Study Guide

Northanger Abbey Chapter 20

By Jane Austen

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Chapter 20

  • The Allens bid Catherine farewell and she heads over to the Tilney's house to eat breakfast and then leave for Northanger.
  • The General is really overly solicitous and makes Catherine uncomfortable.
  • Captain Tilney is late for breakfast and gets chewed out by his dad on Catherine's behalf, which is awkward for her.
  • Captain Tilney is mostly silent and tells Eleanor he'll be glad when they all leave.
  • The General makes a production out of leaving on time and starts griping at his servants. They finally leave.
  • The ride is dull and uncomfortable, since the General seems to be able to suck the life out of any social gathering and to make everyone uncomfortable and nervous.
  • After a pit-stop, the General insists that Catherine ride with Henry in his carriage. Catherine is concerned about propriety, but is happy to be with Henry.
  • Catherine is struck by how much of a better driver Henry is than John Thorpe.
  • Henry thanks Catherine for coming on his sister's behalf. Turns out Eleanor is by herself a lot since the General goes out of town and Henry lives in a nearby village, Woodston, where he works as a clergyman.
  • Catherine tells Henry she's excited to see Northanger and bets it's exactly like the abbeys she has read about in Gothic novels.
  • Henry runs with this and gives Catherine a lengthy spiel about all the cliché horrors she can expect to find at Northanger: secret passages, dimly lit halls, old furniture, creepy servants, a guest room miles away from everyone else, a scary portrait, a thunder storm, an old chest, and a secret manuscript – lots of terror.
  • (Fun Fact: Henry is getting most of this material from The Mysteries of Udolpho, the Anne Radcliffe novel that Catherine adores. This novel gets name dropped all the time in Northanger Abbey.)
  • Given that Catherine has read this novel, it is not entirely clear why she gets so enthralled by Henry's spiel and does not see it for the joke that it is. This could be because Catherine takes her Gothic novels so seriously and seems to take them as factual documents instead of fiction.
  • Catherine is enthralled by this and begs Henry to keep going till he has to stop since he's laughing.
  • Catherine is embarrassed that she got so carried away by Gothic excitement and tries to assure herself and Henry that she isn't afraid of Northanger.
  • They arrive at the house and it is not very Gothic at all. The drive is very modern and there are no elements of doom or gloom.
  • They all go inside to a nice, well-lit drawing room with modern furniture. Catherine's Gothic/haunted house expectations are thwarted.
  • If Catherine were around today, she'd totally be the type who loves horror movies. She seems to enjoy being "scared."
  • The General is being anal about having dinner on time, so he rushes Eleanor and Catherine off to get ready.

Northanger Abbey Chapter 20 Study Group

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