Study Guide

Northanger Abbey Chapter 3

By Jane Austen

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Chapter 3

  • Catherine settles into a Bath routine (we'll stop with the Bath jokes now) which consists of shopping, sightseeing, visiting the Pump-room, which was a spa/social gathering spot – much more fun than being cooped up with nine siblings all day.
  • Catherine attends another ball and finally gets a dancing partner: a handsome man named Henry Tilney.
  • Henry is attractive, smart, and very witty and Catherine likes him instantly.
  • Henry banters with Catherine while they dance and he mocks traditional "getting to know you" conversation by asking her inane questions about the ball and giving over-excited replies.
  • Henry then instructs Catherine on how to describe him in her journal, which she insists she doesn't keep.
  • Henry finds this assertion scandalous and insists that all ladies keep journals.
  • Henry then gives women everywhere a backhanded compliment, noting that women write wonderful letters and journal entries that don't obey the laws of grammar and spelling. Catherine finds that questionable and Henry backpedals.
  • They finish dancing and head back over to Mrs. Allen.
  • Mrs. Allen needs help pinning her sleeve and Henry starts talking to her about women's fashion.
  • Catherine thinks he is strange, but funny.
  • Henry lets us know that he has a sister, hence his women's fashion knowledge.
  • After chatting up Mrs. Allen about shopping and clothes, Henry and Catherine dance again.
  • Catherine thinks Henry might enjoy mocking people a bit too much.
  • He confirms this by mocking Catherine for refusing to tell him what she's thinking about.
  • The ball ends and Catherine goes home. She may or may not have dreamed about Henry that night.
  • The next day Catherine and the Allens discuss the ball.
  • Mr. Allen fills us in on Henry. He finds Henry suitable company since he is from a respectable family and is a clergyman. Yes, Henry is a clergyman.
  • Historical Context Lesson: You might be wondering why Henry is a clergyman. Well, back in this period, the younger sons of wealthy families were really out of luck when it came to job options. Older sons inherited the whole estate, castle, whatever. Younger sons had to go fend for themselves in a handful of "respectable' professions: the army, the church, the law, or maybe business. Why Henry picked the church is anyone's guess, but his Sunday sermons were most likely highly entertaining.

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