Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey Volume 2, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While the General finishes his walk, Catherine speculates about his character. She finds it unusual that he should take such long, solitary walks. To her surprise, upon his return he immediately offers her a tour of the house. As they go through the rooms he describes the fashionableness and costliness of their contents. Catherine is disappointed to see so many modern things and that an entire part of the old building has been destroyed and a modern structure put up in its place. She is glad, however, to see that some of the rooms from what was once a cloister remain intact.
Catherine is beginning to spin a theory of the General as a Gothic villain, even though he has been responsible for removing many of the Gothic trappings from the abbey and replacing them with modern status symbols. In other instances, Northanger’s modern renovations bring Catherine back to her senses, but in this scene not even this can put a check on her fantasy.
Themes
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Wealth and Respectability Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
To finish the tour, Eleanor starts to walk into a wing of the house, but the General stops her sharply, asking whether she really thinks Catherine wants to see those rooms. The General suggests that they go and have a snack, but Catherine has glimpsed further rooms in that wing and a winding staircase. She feels that the interesting, old part of the Abbey is being kept from her. Eleanor tells her that that was her mother’s room. Catherine imagines that the General must avoid this room because it pricks his conscience to be near it.
Catherine believes that Mrs. Tilney’s rooms must be unrenovated and full of historical interest and intrigue. She also thinks that these old-fashioned rooms would make a fitting setting for the cruelty of the Gothic villain she is beginning to cast the General as. It does not occur to Catherine that the General may not want to be reminded of his wife because it makes him sad—not because he has a guilty conscience.
Themes
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
Catherine tells Eleanor that she would like to see Mrs. Tilney's room, and Eleanor promises to show it to her when they have a chance. Catherine understands that this means that they must wait until the General leaves Northanger. She asks Eleanor how long it has been since her mother's death, and learns it’s been nine years. Catherine also asks if Eleanor was home when her mother died, and Eleanor replies that sadly she was not. Catherine begins to suspect that General Tilney killed his wife. She has heard of such cases in books.
Eleanor is eager to have a sympathetic listener and female companion, but Catherine is distracted by her growing certainty that she has uncovered a villain in General Tilney. Eleanor does not realize it, but Catherine wishes to see Mrs. Tilney’s room because she hopes to investigate and uncover proof of foul play by the General.
Themes
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Catherine thinks that General Tilney clearly resembles a “Montoni” as she watches him pace the room that evening. She thinks it additionally strange that he stays up to read after Catherine and Eleanor go to sleep. From this, Catherine assumes that General Tilney must stay up late because his wife is alive, but locked up in the Abbey somewhere, and that he must wait until the rest of the house is asleep to bring her food. She thinks that this is better than a murder, as Mrs. Tilney will surely be released eventually. Catherine feels that this theory is supported by the fact that Eleanor, and probably all of Mrs. Tilney’s other children too, were absent when she died. As Catherine gets ready for bed, she wonders if she passed close by Mrs. Tilney that day, hidden in rooms that the General had not showed her. Catherine wants to wait up to see if she can glimpse a light when the General goes at midnight to feed his imprisoned wife. At midnight, however, Catherine has been sound asleep for half an hour.
Catherine connects what she observes in the General and what she has heard from Eleanor about Mrs. Tilney’s death to the plot of The Mysteries of Udolpho. In that Gothic novel, the villain Montoni keeps the heroine’s aunt locked up in a room until this causes her death. In yet another Gothic novel, A Sicilian Romance, children find that their mother has been kept prisoner in their father’s castle. Catherine does not know for a fact that Henry and Frederick were also away during Mrs. Tilney’s illness, but in her eagerness to piece together a terrifying suspicion worth investigating, she assumes that they were. Gothic heroines usually stay up until midnight to begin their investigations, but Catherine fails to imitate this, as the narrator again undercuts clichés of exciting tales with mundane reality.
Themes
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
Experience and Innocence Theme Icon
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