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Northanger Abbey - Chapters 1 and 2 Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 50 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Northanger Abbey.
This section contains 643 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

Chapters 1 and 2 Summary

Catherine Morland, the protagonist of the novel, is a seventeen-year-old girl belonging to a family with modest income. The Morlands are in nearly all respects a typical family of the era. They live in the rural town of Fullerton, in Hampshire, England. As a youth, Catherine pursued varied interests including piano-playing, cricket, and basic art. Typical of most children, she lacked the persistence necessary to develop advanced skills in any one area. Something of a hoyden, she was cheerful, loved, and even-tempered. As Catherine entered her teenage years her image developed into the gracious good looks of a young woman; simultaneously, she was forced to give up her tomboyish pursuits in preference for reading and other more proper pursuits. As a young woman, Catherine is cheerful, affectionate, and devoid of deceit; however, she is quite uninformed and generally ignorant about societal mores and usage.

Catherine is a good-looking and vivacious teenager, eager for new experiences and without any prior love interest. A neighboring childless couple, Mr. and Mrs. Allen, are family friends of the Morlands. The Allens invite Catherine to accompany them to the nearby resort town of Bath—about sixty miles distance—for a stay of about a month. With her parents' easily-offered permission, Catherine accepts the Allens' exciting and generous invitation. Mrs. Morland is confident in the Allens' oversight and her own daughter's values and seems particularly unconcerned about the trip. Mr. Morland gives Catherine a modest sum of money for personal use during the trip. Upon arriving in Bath, the Allens and Catherine attend a ball. Catherine is surprised at the number of people present and, as is only proper, follows Mrs. Allen about all night. Mr. Allen spends his time in the card room, drinking, smoking, and gaming. Mrs. Allen spends her time conserving her dresses from any perceived abuse. Catherine spends her time—dull, as it turns out—wishing unsuccessfully to be asked to dance. As she leaves the ball her spirits are somewhat lifted when she overhears a passerby commenting to his friend on her good looks.

Chapters 1 and 2 Analysis

As with any narrative fiction, the initial chapters of the novel are critical. Catherine Morland, the protagonist and dominant character of the novel, is introduced and her background provided. Additionally, the initial setting of Fullerton is introduced and developed nearly as completely. Catherine's family is introduced and their background considered. Given the social milieu of the remainder of the novel, the information about Catherine's father's financial situation is critical. Note the remarkable humor which is used in the presentation of Catherine as the "unlikely" hero—this enjoyable attitude is carried throughout the construction of the narrative and is notably successful.

After grounding Catherine in a lightly urbanized center of a rural district and establishing her identity as an inexperienced—in fact, naïve—young girl without prior romantic attachments, the narrative proceeds to the setting of Bath. Bath is the dominant setting of the first half of the novel, and consists of numerous rental tenements as well as a social center focused on the Pump House. While Bath was most famous for its hot springs, the characters in the novel do not visit the health spas but pass their time in conversation, dance, and playing cards. Catherine enjoys the exciting change but is clearly out of her usual surroundings. Her acquaintance with the Allen family has allowed her an unusual opportunity. The narrator provides obvious foreshadowing of Catherine's central role in the novel and ultimate success by stating that she is an unlikely heroine. The initial chapters, like the remainder of the novel, feature rich and enjoyable language, interesting and varying sentences, and well-written paragraphs. One of the novel's dominant themes—coming of age—is firmly established in the initial chapters.

This section contains 643 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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