Northanger Abbey - Study Guide Chapters 26, 27, and 28 Summary & Analysis

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Chapters 26, 27, and 28 Summary

Over the next hours and days, Catherine, Henry, and Eleanor ponder Captain Tilney's putative engagement to Isabella. Henry and Eleanor doubt that General Tilney will allow any such marriage to go forward based on Isabella's reputation and nearly destitute financial situation. The talk of money and finances makes Catherine troubled, however—her situation is superior to Isabella's, but not by much. Nevertheless, General Tilney's constant attentions and kindness reassures her of his good intentions toward her. Later, General Tilney suggests a group visit to Henry's house at Woodston. In a rather humorous roundabout method, General Tilney informs Henry of the day and hour of their arrival and the entertainment which he would prefer. On the arranged day, General Tilney accompanies Catherine and Eleanor to Woodston where they are entertained. Catherine finds the house charming and deeply appealing, though it is smaller than Northanger Abbey. She is particularly fond of the sprawling meadows and orchards which surround the structure. General Tilney shows Catherine about the area, making broad hints that she will marry Henry—his suggestions are so blunt that even Catherine understands their meaning. Although Catherine is sure of General Tilney's intentions, she vacillates in her understanding of Henry.

Some time later Catherine receives a letter from Isabella. It is full of pretention and double-speak; in a nutshell, Isabella states that Captain Tilney is a scoundrel of no mean proportion, and then claims James has been the victim of a serious misunderstanding. Shrugging off all wrongdoing and personal responsibility, she begs Catherine to intervene with James to salvage their previous engagement. Catherine rightly interprets the letter as grasping and self-serving and immediately determines she will never speak of it to James. She communicates the contents to Henry and Eleanor and then denounces Isabella in front of them. Henry subtly comments that, after all, Captain Tilney has behaved in a mischievous but predictable manner—perhaps James is fortunate to be rid of such a woman as Isabella after all.

Catherine's stay at Northanger Abbey has extended beyond a full month. Catherine and Eleanor talk and Eleanor extends an invitation to remain for at least another month—an invitation which Catherine eagerly accepts. General Tilney goes out on a several day long business trip, leaving Henry and Eleanor unrestrained. Henry, too, must leave for Woodston for a few days. Catherine finds the time alone with Eleanor delightful. But then General Tilney returns early, summons Eleanor, and goes to bed. Eleanor is left with the rather unpleasant duty of informing Catherine that the Tilney family must honor an apparently forgotten previous engagement. Catherine's visit must necessarily end the very next day, early in the morning. The entire hurried process is rude and socially insulting and Eleanor suffers greatly in carrying out General Tilney's unprecedented demands. Early the next morning, Catherine is escorted to the carriage by Eleanor and is then sent off alone. It is monstrous behavior from a presumably cultured gentleman such as General Tilney.

Chapters 26, 27, and 28 Analysis

Henry is sent to Woodston by General Tilney to prepare for a visit there. General Tilney's obvious intention is to present Henry's home to Catherine so she may inspect it prior to agreeing to matrimony. Everyone is aware of this except the redoubtably naïve Catherine, who supposes the visit to be nothing more than a fun excursion. The conversation between General Tilney and Henry about fixing the date, time, and nature of the visit is perhaps the best dialogue in a novel notable for excellent dialogue. Henry, as well as Eleanor, both come away with a perfect understanding of General Tilney's expectations and schedule, whereas Catherine remains entirely ignorant of any salient fact about the upcoming visit except that it will happen. The trip is a glowing success and Henry proves an able entertainer at Woodston. Catherine finds the house agreeable and is unusually fond of the orchards and lands surrounding the home. The writing about nature in this segment of the novel achieves a transcendent quality which is timeless.

Again, using the construction technique of an included letter, Catherine learns that Isabella's infatuation with Captain Tilney has ended. Finally, Catherine "reads between the lines" and is disgusted with Isabella's rather stupid attempt to manipulate the situation to her own advantage. The cast-off spoiled woman claims the entire affair to be a simple misunderstanding—true enough—but then claims the duped party to have been James. Henry receives the news with resignation as he is apparently all too aware of his brother's predilections. He comforts Catherine by noting that James is certainly better off without a woman such as Isabella. Catherine cannot argue the point.

The novel then enters a new phase in the narrative which leads to the surprise ending. A new tension is introduced when General Tilney's heretofore gentle opinion of Catherine is suddenly altered to be quite the opposite. His behavior really is quite monstrous as he demands Catherine be dismissed immediately and literally sends her packing across country to her parents' house unannounced and—worse—unattended. Eleanor offers her condolences but, as always, is not willing to oppose her father in anything. This sudden change of events is clearly a major turning point in the novel and will put Henry to a strong test. To this point, Catherine has proved herself a young heroine—will Henry now prove himself a hero?

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