Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey Volume 2, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Catherine looks around her room and sees that it is modern and comfortable, not at all resembling the one that Henry described. She hurries to get ready, so as not to displease the General by being late, but her eye is caught by a large chest. She decides she must look at it immediately, because at night her candle may blow out. She sees that the lock appears to have been broken (perhaps violently) and that it is marked with a monogram that does not begin with a “T” (which she thinks would not make sense for the Tilneys to own). She is straining to heave open the heavy lid when a knock at the door surprises her. The lid slams, and Eleanor’s maid enters to ask if Catherine needs help. Catherine sends her away and resumes getting dressed, but curiosity draws her back to the chest. She gets it open, only to find it full of sheets and linens. At that moment, Eleanor comes in and remarks on the chest as an odd old thing that she put in the corner to keep out of the way. Catherine feels embarrassed to have been caught snooping, and does not respond.
Catherine equates modern furnishings with normal, routine life and associates older décor with the possibility for intrigue and drama. According to this naïve point of view, interesting, exciting, and frightening events cannot occur in average everyday rooms. Despite the room’s unexceptional appearance, Catherine is still hoping to find something old and mysterious at Northanger. In many Gothic novels, traces of the past may be found hidden, so Catherine, who is so primed to discover the traces of a mystery, is instantly drawn to examine a chest. The novel pokes fun at Gothic novels in which heavy chests are filled with odd and tantalizing contents at an improbably high rate.
Themes
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Catherine and Eleanor rush downstairs where the General is pacing about, and he orders dinner served immediately. Noticing Catherine's breathlessness, however, the General begins to scold Eleanor for having rushed her “fair friend” when there had been no need to hurry. Catherine remarks that the dining room is quite large, but is too inexperienced to realize that it is very elegantly decorated. The General asks if Mr. Allen’s rooms are much larger than his, and Catherine says they are not half so big. This makes the General happy. He says that he is sure a smaller room than his is even more comfortable. The rest of the evening passes pleasantly, especially when General Tilney is briefly absent. Catherine does not miss being in Bath.
The General, who clearly was impatiently waiting for Catherine and Eleanor to come downstairs, now denies that there had been any need to rush. When he blames Eleanor for rushing Catherine, we see that he may be prone to hypocritically saying what he does not mean. The General also clearly wants Catherine to be impressed by Northanger, but Catherine is unaware of the connotations of all the General’s possessions and how rich they show him to be.
Themes
Sincerity and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
A storm begins outside and reminds Catherine of the stories set in similar old buildings, but she reassures herself that she has nothing to fear as she goes up to her room for the night. She now feels relieved to be in a comfortable, renovated home, rather than in a haunted-seeming abbey from a book. Convinced that there is nothing to fear in her room, she decides to bravely sleep without the light of a fire. As she is about to get in bed, however, she notices a cabinet. Although the cabinet is black and yellow, not black and gold, Henry’s description rushes back to her and she hurries to examine the cabinet. She struggles to get the key to turn in the lock, but with growing excitement finally unlocks it. Inside she is thrilled and terrified to find a roll of papers, once again reminding her of Henry’s tale that afternoon. Wanting to make sure her candle will not go out, Catherine trims the charred part of the wick, but accidentally extinguishes the candle entirely. Without light, she has no choice but to go to sleep, but tosses and turns, terrified by sounds coming from the house.
A characteristic scene in a novel like The Mysteries of Udolpho describes a young heroine who conquers her fears in order to hunt for clues to a mystery—and the scene takes place in an old building at night, by candlelight, while a storm rages outside. Catherine wants both to be scared out of her wits and to keep her wits about her, in imitation of this heroine. She knows it is unlikely that she will uncover the plot of a Gothic novel at Northanger, but she wants to find this plot, so she tries to imagine it into being. When she “accidentally” extinguishes her own candle, forcing herself to toss and turn in terror all night, she gives herself a little of the thrilling fright she craves.
Themes
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon