Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey Volume 2, Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Catherine, Henry, and Eleanor speak frequently about the possibility that Frederick and Isabella will marry. Henry and Eleanor believe that General Tilney will not accept Isabella as a daughter-in-law because of her lack of fortune, irrespective of the improper way that Frederick and Isabella met. This makes Catherine worry about her own future with Henry, because she has little more than Isabella does. She is comforted, however, by remembering how much the General has always liked her. She suspects that his children do not understand how little importance he places on money. Henry and Eleanor are sure that Frederick will not have the courage to come in person to Northanger to ask his father's consent to marry Isabella, and Catherine is reassured that she does not have to leave immediately.
Although she is beginning to realize that Isabella may have hypocritically pretended not to care about money, when really she wanted to marry James for money, it does not occur to Catherine that the General may be a similar sort of hypocrite. Instead of understanding that he may have pretended to like her in order to flatter and attract her, she thinks that his affection for her must be so sincere as to overcome any prejudice he could have against her because of her relative lack of wealth.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Catherine thinks that Henry ought to warn his father about what has occurred between her brother and Isabella so that the General will be able to build a case against Frederick’s engagement with a more just cause than merely Isabella's lack of fortune. Henry says that Frederick must plead his own case. Catherine says that he will only tell half of the story, but Henry says that even a quarter would be enough.
Catherine once again asks Henry to speak to the General about Frederick and Isabella, but Henry believes that his brother and Isabella are adults who must be responsible for their own behavior. He also realizes that Isabella’s lack of fortune will be much more important to the General than any bad behavior.
Themes
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
The General is concerned that Catherine should enjoy herself and decides that they should bring her to visit Henry at his parsonage in Woodston. He says he is sure Catherine will not mind if Henry has only a light meal ready for them. Catherine is thrilled to visit Woodston, but surprised when Henry says he must leave immediately to prepare for their visit. Catherine reminds him that the General said that “anything would do,” and says that the General always has such a good meal at home that it could not matter if he ate a casual meal just this once. Henry says he wishes he thought as she did, and leaves. Catherine reflects that Henry is right: she has seen that the General is very particular about his meals. She cannot understand, however, why the General says one thing if he means the opposite.
The General says one thing about his own eating habits but means another. Although Catherine is beginning to pick up on this hypocrisy, she is far from understanding its motivations, or from being able to extrapolate from it that there are other things the General says and does not mean. Henry once again refuses to explain his father’s hypocrisy fully, just as he refused to explain his brother’s motivations in courting Isabella. He realizes, as Catherine does not yet, that adults must be responsible for their own actions.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Catherine is disappointed to have Henry leave early and feels out of sorts. She is sure that Captain Tilney’s letter will come when Henry is gone and that it will rain on Wednesday and prevent their going to Woodston. She is no longer charmed by the abbey and cannot wait to see Woodston. Although it is a regular parsonage, she thinks it will probably be like Fullerton, but much more perfect.
After her embarrassing experience searching for a mystery out of a Gothic novel at Northanger, Catherine has learned that she must look to everyday things for happiness and excitement. Her new, more mature desire is to see a comfortable home where she can imagine herself happily living with Henry.
Themes
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
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As they drive up to Woodston, Catherine is charmed, but the General apologizes for every shortcoming of the village. Catherine is overwhelmed as she looks around Woodston, but when the General asks her opinion, she does not want to praise the place too enthusiastically. The General is disappointed in her reaction and makes excuses, but Catherine is too captivated to pay attention to him. Forgetting her restraint, Catherine proclaims a room in Henry’s home “the prettiest room she ever saw” and earnestly asks why it is not yet furnished. The General says that it awaits a lady’s touch. Catherine does not notice this hint, and goes on to say that a cottage visible from the room is beautiful. The General tells Henry that, in this case, they must not tear this old cottage down. Catherine realizes what is being hinted and goes silent, although the General continues to ask how she would decorate the room.
Once again, the General is keen to make sure that Catherine is impressed by the Tilney family’s possessions, but fails to interpret Catherine’s responses correctly. Instead of recognizing that she lacks experience with the nuances of decorating a luxurious home, he assumes the house is not luxurious enough for her taste. Catherine advocates for the preservation of an older building, because even outside of the context of exciting old buildings that could be in Gothic novels, she has a taste for preserving the past instead of renovating just to show that one has the money to do so.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
As they roam through the grounds, Catherine thinks it is the most beautiful house she has ever seen. She notices that the General makes no remark on how fancy a meal Henry has prepared. By the end of their visit, Catherine feels sure that the General wishes her and Henry to be engaged, although she is not quite so sure of Henry’s feelings.
Catherine is now sure of the General’s hypocrisy when it comes to his taste in meals, but she does not realize that this hypocrisy might extend to his taste in daughters-in-law. He may say he cares nothing for money, but actually wish for his son to marry an heiress.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon