Northanger Abbey - Study Guide Chapters 13, 14, and 15 Summary & Analysis

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Chapters 13, 14, and 15 Summary

Catherine once again makes plans to go walking with Eleanor and Henry. As before, Isabella, James, and John demand instead that she go driving with them. She declines even as all three harangue her with considerable force. Isabella becomes mildly abusive and John delivers his usual vacant bluster, but Catherine remains resolute to her prior engagement. While James and Isabella continue to argue with Catherine, John brazenly walks off. When he returns a several minutes later he announces that he has just spoken with Eleanor and canceled Catherine's engagement. Catherine is flabbergasted at his audacity and immediately departs to the Tilney's amidst declarations that she is obstinate and peculiar. Eleanor receives Catherine's explanation with obvious relief. Later that evening, Mrs. and Mr. Allen both express disapproval of the Thorpes' behavior and urge Catherine to distance herself from them.

The next day Catherine indeed goes for a walk with Eleanor and Henry. She has a delightful time and is happy to learn that Henry likes to read novels. In fact, Henry is well-read and widely-read and is able to discuss Gothic and romantic novels with notable acumen. When Catherine disparages history, however, Henry resists and defends historians as a goodly sort. Various discussions of art and literature ensue as the walk develops and Catherine is greatly impressed with Henry and Eleanor's superior education.

Later still, Catherine receives a note from Isabella which requests her company. Catherine visits her friend and finally receives the formal announcement that Isabella and James are engaged. Whereas Catherine should have deduced this weeks ago, she is delighted with the news and is enthusiastic about receiving Isabella as her sister-in-law. James departs for home while Catherine exults with the Thorpe family. Isabella and Mrs. Thorpe speculate about James's financial situation but Catherine, fairly naïve about money, cannot supply many details. The next day a letter arrives announcing that Mr. and Mrs. Moreland approve of James's decision to marry Isabella. The chapter ends with John leaving Bath for a few weeks. He has a brief conversation with Catherine with will prove disastrous—John, never observant, believes Catherine has agreed to marry him; Catherine, always naïve, believes John has been his usual bombastic self.

Chapters 13, 14, and 15 Analysis

As previously, John, James, and Isabella appear to thwart Catherine's walk with Henry. By now the repetitive use of the similar names James and John, compounded with their constant appearance as a duo, conflates their respective identities into one. They begin to share each other's poorer qualities and Catherine trusts her brother's opinion less frequently and far less fully than before. Having experienced John's lies directly on the previous occasion, Catherine is this time not swayed from her purpose regardless of the cajoling, posturing, and near threatening of her brother and her friend. John then takes one of the most blatantly disrespectful actions in the entire novel by intervening directly to cancel Catherine's appointment. Needless to say, such behavior is monstrous. Catherine immediately responds as a heroine by speaking directly to the injured Eleanor, defaming John's action, and setting the record straight. By this time, Catherine has seen John for the man he is, though she is still uninformed about Isabella. As before, the Allens prove themselves capable wards by approving Catherine's actions and suggesting that she deliberately distance herself from the Thorpes in the future.

The planned walk is executed with gusto and proves very successful. The narrative foreshadowing of Henry and Catherine's eventual wedding is fairly heavy-handed but enjoyable. The description of the walk and the nature that abounds is intricate and enjoyable. Henry's defense of history and much of Catherine's dialogue are among the most famous passages in the novel. The section concludes with Isabella's announcement of her engagement to James. This is shortly followed by Isabella's pouting about James's limited financial means. Catherine, finally, begins to see a negative side of Isabella—a side that has been consistently displayed since the earliest chapters of the novel. In some publications, chapter fifteen ends a division termed "volume I", and subsequent chapters are presented starting again at chapter one in "volume II". Most modern reproductions dispense with this additional division and present the text as a single "volume" consisting of thirty-one chapters.

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