to his daughter is socially acceptable.

At this point the novel's Gothic focus increases significantly. Catherine is going to a building that is typical of the setting of Gothic novels. Northanger Abbey isn't simply called an abbey. The building was, in fact, a convent. As the reader will recall, when Catherine had the opportunity to visit a castle, she was strongly inclined. This is far more than a day outing to see a castle: Catherine is being invited to stay at the setting of the novels she reads voraciously.

Northanger Abbey has referenced the Gothic novel frequently throughout the first 16 chapters, but at this point a transition is beginning. Much as there were chapters that more directly follow the conventions of a novel of manners, this transition is signaling that the upcoming chapters will more overtly match the traits of Gothic novels. To be sure the reader does not miss these, although most readers of the novel at the time of its writing would not, Jane Austen has discussed them at length up to this point. The discussion of the abbey where the Tilneys live fits a pattern.

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