Posted tagged ‘Bath’

Northanger Abbey 3-4: The Lower Rooms

April 2, 2009

Here are my notes from Chapters 3-4 of Northanger Abbey.

Plot Points

In the courts of Bath, Catherine Morland and Mrs. Allen seem to follow the common routine of visiting shops, attending social functions such as dances, and meeting new people. The two meet Mr. Tilney, a young man who dances with Catherine. Later, they find an old acquaintance of Allen’s, Mrs. Thorpe. Catherine becomes friends with Isabelle Thorpe.

Character Commentary

In the Lower Rooms, Catherine is introduced by the master of ceremonies to Mr. Tilney: “He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it.” He speaks with Catherine and Mrs. Allen about clothes and fabric, such that Catherine is impressed and wishes she would meet him again the next day.

Catherine meets the daughter of Mrs. Thorpe, Miss Isabella Thorpe, and the two seem to easily become friends. Perhaps Catherine is impressed with Miss Thorpe’s experience in the ways of Bath; she is older, “better informed,” and knowledgeable of “tasteful attire.”

Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe are former schoolmates and, now re-acquainted, have occasion to share information on their situations. They discuss their families: Mrs. Thorpe applauds her sons who are out in the world and about which the hint of success is given; Mrs. Allen “had no similar information to give, no similar triumphs to press on the unwilling and unbelieving ear of her friend…” Then, the Miss Thorpes arrive. At the same moment, Catherine Morland is introduced. Mrs. Allen could be taking on a maternal role for Catherine.

Narratology Notes

So far in these early chapters of the novel, I feel as if the narrator (Austen) is keeping her distance from the main character, Catherine. She enters and ends chapters with a discussional tone, reminiscent of traditional romantic prose. She shows Catherine, for example, in describing the possibility (but not surety) of her thinking about Mr. Tilney before sleep, and in her having “more than usual eagerness” about starting the next day; Austen seems to clearly divide her chapters within the bounds of this commentary, and the chapters are about the same size in length. Is Austen writing a narrative or a chapter?

Looking Ahead

Now that Catherine has some friends, will she grow more confident? And, now that Austen has more than one group of associated characters, will she start creating some parallel dichotomies?


Northanger Abbey Chapter 2: The High Feathers

March 30, 2009

Here are my notes from Chapter 2 of Northanger Abbey.

Plot Points

Catherine Morland and Mrs. Allen travel to Bath, the resort city. There, they prepare for a ball, where they are disappointed by a lack of participating. Left to the periphery of the excitement, Catherine becomes bored.

Character Commentary

Chapter 2 opens with what seems to be a preemptive defense of Catherine: “it may be stated, for the reader’s more certain information, lest the following pages should otherwise fail of giving any idea of what her character is meant to be; that her heart was affectionate, her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affectation of any kind…”

The preempt may have been appropriate, for during the ball/dance she shows some considerably vain sensibilities. After experiencing the boredom of not participating in the dancing activities due to lack of a partner, Catherine overhears something flattering said about her: “She was looked at however, and with some admiration; for, in her own hearing, two gentlemen pronounced her to be a pretty girl.” To me, this seems to show an unflattering view of the character, regardless of the disclaimer given by Austen, perhaps part of the theme of busting up over-romanticization.

Mrs. Allen, a landowner in Wiltshire where the Morlands live, and who is traveling with Catherine to Bath, is described as having “neither beauty, genius, accomplishment, nor manner.” Furthermore, she has “good temper” and “a trifling turn of mind” and is obsessed with fashion. Her description and place in the narrative (guardian to Catherine during trip to Bath) imply that she should have some social skills, i.e., ability to facilitate Catherine’s entry into the social scene; however, she does not, as she knows nobody at the ball and laments that one couple she does know is not in attendance.

Themes and Threads

This is the only information given on the trip to the city of Bath:

“Under these unpromising Auspices, the parting took place, and the jouney began. It was performed with suitable quietness and uneventful safety. Neither the robber nor tempests befriended them, nor one lucky overturn to introduce them to the hero. Nothing more alarming occured than a fear on Mrs. Allen’s side, of having once left her clogs behind her at an inn, and that fortunately proved to be groundless.”

I notice that (1) no information is given regarding an event, and (2) the speaker goes out of her way to indicate that, in fact, nothing actually happened. Coming off of reading Sense and Sensibility, in which stuff does happen while characters are en route (if only a discussion of their moods; a measure of time is achieved). The trip is anti-heroic: there are no strong protagonists and no antagonists, and Austen is clearly aware (or expecting?) that her audience would be looking for these things. This seems to be pointed at all of the epics, gothics, and romances that deposit characters in troublesome situations, out of which a “hero” is revealed.

Out of Context

I can relate to Catherine’s feelings of awkwardness at a social event. Feeling down and then overreacting (at least in the characterizational context that Austen gives) to a change toward the positive is normal.


“… they saw nothing of the dancers but the high feathers of some of the ladies.”