Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey Volume 1, Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning Catherine asks Mrs. Allen if it would be alright for her to go to the Tilneys’ lodgings to explain what had happened the day before. Mrs. Allen says to go, but to wear white, the color Miss Tilney always wears. Catherine gives her card at the door, and the servant goes upstairs to check whether the Tilneys are home. The servant returns and says they are not home, although his face tells Catherine that he may be lying. As Catherine leaves, she turns back and sees the Tilneys leaving their house. Catherine is mortified that they decided to refuse her visit, and is unsure if what she did in missing their walk was so bad as to deserve this stonewalling.
Having spent the previous morning worrying that the Tilneys would not keep their date with her to take a country walk, Catherine feels particularly unsettled at the idea that they think that she did not care enough about their date to wait to see if they would keep it. She does not know how etiquette dictates she proceed, gets no real guidance from Mrs. Allen, and then cannot be sure whether the Tilneys are in the right to slight her when she comes to see them.
Themes
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Hurt by this rejection, Catherine considers not attending the theater that night, but has no excuse to stay home and she wants very much to see the play. She is distracted by the play, which is entertaining, and because she does not see the Tilneys in the theater. Isabella has told her that anyone who has been to the theater in London will find the Bath theater inferior, and she thinks that perhaps that is why the Tilneys do not attend.
Catherine is aware of her own lack of experience and assumes that those around her have more sophisticated taste. In fact, those like Isabella who declare that their taste is too refined for Bath are often merely trying to seem more sophisticated than they are.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
During the fifth act, however, Catherine sees Henry Tilney. He bows at her without smiling. Very distressed, Catherine feels no angry pride, only a sense of shame at his believing her to have acted badly. At the end of the play, Henry comes to see them. Catherine anxiously and vehemently tells him what happened and how much she wished to get out of the carriage and run to them when she saw them from the carriage. Henry Tilney softens. He explains that Eleanor did not refuse to see her in anger; General Tilney had planned on taking a walk then and had told the servant to put Catherine off because he did not want it delayed. Eleanor, Henry says, had hoped to see Catherine and explain this. Catherine asks why Henry himself had been angry with her, if Eleanor had forgiven her. Henry denies having been offended, but Catherine says that anyone would have thought him offended who saw his face. He does not answer this. They decide to take their delayed walk sometime soon, and he leaves.
Catherine’s sincere desire to do the right thing and to be understood earns her nearly instant forgiveness from Henry. In her innocence, she does not realize that by saying he looked angry at her for missing their date, she is also implying that he cares about her in a way that might not be appropriate for a young woman to suggest to a man. As Henry explained during the ball, he takes plans – whether to dance, or to go on a country walk – as a small, ceremonial, but important contract that should be as loyally kept as marriage vows. Catherine does not fully grasp this as a philosophy of romance, but intuitively knows that she should follow through with plans as if they were promises.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Love Theme Icon
During their talk, Catherine notices John Thorpe and General Tilney speaking. Afterwards, when John Thorpe approaches her, she asks him how they know each other. John says that he knows everyone and that the General is a fine man and very rich. He also says the General thinks her “the finest girl in Bath,” which makes Catherine very happy. She had worried that the General disliked her, and is overjoyed to think he admires her. John Thorpe accompanies her to her carriage, despite her telling him she does not need his help.
John Thorpe uses the fact that he talked to the General to highlight his own importance—and anyone who had more clearly assessed John Thorpe’s character would have wondered if her beauty was really all they talked about. But, innocent of the true materialism of Bath society, Catherine is reassured to hear that the General thinks her pretty and does not wonder what else passed between the two men. (We later learn that it is here that John tells the General that Catherine’s family is very rich.)
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
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