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Chapter Seventeen

Chapter 17 - the very short version Catherine gets invited to go home to Northanger Abbey with the Tilneys.

Chapter 17
No sooner does Catherine discover that the Allens have opted to stay in Bath a while longer than she learns that the Tilneys are headed home. Her disappointment at the loss of further time with Henry Tilney was severe, but short-lived, for the Tilneys extended an invitation to her to come with them to their home at Northanger Abbey.

Now, Catherine was excited by the prospect of being invited to correspond with Eleanor Tilney, which is what she expects Eleanor is about to say when the General comes crashing in and rolls over top of his daughter. Now, whether you believe Jane Austen to be a protofeminist or not (and I rather think she was, but you are free to disagree), the way that General Tilney ploughs right over Eleanor and extends the invitation to Catherine is mildly offensive. Also, he's a bit . . . what's the word I want here? - obsequious? Maybe. Oily, anyhow.

Catherine is a very fortunate girl indeed - it seems that her fantasies involving Henry Tilney and/or Gothic edifices are about to be fulfilled. The already perfect Henry comes, it turns out, from a family home inside an abbey that predates the Reformation, making him that much more perfect. Because in Catherine's world, more perfect than perfect is actually possible.

The narrator runs us through her effusive rejoicing in the realities of her situation - which are entirely rosy - as well as starting to lose herself a bit in her imaginings of what an old abbey must be like:

By the kindness of her first friends, the Allens, she had been introduced into scenes where pleasures of every kind had met her. Her feelings, her preferences, had each known the happiness of a return. Wherever she felt attachment, she had been able to create it. The affection of Isabella was to be secured to her in a sister. The Tilneys, they, by whom, above all, she desired to be favourably thought of, outstripped even her wishes in the flattering measures by which their intimacy was to be continued. She was to be their chosen visitor, she was to be for weeks under the same roof with the person whose society she mostly prized -- and, in addition to all the rest, this roof was to be the roof of an abbey! -- Her passion for ancient edifices was next in degree to her passion for Henry Tilney -- and castles and abbeys made usually the charm of those reveries which his image did not fill. To see and explore either the ramparts and keep of the one, or the cloisters of the other, had been for many weeks a darling wish, though to be more than the visitor of an hour had seemed too nearly impossible for desire. And yet, this was to happen. With all the chances against her of house, hall, place, park, court, and cottage, Northanger turned up an abbey, and she was to be its inhabitant. Its long, damp passages, its narrow cells and ruined chapel, were to be within her daily reach, and she could not entirely subdue the hope of some traditional legends, some awful memorials of an injured and ill-fated nun.

With things going so perfectly for Catherine, a wrench must be thrown, yes?

Stay tuned for tomorrow's chapter, in which Captain Tilney's entrance at the Pump Room might as well be accompanied by the theme from Jaws.

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 17th, 2009 08:06 pm (UTC)
Let the creepiness of the General begin!
"the way that General Tilney ploughs right over Eleanor and extends the invitation to Catherine is mildly offensive" Okay, in hindsight, I know what he's doing and why, but when reading this the first time, I really thought that he was looking for a young new wife for himself and possibly inviting her over so that he could watch how she'd behave with his own daughter, since she's her age.
Aug. 17th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
Eww! That would be exceptionally creepy!
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 17th, 2009 11:26 pm (UTC)
You can almost hear that other shoe being raised, can't you?
Aug. 17th, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)
a wrench must be thrown, yes?

Austen, Wrench-Thrower extraordinaire! Reading your chapter by chapter summary makes me all the more aware of how brilliant she was at plotting. Which makes me ask: How much do you think she was a plunger, and how much a planner?
Aug. 17th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
Oh. A good question, indeed.

Nobody can say definitively, since if the materials that would allow us to form that sort of conclusion ever existed, they are long lost to time and/or the fire (her sister Cassandra burned quite a lot of her things several years before her own death, to prevent them falling into other people's hands). I rather suspect that she thought through the general plot for a while before she began writing. I base that on comments made prior to commencing work on some of her novels. With respect to Emma, family legend has it that she said she was going to take a heroine whom nobody but herself would much like, meaning (I suppose) one who is mistaken and headstrong and, to a certain extent, uninterested in marrying - she was well-off, and said right up front that she had no need to marry, being the mistress already of her father's house and having money. Prior to Mansfield Park, however, she had said she was writing a novel about ordination; while MP does address it a bit (as well as what a proper minister ought to act like), it certainly addresses lots of other issues more prominently.

I think she also cribbed from her own letters (as I've pointed out once already in NA posts) and probably from her own journals, lost to her sister's diligence (based on descriptions of Lyme in Persuasion, among other things).
Aug. 23rd, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
Very interesting! It's been a long while since I read the Letters, but that was the sense I had from them, too -- that she thought things out a fair amount before setting pen to paper.
Aug. 24th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
I believe she did. I also think that she borrowed from her own journals, notes and letters, as well as from her family's history in places. Not that she borrowed directly, of course, but still . . .
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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