Chapter 31 Summary
Henry approaches Mr. and Mrs. Morland to ask for Catherine’s hand. They are surprised by the announcement because they had never had a thought about the young people’s attraction. They approve of Henry and want nothing more than Catherine’s happiness. She will not prove to be a good housewife, Mrs. Morland tells Henry, but she is young enough to still learn.
There is only one impediment to Henry and Catherine’s engagement: the Morlands insist that Henry obtain his father’s consent. They make no demands for money for their daughter, as she has a small sum that is due her, and Henry earns enough to keep them well.
Henry leaves to procure his father’s approval. Although they are certain the general will eventually give in to their request, Catherine is saddened that Henry must leave her. The narrator suggests that they stayed in touch through letter writing, though the narrator has no proof of this. Mrs. Morland notices that Catherine receives correspondence each day, but she does not read the envelope to discover the sender.
The narrator also states that though readers might assume that the story will end happily, it might be difficult to figure out how Henry was going to soften his father’s temper. Fortunately, Eleanor becomes engaged to a young man of great wealth and title. The general is so overcome with pride at the marriage of his only daughter that when she asks him to forgive Henry and allow him to marry Catherine, the general is in such a good mood that he agrees to both.
The man who has asked Eleanor to marry him has long admired her, but he was, at the time, too far beneath Eleanor’s status and means to request her hand. As soon as circumstances changed in his favor, he hastened to her side and announced his intentions. No one is more entitled to happiness, the narrator states, than Eleanor, who has suffered under her father’s stern rule. With marriage comes the release from her controlling father and the reward of companionship with the “most charming young man in the world.”
As to the general’s opinion of the Morlands, he becomes better informed and concedes that Catherine is worth enough to marry his son. So soon after Eleanor’s wedding, the general asks Henry to return to Northanger. While there, General Tilney writes a long letter to Mr. Morland, announcing that he has sanctioned the marriage of Henry and Catherine. Henry and Catherine are married. In the end, the narrator assumes, the general’s previous hindrance to the union of his son and Catherine probably did more to strengthen their commitment to one another than it did to harm it.