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Northanger Abbey - Chapters 29, 30, and 31 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 840 words
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Chapters 29, 30, and 31 Summary

On her solitary voyage home Catherine weeps and is in anguish about what she could possibly have done to so anger General Tilney. After considering the matter she is unable to offer any explanation. Upon her arrival at home her parents receive her with pleasant surprise but after the initial moments pass they become troubled and even outraged at General Tilney's untoward behavior in sending Catherine off in such a manner. Mrs. Moreland interprets Catherine's agitation as indignation at being so handled, little dreaming that her seventeen-year-old daughter is mourning an apparently lost love. However, Catherine continues her sullen brooding for two days.

Then, however, Henry arrives at Fullerton. Henry states his visit's purpose is to ascertain Catherine's safety. He then suggests a combined visit to the Allens' home, and Catherine accepts. As they walk, he explains what has happened. In Bath, John had represented to General Tilney that Catherine was exceptionally wealthy—largely because at the time John harbored the illusion that Catherine would accept his marriage proposal. Thus, John vastly inflated Catherine's wealth so that he, John, would be similarly inflated in the opinion of General Tilney. Based on this, General Tilney took every opportunity to encourage Catherine's interest in Henry. On General Tilney's latest business venture he had by chance again spoken with John. Now disabused of his silly expectations and embittered, John cast Catherine in another light altogether, claiming her to be penniless and a conniving schemer and social climber. General Tilney thereupon hastened home and ejected Catherine, whom he suspected of perfidy, from his estate. When Henry had returned from Woodston he learned what had happened and had a confrontation with General Tilney. When Henry announced his intention to propose marriage to Catherine, General Tilney become agitated and the father and son had parted on poor terms. With Henry's explanation, he is reconciled to Catherine.

After visiting the Allens, Henry asks Mr. and Mrs. Moreland for permission to marry their daughter. They are stunned, but readily acquiesce as it is Catherine's obvious desire and Henry is clearly a man of substance. They do demand, however, that General Tilney must also give consent—even if it is only for social propriety. Henry and Catherine determine to wed and await future developments. The narrative then moves into a summarization mode; a few months later Eleanor marries a wealthy nobleman—in fact, her secret love all these past months. General Tilney reacts to this stroke of fortune with aplomb and in his vigorous mood accepts Eleanor's intervention on behalf of Henry and Catherine. After doing some more investigating, General Tilney realizes that John's characterization of Catherine and the Morland family was entirely fictitious and more than allowing the union, he begrudgingly blesses it. Shortly after Mr. Morland receives General Tilney's written consent to the marriage, Henry and Catherine are wed.

Chapters 29, 30, and 31 Analysis

The final three chapters include the pleasant surprise ending for which the novel is so famous. Catherine considers her plight on her solitary voyage but is honestly unable to offer a rationale for General Tilney's sudden and bitter turn of heart. Her parents receive her with pleasant surprise, but once the shock of her return wears off they begin to feel the shame of such shabby treatment. This condition continues for some days. Catherine's mother appears as naïve as her own daughter and she fails to guess that Catherine's moping is more about losing Henry and less about being shamed by General Tilney.

Then, happily, Henry proves to be the hero he obviously must be to so charm the heroine Catherine. He appears and informs her of the entire situation. As before, General Tilney had been informed by the malicious John. Disabused of his notion that Catherine would soon marry him, John had maligned and vituperated Catherine and the Morlands to General Tilney. Rather than consider the situation, General Tilney simply reacted and ejected Catherine from his home. Upon his next visit, Henry objected to his father's misdeed and, finally, stood up to General Tilney. The two men parted with acrimonious words. Henry, the hero, has taken his own counsel and pursued Catherine to her home. He then proposes to Catherine and she accepts, completing the pleasant surprise ending of the novel. All that remains is to secure the blessing of General Tilney to the union.

Using a deux-ex-machina mechanism, the narrative then moves into a new method of construction and covers many months within just a few pages. It develops that Eleanor has, all along, harbored a secret love for a young gentleman—the very gentleman who left a roll of washing bills in a certain black cabinet in a guest chamber at Northanger Abbey. Having secured his fortune, the young man marries Eleanor. General Tilney is so pleased with his daughter's unexpected rise in wealth and prestige that he allows her to intervene on Henry's behalf and he eventually approves the wedding of Henry and Catherine. The happy story thus concludes.

This section contains 840 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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