Her heart (Fanny) and her judgment were equally against Edmund’s decision: she could not acquit his unsteadiness, and his happiness under it made her wretched. The Narrator, Chapter 17
Edmund reverses his opposition to act based on concerns for Mary Crawford. Fanny is shocked, Maria and Tom gloat. Henry’s flirtations with Maria become obvious to the others, and divides the two sisters. The actors squabble during rehearsals. Sir Thomas returns home from Antigua unannounced. The play is off and everyone’s spirits are low. The house is cleared of all evidence of the play including Mr. Yates. Henry leaves for Bath without declaring himself to Maria. She is miffed, but Julia gloats over her misery, relieved that he is gone. Since Henry did not propose and she must get away from her father’s tyranny, Maria marries Mr. Rushworth. Julia goes on honeymoon to Brighton with the newlyweds. In Maria and Julia’s absence, the focus shifts to Fanny for amusements for the Crawford’s. Mrs. Grants honors Fanny with an invitation to dine, much to Lady Bertram’s puzzlement. At dinner, Henry laments the loss of the play and Fanny condemns his “corrupted mind” intriguing Henry to look at Fanny in a whole new light. Mary laments Edmund’s pending ordination. Fanny’s brother William arrives at Mansfield.
As the plot develops, I am amazed at how layered it is becoming. The chapters of the theatrical being produced are almost like a mini-novella within the text. I understand that the play Lovers’ Vows which I have not read yet, adds greatly to the interpretation of the scenes as it mirrors much of the action. The romantic entanglements unfolding with the love triangle of Henry Crawford flirting with the two Bertram sisters is the main focus of these chapters, resulting in tension and suspense. Is this just entertainment for him or is he a serious suitor? Who does he prefer? Will Maria risk her reputation and dump the rich lout Mr. Rushworth for him? I am amused as both Mr. Rushworth and Henry Crawford take turns at discrediting each other behind their backs to the other members; Rushworth repeating his amazement at anyone liking such a short fellow, and Crawford deriding Rushworth’s ability to learn his four-and-twenty speeches! Too funny! Fanny, who is developing into the sage voice of reason and virtue, is appalled by it all. Jane Austen drops an insult by way of a complement to Henry Crawford with this telling clue as observed by Fanny.
Mr. Crawford was considerably the best actor of all: he had more confidence than Edmund, more judgment than Tom, more talent and taste than Mr. Yates. She did not like him as a man, but she must admit him to be the best actor, and on this point there were not many who differed from her. The Narrator, Chapter 18
When Sir Thomas’s early return from Antigua halts the play, it is interesting to see how all of the parties react; Edmund is horrified, Tom is annoyed, Maria and Julia miffed over the loss of Henry’s attentions, Mary non-pulsed, Henry bored again, and Fanny relieved that the perfect timing totally saved her from acting. Their naughty antics without proper parental supervision have ceased, and his children must face the music! Their lives are mundane and dull again at Mansfield under the tyranny of Sir Thomas. The over-all reaction is for those who can to scatter and flee; Mr. Yates departs, Henry leaves for Bath, Maria marries, and Julia goes with her to Brighton. Even though Jane Austen does not show us dialogue of Sir Thomas admonishing his children for their bad behavior, she cleverly shows us the gravity of a situation by other means through a characters reaction.
He (Mr. Yates) had known many disagreeable fathers before, and often been struck with the inconveniences they occasioned, but never, in the whole course of his life, had he seen one of that class so unintelligibly moral, so infamously tyrannical as Sir Thomas. He was not a man to be endured but for his children’s sake, The Narrator, Chapter 20
Now that Maria and Julia are gone, the spotlight turns to the only other young woman left at Mansfield, Fanny Price! This causes quite a bit of amazement from all quarters since Fanny, always in her cousin’s shadows has never been considered anything other than a glorified servant in the Mansfield household. So when Mary Crawford looks about for new amusements and sets her sights on poor innocent Fanny, the hairs on the back of neck go up. Mrs. Grant, concerned that Mary accustomed to the social pace of London is bored, encourages the friendship. When Fanny is invited to dine with the Grant’s at the parsonage, Lady Bertram is amazed that anyone would want Fanny as a guest. Lady Bertram’s reaction really clarifies the lowly position in the household that Fanny holds in her estimation.
She (Fanny) had neither sympathy nor assistance from those who ought to have entered into her feelings and directed her taste; for Lady Bertram never thought of being useful to anybody, and Mrs. Norris, when she came on the morrow, in consequence of an early call and invitation from Sir Thomas, was in a very ill humour, and seemed intent only on lessening her niece’s pleasure, both present and future, as much as possible. The Narrator, Chapter 23
Mrs. Norris’ reaction, as usual, is even stronger as she lectures her on staying within her sphere and that she must be the “lowest and the last” at the dinner! This is abominable behavior to a relative or anyone for that matter even in Regency times, but Fanny has no choice and must absorb it all. I am inclined to believe that it did have some effect on her spirits though, since while talking with Henry Crawford at dinner she speaks very boldly and out of character disagreeing with his views and condemning his “corrupted mind“! Wow! That is the first time we have ever see Fanny speak out so strongly and I applauded her convictions. Henry is stirred by her spirit also, and decides that she is much improved in appearance and deposition and will be his next amusing romantic dalliance.
“But I cannot be satisfied without Fanny Price, without making a small hole in Fanny Price’s heart.” Henry Crawford, Chapter 24
Oh my! Jane Austen has added a new layer of romantic mischief to the plot. We shall see where it takes us and poor Fanny, who seems to be the Crawford’s new play-thing! With Fanny’s brother William’s arrival at Mansfield, we see how energetically Fanny reacts to family and people who truly love her. Henry is now even more determined to “be also loved by such a girl“, and extends his stay indefinitely.
Mansfield Park Madness: Day 7 Give-away
Leave a comment by August 30th to qualify for the free drawing on August 31st.
Mansfield Park: Penguin Classics
Penguin Classics (2003). Revised edition. Novel text and re-instated introduction by Tony Tanner. Trade paperback, 480 pages, ISBN 978-0141439808
Day 8 – Aug 22 MP great quotes and quips
Day 9 – Aug 23 MP novel discussion chapters 25-32
Day 10 – Aug 24 MP 1999 movie discussion
Day 11 – Aug 25 MP Oxford book review