Mansfield Park Chapters 9-16: Summation, Musings & Discussion: Day 5 Give-away!


“You need not hurry when the object is only to prevent my saying a bon mot, for there is not the least wit in my nature. I am a very matter-of-fact, plain-spoken being, and may blunder on the borders of a repartee for half an hour together without striking it out.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 9 

Quick Synopsis

The party arrives at Mr. Rushworth’s estate of Sotherton Court to tour the grounds. Mary continues to deride Edmund on his choice of profession proclaiming that clergymen are nothing. Fanny is tired and deposited on a bench outside a locked garden gate where she observes the coming and going of different couples and individuals all in pursuit of one another. Back at Mansfield, Sir Thomas will return from Antigua in November which will set Maria’s wedding date. Mary continues to criticize the clergy not weakening Edmund’s infatuation of her. Tom returns from Antigua determined to stage a theatrical at Mansfield. Edmund is against it and will not act. Which play shall they do? It will be Lovers’ Vows. Bickering over the casting divides Julia and Maria. Fanny pressured and shamed into acting, strongly declines to participate in something that Sir Thomas would not approve. Edmund motivated by the possibility of someone outside of the family group being recruited to act opposite Mary caves, and will act after all. Fanny is surprised and shocked at his reversal. 


Now that we have been introduced to the main cast of characters, the stage was been set to Jane Austen’s preference of “three or four families in a country village” with the Bertram clan, the Crawford siblings and the lone wolf Fanny Price holding the flag of decorum and virtue among so much vice, the real fun begins. The scenes at Sotherton Court offer an opportunity for Mary Crawford to express some very strong opinions against religion and the clergy. When she discovers that Edmund will take orders, she feigns contrition for speaking so strongly without knowledge, (for about a moment), and then picks up her protest again. 

“Do you think the church itself never chosen, then?” 

“Never is a black word. But yes, in the never of conversation, which means not very often, I do think it. For what is to be done in the church? Men love to distinguish themselves, and in either of the other lines distinction may be gained, but not in the church. A clergyman is nothing.” Edmund Bertram & Mary Crawford, Chapter 9 

Austen is really using Mary Crawford as a foil against social decorum and religious stricture. Her sideways, and sometimes direct attacks against the church and people who worship are strongly against tradition, even today, so they must have been quite provocative in 1814. So far, if you follow Fanny’s reactions to her, you can see the trail of clues that Austen is leaving. Edmund is becoming more ‘blinded by love’ as the story progresses. 

The locked gate scene at Sotherton parkland is one of my favorites of the first volume of the novel. After Fanny is deposited on a bench near a locked iron gate, she is witness to the coming and going of couples and individuals all seeking others, only to miss them and be disappointed. Austen is using all of her comedic genius to play off the flirtations and romances developing. Fanny is again shown as the solid point of reference as all the others interact foolishly. It will be interesting to look back on this scene at the conclusion of the novel and see if there is any foreshadowing afoot. 

When Tom Bertram returns from Antigua ahead of his father for the hunting season, I am immediately on alert. This is trouble. When he proposes that his siblings and the Crawford’s produce a theatrical for their personal amusement, the plot opens up to all sorts of possibilities of conflicts between decorum and egos. What transpires is almost a mini Shakespearean play within the novel, of characters acting in a play that mirrors their own behavior; – pitting siblings against each other, erupting an array of emotions resulting in jealousy, fear and anger. Their quarreling over selection of the play and the casting of the roles is tiresome, and seems to go on too long, but that is Austen’s point. She pushes her characters and the reader to the point of exhaustion.  

“Family squabbling is the greatest evil of all, and we had better do anything than be altogether by the ears.” Edmund Bertram, Chapter 13 

Setting up the characters in an adversarial position reveals much of their true nature. As in life, when characters are placed under pressure, we see what they are really made of. Edmund, in his father’s absence first opposes the play based on decorum. Should ladies act? What will people think? Tom, being the ungovernable son that he is, sees no harm. He is all about instant gratification. His two sisters are all for it because they can play out their competition for Henry Crawford’s affection. Mary Crawford is pulled into the scheme showing no personal concern as a lady. She always does what she chooses and is an advocate for letting others do the same. As Lady Bertram doses on the sofa ambivalent to her children’s antics, Aunt Norris who is usually the kill-joy of all pleasure and expense surprisingly does not oppose her nephew either. Fanny sits by, quietly watching in shock until pressed into service to act. She declines, standing with Edmund against the plan, even after a shameful railing by her Aunt Norris that sends her into anxiety and self doubt. 

“What a piece of work here is about nothing: I am quite ashamed of you, Fanny, to make such a difficulty of obliging your cousins in a trifle of this sort-so kind as they are to you! Take the part with a good grace, and let us hear no more of the matter, I entreat.” Mrs. Norris, Chapter 15 

The biggest shock for me (and also Fanny) was Edmund’s reversal for weak reasons. After vehemently opposing the play, he acquiesces based on his concern for Mary Crawford! Oh how gallantly he goes out on his unprincipled limb to save her the discomfort of acting with a stranger outside the family circle. (I smell a besotted sod here) He rationalizes all this to the only person who is on his side, Fanny, who is shocked and puzzled, and then begins to doubt her own decision since her mentor Edmund has changed his colors. After deep reflection, I think she has the better handle on all the nonsense. 

Things should take their course; she cared not how it ended. Her cousins might attack, but could hardly tease her. She was beyond their reach; and if at last obliged to yield-no matter-it was all misery now. The Narrator, Chapter 16 

Further reading 

Online text complements of Molland’s Circulating Library
Cast of characters
Chapter 9-16 summary
Chapter 9-16 quotes and quips

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 5 Give-away

Leave a comment by August 30th. to qualify for the free drawing on August 31st. 

Jane Austen Journal

By Potter Style. Paperback lined journal with the image of Regency lady and quote “We have a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be” from Mansfield Park. 160 pages, ISBN 978-0307352392 

Upcoming posts
Day 6 – Aug 20            Metropolitan movie discussion
Day 7 – Aug 21            MP novel discussion chapters 17-24
Day 8 – Aug 22            MP great quotes and quips
Day 9 – Aug 23            MP novel discussion chapters 25-32

22 thoughts on “Mansfield Park Chapters 9-16: Summation, Musings & Discussion: Day 5 Give-away!

Add yours

  1. I am going to have my daughter studying Jane Austen this upcoming school year…your site will be a tremendous help! Thank you for putting together this great resource.


  2. In my opinion, this is the part of the novel where someone can begin to be a little annoyed by Fanny. All she does is sit in silence, never doing anything to make her thoughts and opinions know. Is it fear? What does Fanny have to fear, when she is used to mistreatment?
    I also think Edmund can be near to “stupidity” with Mary Crawford. Just like the reader wants to yell at Fanny for not saying anything (especially to Edmund) about her convictions and denfending herself, Edmund should face the same – he doesn’t even seem to notice the compromises he is making on his morals and beliefs or what a bad judge of character he is.
    Maybe Fanny and Edmund are a little similar to Elinor and Marianne? Both Marianne and Edmund are caught by someone because of their looks and outward manners and appearance – blinded by love so much that they are unable to realize a person’s true character. Both Elinor and Fanny realize the flaws and the dangers, but only Elinor tries to make her sister sensible about the situation. Fanny sees, but says nothing to prevent her cousin from the trap he is gradually falling into.


  3. I agree with your comment, Rachel, and I think that’s a very good parallel you’ve just made. The play is one of my favourite parts of the book, because of the story within the story, obviously, and the great parallel one can draw between acting and pretending. Very quickly we realize that all the characters of MP don’t need to pretend when playing Lovers’ Vows since they’re already pretending so much. It’s also interesting in that it is a reunion scene after a separation scene (the gate), in a way very much like a play !
    Funny how Lovers’ Vows is now only remembered because of its being featured in Mansfield Park – much like the gothic novels Isabella talks about in Northanger Abbey (except for The Mysteries of Udolpho, which remains known today).


  4. Yes, the play is a very interesting part in the novel. Though, we all wish that Fanny would speak up for herself, I can’t help but pity her and pity Edmund for falling deeply in love with the wrong lady and compromising his morals.
    I really like the connection you made between MP and S&S.


  5. While I do agree that Fanny’s inability to speak up for herself is frustrating, I much prefer her silence and steadfast character to Edmund’s wavering. Rachel, I think you are right about his “stupidity” with Mary. What he lets her get away with surprises me every time I read the book. She insults him and his chosen career path as if it were nothing and he bears it because she is beautiful and charming. After all this, I sometimes wonder that he should deserve Fanny at the end at all. Fanny speaks when she has something important to say, Mary speaks whenever she gets the chance. To me, this makes Fanny’s silence worth much more than Mary’s verbosity.


  6. Rachel, you summed things up very well. The most frustrating part for me was to see Edmund give up what he felt was right all for a woman who continually criticized him. It made me just want to shake him until he saw who she truly was. I guess this truly was a case of love being blind.


  7. I really love Fanny in this part. Unlike most here I never feel the need to yell at Fanny for not speaking up. I think that the scene in where the whole family is united against her, trying to persuade her to join the play really shows just how difficult her situation is.

    Another thing that I noticed when I read these chapters was the fact that Mr. Rushworth is such a great comical figure. I sometimes forget that because I end up feeling sorry for him, and it’s more difficult to laugh at someone who I pity. But his two-and-forty speeches and blue dress and a pink satin cloak are really so funny.


  8. I love this website, and would you believe I am only just now reading Mansfield Park for the FIRST time? I don’t know why I never read it before, but I love reading along and then checking out these summaries! And I would love that journal!


  9. I just finished listening to MP after not having read it for a number of years. Reading all of these posts is wonderful given the story is so fresh.

    Sometimes I really didn’t like anyone at all in this book but I felt compelled anyway.


  10. The thing is, Edmund has made Fanny over as an amiable doll, who only ever mimics his own thoughts and words. Of course he is enchanted by Miss Crawford; she thinks for herself, argues with him, and thereby gives him a chance to expand upon his ideas, and grow up in a way that he could not while immersed in his family.

    The scene where Fanny sits in the park strikes me very particularly. Here she is, the shabby toy that Edmund has been toting around for much of his life. Faced with a real girl, he tries setting down his dolly for a while. We are left with Fanny, and see her hurt, but I cannot help but empathize more with Edmund. He is trying out new ideas, but even given such a chance to change her perspective on the world, Fanny refuses to do the same, reverting immediately to her habits of echoing him as soon as he returns.


  11. I was blown away by the locked gate scene the first time I read MP — so much packed in there: Maria fancying herself trapped, Henry slipping her around the side, Rushworth late with the key….


  12. I agree with Rachel’s opinion between Elinor and Fanny. As much as I like Edmund, he compromises his own judgment and values when he’s confronted with Mary Crawford dilemma about the play where he stood up and finally participated in the play to save Miss Crawford’s reputation against his better judgment. In fact, he is so blinded by love that he allows Miss Crawford to wrap him round her little finger where she criticizes about Edmund’s choice of occupation and religion but he let her off so easily. I doubt if someone else besides Miss Crawford where act like her, he would have gave a sermon about his opinion in that matter.


  13. I’ve been enjoying this series of posts. Mansfield Park has never been my favorite of JA’s novels, so taking another look at it has been very good for me.


  14. Hello Mansfield Park Madness participants – Day 5

    Happy to see so many comments!

    Kathy – welcome, and I am glad that you find this helpful. If others are encouraged to read MP, then I attained my goal.

    Rachel – Fanny is in an uncomfortable postion because of how her cousins have placed her in their household. She must bend to their wishes and conform. Austen has placed her quietly in the background like an invisible servant. It is painful to watch, but could certainly of happened in real life. Edmund on the other-hand is just dumb with love!

    Sibylle – I agree that it is an interesting fact that Lovers’ Vows is probably more renown because of its inclusion in MP. I doubt that I would known of it otherwise. I have a copy, just have not had the opportunity to read it yet. I understand that it is quite horrid. Catherine Morland would approve!

    Fatima – the connection between Fanny being respressed and Elinor and Marianne is interesting. All of the ladies are not in the position to assert themselves because of social norms and finances.

    Rae – excellent observation “Fanny speaks when she has something important to say, Mary speaks whenever she gets the chance”. Well done!

    Marsha – Edmund and Fanny both makes readers frusterated. Seeing their faults is the axis of the novel. We shall see if they change over the course of the book.

    Kiragade – I am glad to know someone else likes Fanny! Mr. Rushworth is a hoot. One can only imagine what he looked like in a pink satin cape struting about in rehearsals! LOL!

    kathy – thanks for joining in. We will be interested to read your future comments.

    Bells – thanks for your complements. Since you have read MP, please come back and contribute your thoughts as we progress through the novel.

    Lucia – I had not thought of it before, but Fanny does take her cues from Edmund. He is her mentor. I think that there is an interesting divergence of personailty between Fanny and Mary. Almost opposites. Thanks for pointing this out.

    Peony Moss – the locked gate scene is one of my favorites in the novel too. So much symbolism and foreshadowing. Thanks.

    Luthien84 – love is blind. To think that someone like Edmund who is studying to be a minister could be so swayed is an interesting twist that deserves further study. Jane Austen has a social subtext going here.

    Kristin – glad you could join us.

    Thanks to all for your contributions. I am really enjoying your insights.

    Cheers, Laurel Ann


  15. I also really like this scene, it’s so interesting! Edmund _ _ _ _ _ _ me off quite a bit during the book with his blindness towards the whole “loving Mary instead of Fanny” situation, and this is no exception. I mean honestly, to do something against Fanny’s good opinion and his own good opinion just a minute before – just so that he can play opposite Mary instead of some random other guy – is so frustrating! Hmpf. Honestly.
    The Jane Austen notebook is absolutely beauuuutiful! I love the quote, too. =D


  16. I agree with you all about how frustrating it is that Fanny cannot stand up for herself, I like my heroines to speak their minds! But I guess different situations make different people and it is very believable that Fanny would have ended up the way she did.


  17. Ellen Moody has a nice comparison between the MP characters and the characters in the play here – and I do believe that it is quite horrid!

    I read somewhere on another website, that Fanny is representing sensibility. Even though Austen shows in S&S how too much sensibility can go wrong (Marianne), she shows in MP how the lack of it can also be wrong. E.g. the Bertram parents have no interest or outspoken love to their children.

    When reading these chapters, it seemed to me, that the Bertram siblings doesn’t seem to love each other that much, because they are so self absorbed. Tom cares for nobody but himself, Julia and Maria are only friends as long as they have nothing co compete about, and Edmund is also to absorbed in love for Mary C to notice his sisters quarrels. But then again, Edmund is a bit thick headed when it comes to women’s feelings!

    And: is there a reason for Austen to name Maria/Mary the same names as Mary Madgalene/Virgin Mary?


    1. Hello Marlene, thanks for your remarks on MP. In regard to your comment “I do believe that it was quite horrid”, are you refering to the play or Ellen Moody’s comparison of the characters?

      Not sure I agree on tagging the Bertram clan as having too much sensibility. I think that you are accurat in saying they are self absorbed and selfish. Marianne Dashwood’s behavior is over-the-top emotionalism. She still cares about her family and other people.

      I do not see the similarity in Austen suing the names Mary and Maria and the characteristics and personality traits of Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary. Mary Crawford and Maria Bertram do not in my view appear to be similar to either ladies.

      Thanks for your thoughts on MP. It is one of my favorite JA novels.


  18. Laurel Ann>> I of course mean that the play Lover’s Vows is horrid and not Ellen Moodys essay – which is a very interesting read.

    I appologize for the misunderstanding, English is not my native language:)

    I can see, I made another error. I meant to say that Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram doesn’t have much sensibility, and that is why their children lacks it too – besides Edmund.

    You’re probably right about the names not being of any significance. I thought of it, because Mary Magdalene/Virgin Mary is called “Maria” in Danish.


    1. Thanks for the clarification Malene. I’m sure it was a English as a second language thing. You might also have lost something in the translation of sensibility. Miriam Webster describes it as “refined or excessive sensitiveness in emotion and taste with especial responsiveness to the pathetic.” Austen’s use of sensibility in the title of Sense and Sensibility, and Mariann’s emotionalism is a nod to The Cult of Sensibility. You can read further about sentimental novels in this Wikipedia article.

      Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram were negligent parents. They basically did not raise there own children and did not correct them otherwise. This was not uncommon in the the landed gentry as nannies and governess’ took over for wealthy parents. Sir Thomas and Lady Bertam did not have sensibility in the sense as it was used by Austen in S&S or The Cult of Sensibility. You could also say that they were also not sensible people for not taking more care and interest in their children. Their children probably did not show any sensitivity to their sibings becasue they did not learn it from their parents, Mrs. Norris or one would guess from the hired help.

      I commend you for your English, but as in any difference in languages, some of the meanings are lost in the translation. My co-blogger at Jane Austen Today Vic speaks Dutch. She might be able to explain it to you better in your native language if you do not quite understand the slight differences in the meanig of sensibility.

      I hope I was helpful. Best of luck. Enjoy MP.


  19. @ Laurel Ann

    Thanks for tip about the wiki article, I have already read it though:) I will continue with my MP, where Henry Crawford has just decided to make Fanny fall in love with him;)


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