Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Catherine Morland is further outlined by the narrator—who narrates with an overt consciousness toward the reader.

The departure date, which the narrator points out as a time of much stress and strife for one's mother, is greeted with two simple warnings: wrap your throat and keep account of your money. Similarly, the actions of Catherine's father are contrasted with the typical facts. He gives her "ten guineas." So, too, the travel is contrasted with how things ought to be in a heroine's tale. The narrator notes there were no robbers, and instead, it was uneventful.

The narrator then addresses the reader further, pointing out it is necessary to describe Mrs. Allen—the expectation, again, being that there ought to be a threat or peril. Instead, Mrs. Allen is wholly unremarkable. Her weakness is "dress," and she spent several days getting Catherine caught up and in getting her own attire updated.

The women, accompanied by Mr. Allen, attend a ball. At this point the first dialogue exchange of the book occurs. It is as bland as all the rest. The two women discuss the fact that they know no one, and that the ball is crowded. They speak to no one, save one offer of tea, and they do not dance. At the end, Mr. Allen expresses his hope that it was "agreeable," and Catherine says it was, as she yawns.

Analysis

Northanger Abbey continues to be a self-conscious novel. The acts of the characters and the way they do not "fit" the pattern of popular novels, including Gothic novels, are pointed out by the narrator. A belief of the era was that novels, which were largely written by women, were inferior. In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen is intentionally drawing from the patterns, traits, and tropes of those novels. By pointing out their traits, using them, and still telling an arresting story, Austen is inviting a conversation about novels and about what makes a story compelling. Catherine Morland does not have the extreme circumstances typical of characters in popular novels, and yet she is still arresting.

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