Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey | Chapter 22 | Summary

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Summary

Catherine Morland wakes to the maid opening the shutters. She leaps out of bed to examine the manuscript, only to find it is not a manuscript. Instead, it's a washing bill and a farrier's bill (for treating a horse). She admits her late-night fancies were absurd, and she's glad Henry Tilney doesn't know about them.

She goes to the breakfast room and finds Henry there. After breakfast Henry departs for his house in Woodston where he will be for several days.

General Tilney offers to take her out walking the grounds. Catherine gets a tour. She is astounded and tells him she's never seen such gardens. He asks after Mr. Allen's hothouses, and then continues the tour until Catherine is tired. Eleanor Tilney and Catherine separate from him and go on a path he declares too damp. On the walk, Eleanor notes it was her mother's favorite walk, and it is hers as well. Catherine is surprised it would not also be a favorite of the general, and Eleanor says her mother died when Eleanor was 13.

Catherine asks questions of Eleanor and comes to the conclusion the general's wife must have been unhappy. When she finds that the late Mrs. Tilney's picture does not hang in the general's room, she decides this is proof he was cruel to her. She thinks she has read of such men often. When they return toward the house and rejoin him, she "walks with lassitude" because of her new aversion, and despite his worry over her health, she clings to her opinion of his cruelty. He urges Eleanor not to take Catherine around the abbey until his return.

Analysis

Catherine Morland's acknowledgment of her late-night absurdities wipes away the initial Gothic heroine plot. She realizes there is nothing dangerous. Instead, she joins Henry Tilney for breakfast and conversation.

In the first half of the novel, Catherine overlooks overt details that show both Isabella Tilney's and John Thorpe's characters in disagreeable ways. Here, however, she quickly assumes the worst of General Tilney for no reason. It is in this section that the satire of Gothic novels continues. Catherine is still a naive girl, but whereas she was naive and trusting in the first section of the novel despite evidence of deceit, now she assumes the worst despite lack of evidence. Much as the letters in the cabinet were revealed to be mundane, Catherine has evidence the general is not villainous, but she persists in believing the worst of him.

The general's worry over her well-being is misread as a threat to Catherine. His avoidance of a path favored by his late wife is misconstrued as guilt. Even the absence of the late Mrs. Tilney's portrait in his room is attributed to cruelty. Much as she assigned illogical meaning to the storm, steps in a house of many servants, and a locked cabinet, here she does so again. This time, however, her false readings are far more serious.

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