The narrow emission line spectra of active galactic nuclei are not accurately described by simple photoionization models of single clouds. Recent Hubble Space Telescope images of Seyfert 2 galaxies show that these objects are rich with ionization cones, knots, filaments, and strands of ionized gas. Here we extend to the narrow-line region the ``locally optimally emitting cloud'' (LOC) model, in which the observed spectra are predominantly determined by powerful selection effects. We present a large grid of photoionization models covering a wide range of physical conditions and show the optimal conditions for producing many of the strongest emission lines. We show that the integrated narrow-line spectrum can be predicted by an integration of an ensemble of clouds, and we present these results in the form of diagnostic line ratio diagrams making comparisons with observations. We also predict key diagnostic line ratios as a function of distance from the ionizing source and compare these with observations. The predicted radial dependence of the [O III]/[O II] ratio may be matched to the observed one in NGC 4151, if the narrow-line clouds see a more intense continuum than we see. The LOC scenario when coupled with a simple Keplerian gravitational velocity field will quite naturally predict the observed line width versus critical density relationship. The influence of dust within the ionized portion of the clouds is discussed, and we show that the more neutral gas is likely to be dusty, although a high-ionization dust-free region is most likely present too. This argues for a variety of narrow-line region cloud origins.

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Published in The Astrophysical Journal, v. 487, no. 1, p. 122-141.

© 1997. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.

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