Northanger Abbey | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 23

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 23 from Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey.

Northanger Abbey | Chapter 23 | Summary



Catherine Morland is given a tour of the abbey, and she is amazed by the magnificent drawing room and the number of servants; but in all, it is a lovely, well-appointed home. Eleanor Tilney mentions she will show Catherine her mother's room when they have a chance. Eleanor admits the rooms are as they were nine years ago when her mother died. Upon further questioning, Catherine learns the illness was "sudden and short." She suspects General Tilney has murdered his wife.

In the evening she sees him pacing the drawing room and likens him to the villain in The Mysteries of Udolpho. She thinks this is further proof of his guilt, and when he stays up saying he has "pamphlets to finish," Catherine is sure he has things to do that can be done only while they sleep.

After Catherine retires to her room, she continues to think on it. She imagines she must have passed the place where the late Mrs. Tilney had "languished." There were rooms the general hadn't shared or explained. She stays awake, watching and listening, but before midnight she is asleep.


Catherine Morland's interpretation of innocent things as signs of a murder plot continues. If this had been a Gothic novel, these leaps to extreme plots and hidden atrocities would be accurate. The wife's death in such novels surely must be murder. Working late at night is a sign of intrigue. Pacing restlessly is proof of guilt. These conclusions are not significantly different than the ones Catherine has drawn late at night. They are in keeping with a Gothic novel.

In these recent chapters, the novel is almost a completely different novel than the first half. During the time in Bath, Catherine spoke of novels, but she did not jump to extreme conclusions. In fact, even where there were secrets and manipulations, she saw only the best of people. At Northanger Abbey, the precise opposite is true.

It may be useful to note that in Bath, Catherine was constantly occupied in some way. There were theater outings, walks, carriage rides, dances, shopping, and so forth. Here at Northanger Abbey, there are meals and a tour of the grounds. Whether the idleness contributes to her willingness to leap to false theories is not made clear by the novel.

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