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Catherine has dinner with the Tilneys—Henry, Eleanor, and their father, General Tilney. She is surprised by how little Henry speaks, and the manner in which both children are quiet and reserved. But the General is so nice to her, she does not believe the constrained atmosphere is his fault. Isabella, upon hearing of the sour nature of the dinner meeting, claims that it was due to the Tilneys' pride, but this answer does not satisfy Catherine. That day, Henry's older brother, Cap tain Frederick Tilney, arrives in Bath. Frederick flirts with Isabella, and although she informs him that she is engaged, she agrees to dance with him.
Later, the girls meet again to discuss a letter Isabella received from James. He writes that they could not marry for three years, at which point James would inherit a yearly living of about four hundred pounds. Isabella is disappointed, though Cather ine does not see it. Mrs. Thorpe does notice Isabella's disappointment, and she worriedly tries to assure Isabella that it is a good living. Isabella darkly hints that she thinks Catherine's father is being stingy with his money. She quickly drops the idea when Catherine expresses dismay at the idea.
Catherine has now become enamored of Henry Tilney, and even allows herself to occasionally indulge in the idea that she and Henry might become engaged. She is very upset when Eleanor tells her that her family will soon be leaving Bath, only to be deliriou sly happy when General Tilney invites her to join them at the Tilney home, Northanger Abbey. Catherine is not only thrilled at the prospect of continuing her acquaintance with the Tilneys, she is excited by the idea of seeing a real abbey like the ones sh e has read about in her beloved Gothic novels. Catherine writes home and quickly gets the assent of her parents. The Allens' also endorse the plan.
In Chapter I, Henry directly comments on Catherine's naiveté, perhaps a bit rudely. When she says how nice it was of Frederick to offer to dance with Isabella, though she had told Catherine she had no plans to dance, Henry responds with, "How very little trouble it can give you to understand the motive of other people's actions." He points out that Catherine always ascribes her own motivations to other people. Henry says that if she can attribute Frederick's offer to dance to mere good nature, she must be the most good-natured person in the world. Catherine's naiveté and innocence are very attractive to Henry.
Austen's use of free indirect narration increases in these chapters. Now, the narrator rarely steps out of Catherine's perspective, presenting most things as Catherine would perceive them. When Catherine is excited about the prospect of a visit to the abb ey, for example, the narration sounds almost like a transcript of what Catherine might say excitedly about her trip.
These two chapters begin the second volume of the novel, which is quite different from the first. James, Isabella, John, and the Allens all cease to appear in the events of the story, although many of them will continue to have an effect on the plot. The novel now tightens its focus and hones in on the trio of Catherine, Henry and Eleanor; General Tilney hovers over the proceedings. The tone of the second volume is slightly darker than the tone of the first. Austen begins to perform her gentle parody of G othic novels, and darkens the tone to match the tone of her target of parody.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Northanger Abbey!