Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
There are several points that set Mansfield Park apart from the rest of Austen’s work. Chief among them is Austen’s depiction of her heroine, Fanny Price, a frail, quiet young woman who has none of the high spirits or wit of Elizabeth Bennet or Marianne Dashwood. Reared from the age of ten among wealthy relatives, Fanny is an unobtrusive presence in the household at Mansfield Park, useful and agreeable to everyone and steadfast in her secret affection for her cousin, Edmund Bertram.
Fanny’s manner contrasts sharply with the livelier, sometimes careless behavior of her cousins and their friends. Only Edmund spends time with the gentle Fanny, although his own affections have been captivated by the sophisticated Mary Crawford. With Fanny’s uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, away on an extended stay in the West Indies, the cousins and their friends decide to put on an amateur theatrical production of a scandalous French play. Only Fanny refuses to participate, out of natural modesty and a certainty that her absent uncle would not approve. Sir Thomas returns unexpectedly and does not approve, much to his children’s chagrin, but Fanny quickly falls from his favor when she refuses the proposal of Mary Crawford’s brother, Henry, who had begun an unwelcome flirtation with her after Fanny’s cousin Maria married another man.
Distressed by her uncle’s disapproval, Fanny visits her parents and her eight brothers and sisters, only to...
(The entire section is 584 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The three Ward sisters have each fared differently in marriage. One married a wealthy baronet, one married a poor lieutenant of the marines, and the last married a clergyman. The wealthiest of the sisters, Lady Bertram, agrees at the instigation of her clerical sister, Mrs. Norris, to care for one of the unfortunate sister’s nine children. Accordingly, a shy, sensitive, ten-year-old Fanny Price comes to make her home at Mansfield Park. Among her four Bertram cousins Tom, Edmund, Maria, and Julia—Fanny finds a real friend only in Edmund. The others usually ignore her except when she can be of use to them, but Edmund comforts and advises her. He alone seems to recognize that she possesses cleverness, grace, and a pleasant disposition. Besides Edmund’s attentions, Fanny receives some of a very different kind from her selfish and hypocritical Aunt Norris, who constantly calls unnecessary attention to Fanny’s dependent position.
When Fanny is fifteen years old, Sir Thomas Bertram goes to Antigua to look after some business affairs. His oldest son, who is inclined to extravagance and dissipation, goes with him, and the family is left to Edmund’s and Lady Bertram’s care. During Sir Thomas’s absence, his older daughter, Maria, becomes engaged to Mr. Rushworth, a young man who is rich and well-connected but extremely stupid.
Another event of importance is the arrival in the village of Mary and Henry Crawford, the sister and brother of...
(The entire section is 1123 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
Mansfield Park, first published in 1814, is Jane Austen's third novel. Although not as popular as either of Austen's two earlier novels, Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park focuses on similar themes, particularly the concept of the implied importance of social rank.
As the novel begins, members of the Bertram family are discussing Fanny Price, who at that time is nine years old. Fanny is the niece of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram. Fanny's mother is Lady Bertram's sister, and she is very poor and has many children to care for. The Bertrams have received a letter from Fanny's mother asking if they might take in one or more of her children to give them a chance to better succeed in the world. Sir Thomas is a very rich man, having made his fortune as a landowner. Lady Bertram came from a family of modest finances, but marrying Sir Thomas provided her a step up in society. In contrast, Fanny's mother married a man of no wealth and no social standing.
There is another person involved in the discussion of Fanny Price. This is Mrs. Norris, the second sister of Lady Bertram and therefore also Fanny's aunt. Mrs. Norris is the wife of the clergyman of the parish that serves Mansfield Park. She has not married as well as her sister, Lady Bertram, but she married far better than Fanny's mother. Mrs. Norris is very conscious of social standing. Although she encourages Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram to invite Fanny to live with them, she points out that they must constantly reinforce the idea in Fanny's mind that she is socially inferior to all of the Bertrams.
One other concern of the Bertrams, before they agree to raise Fanny, is that they do not want either of their sons to become infatuated with their cousin. Mrs. Norris assures them that bringing Fanny into the family while the child is still young should allay their fears. Because Fanny is only nine, the Bertrams' sons will regard her merely as a sister and will not be attracted to her as a future wife. Mrs. Norris also thinks that since the Bertrams have live-in playmates (their children) as well as tutors, Fanny would fit in more comfortably with them: Mrs. Norris has no children, and her husband is sickly, she claims.
(The entire section is 440 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Fanny arrives with Mrs. Norris at Mansfield Park. Lord Bertram's children are introduced to Fanny. Tom is the eldest son, at seventeen. He has little to do with Fanny in the following days and months except for occasionally teasing her. Edmund, whose goal in life is to become a clergyman, is sixteen. Of the Bertram's four children, Edmund displays the most interest and kindness toward Fanny. Maria is the elder daughter at thirteen. She and her sister Julia, who is twelve, think Fanny is odd. They cannot believe that Fanny has so few clothes, with none of the dresses she owns being very fancy. They also think that Fanny's looks are very plain. As they come to know her, they constantly report to their parents and their aunt, Mrs. Norris, how stupid Fanny is. Fanny has little knowledge of geography or history. She is not able to speak French. She has no interest in music and does not know the difference between crayons and watercolor paint.
Mrs. Norris tries to explain that Maria and Julia should not be too harsh on Fanny. Instead, they should appreciate their own intelligence and understand that not everyone is as gifted as they are. Fanny's memory, in comparison, Mrs. Norris explains to them, merely does not match theirs.
Fanny, in the meantime, is frightened by her new surroundings. The rooms are too big and too numerous for her to feel comfortable. In addition, Fanny misses her family. At home, she was respected by her siblings, both those who were older and younger than she was. She especially misses her older brother, William. When these feelings of loneliness and homesickness overcome her, Fanny retreats to her bedroom to cry. In the first few weeks, Fanny suffers through copious tears.
One day, Edmund happens to see Fanny sitting at the top of the stairs crying. He tries to comfort her, attempting to understand how much she must miss her family. Although he comprehends that she must be lonesome, he asks why she is crying. Fanny confesses that she misses her brother. William had promised to write to her, but he had told her that she must write first. When Edmund asks why she has not done so, Fanny tells him that she has no paper. At this, Edmund finds paper for Fanny and promises that when she is finished writing, he will see to it that her letter is mailed.
Thus, Edmund and Fanny's relationship is begun. Whereas Maria and Julia continue to consider Fanny a second-class citizen, unworthy of the...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Fanny is now fifteen years old, and upon the death of Mrs. Norris's husband, Sir Thomas suggests that Fanny should go live with the widow. Sir Thomas thinks that Fanny's presence in his sister-in-law's life would bring the older woman pleasure. Sir Thomas is also going through difficult financial times. So by Fanny's going to live with Mrs. Norris, Sir Thomas's financial burdens would be slightly eased.
Tom, the older Bertram brother, has proven to be a reckless young man. In the process, Tom has squandered much of the Bertram estate, creating massive debts that he expects his father to pay off. Because of this, Tom has also made it financially impossible for Edmund to take over Mrs. Norris's husband's role as parish clergyman. This should have been a natural progression upon Mr. Norris's death. However, Sir Thomas could not afford to give Edmund the post. He needed someone else to move in and pay rent.
Dr. Grant and his wife take over the rectory. After they are settled, Mrs. Norris investigates the new clergyman and does not approve of his lifestyle. Dr. Grant, according to Mrs. Norris, eats too much and too lavishly. Mrs. Norris believes that a clergyman should demonstrate more restraint. However, this is not the only thing that Mrs. Norris complains about.
Fanny overhears a conversation between Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram. She learns that Sir Thomas plans to send her to Mrs. Norris's house to live. This displeases Fanny. She turns to Edmund to discuss her disappointment in having to leave. Edmund, as usual, comforts and encourages Fanny. He tells her that if she lives with Mrs. Norris, she will enjoy the older woman's complete attention. There at the Bertrams' house, in comparison, Fanny is merely one of five children. With Mrs. Norris, she will be able to become more refined, as Mrs. Norris will be more directly involved in Fanny's life.
Fanny has difficulty accepting what Edmund tells her. Fanny has not had a very good relationship with Mrs. Norris, who has, over the years, made Fanny feel how inferior she is in comparison to the Bertrams. Fanny cannot imagine how that would change for the better if she were forced to live at Mrs. Norris's house. Edmund suggests that Fanny have faith in his assessment of the situation.
However, when Lady Bertram tells her sister that Sir Thomas had mentioned that she take Fanny to her house to live, Mrs. Norris immediately reacts negatively. It...
(The entire section is 576 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
While Sir Thomas is away, life at Mansfield Park is altered. Edmund is now the head of the household, and he continues to look out for Fanny, who is now eighteen years old. Edmund, for instance, declares that for her good health, Fanny should go horseback riding each day. Although his sentiment is good natured, Edmund fails to notice that Mrs. Norris discourages this. Mrs. Norris informs Fanny that the number of horses owned by the Bertram family is limited. If Fanny undertakes a daily routine of riding, that would mean either Maria or Julia would be deprived of the exercise.
Fanny gives in and spends most of her days serving both Mrs. Norris and Lady Bertram with errands around the house as well as walking long distances into the village. One day, Fanny becomes ill, which gains Edmund's attention. When Edmund discovers how Fanny's riding has been discouraged, he goes against his mother's and aunt's objections and purchases a horse for Fanny.
It is during this time that Mary and Henry Crawford move into the area. Mary and Henry are sister and brother to Mrs. Grant, the wife of the new clergyman. Mary is described as a beautiful woman, while Henry is only acceptably handsome. But Henry, it is noted, is very rich. Mary is searching for a husband. Upon meeting Tom, the elder Bertram son who has recently returned from the Caribbean, Mary decides it is he whom she must marry. She is not impressed with Tom in any way except for his money. Mrs. Grant chooses Julia as a possible bride for Henry, but Henry does not approve. Henry is more attracted to Maria, even though Maria has recently become engaged. Henry finds married or engaged-to-be-married women much more attractive.
Sir Thomas has remained in Antigua as his business there is not doing well. When he was sent notice that his daughter Maria wanted to marry Mr. Rushworth, a very wealthy but dull man, Sir Thomas gave his consent. Maria is delighted by her conquest even though she finds Mr. Rushworth overweight and somewhat boring. His estate is worth more than her father's, though. So Maria convinces herself that she can love this portly gentleman. In turn, Mr. Rushworth is pleased with Maria's beauty. Members of both families are happy about the engagement, except for Edmund. He can see that his sister appears to be joyful, but Edmund knows that her happiness is more centered on Mr. Rushworth's money than on the man himself.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
The Bertrams and Mary and Henry Crawford soon become friends, sharing frequent dinners and outings. The Bertram sisters are almost as enthralled with Mary Crawford's beauty and personality as the Bertram brothers are. Henry, who at first appears not so handsome to the Bertram sisters, grows in their favor because he is so agreeable.
Because Maria is engaged, everyone assumes that if Henry were to pursue either of the Bertram sisters, it would, of course, be Julia. Julia is aware of this and begins to consider Henry as a man with whom she could fall in love.
Henry, though, is much more interested in Maria, even though she is promised to another man. Mary, Henry's sister, insists that Henry must be kidding. Julia is the one he should pursue. Henry tells Mary that these are his intentions, but in truth, Henry is not interested in marrying anyone. He wants to remain single because he has never met a married person who is happy.
His sister, Mrs. Grant, attempts to argue with Henry about the pleasures of marriage. However, Mary joins with Harry and professes her belief that most married couples she has known end up bitterly disappointed with their state. People marry expecting several good things about their partners but then wake up one day and find that the person they have married is not who they thought he or she was.
Both Mary and Henry enjoy their stay at Mansfield Park. Though they had not planned on staying there long, they had changed their minds upon meeting the Bertrams. Mary is particularly taken by Tom, the oldest Bertram, whom she is attracted to because of his easy manner, his ability to make friends, and his gallantry. Being the oldest son, Tom will also inherit the large estate of Mansfield Park, a fact that Mary has not missed.
One day when Mary Crawford is in the company of Tom and Edmund, she asks them about Fanny. Her first question involves whether or not Fanny has come out. Here she references the social status of a young, well-to-do girl who at eighteen or nineteen is officially introduced to society. It is a rite-of-passage in some ways, marking a young girl as a full grown woman who is now eligible for marriage.
Edmund does not know how to answer this question. He states that Fanny is grown up and has the sense of a woman. But he tells Mary he knows nothing of the coming out ceremony. Mary presses Edmund, asking if Fanny has ever been to a ball or been out...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
The Bertrams, the Crawfords, and Mr. Rushworth (Maria's fiance) are enjoying a dinner together. It is the first time Mr. Rushworth has come to Manfield Park since Mary Crawford has been there. Mary amuses herself by paying strict attention to Mr. Rushworth, since Tom Bertram is away and she is bored.
Mr. Rushworth is considering the possibilities of relandscaping his sprawling estate, though he wants very little to do with the transformation. He has just returned from a trip to Compton, the manor of a wealthy friend. In comparison to that estate, Mr. Rushworth's property, which is called Sotherton Courts, looks like the grounds of a prison.
As Mr. Rushworth talks, Mrs. Norris adds to the conversation, telling everyone at the table how she and Mr. Norris, the previous clergyman at Mansfield Park, took so much pleasure in working to improve the grounds around the parsonage. In particular, she mentions an apricot tree that she and her husband planted. At the mention of this fruit tree, Reverend Grant exclaims that its apricots have no taste. Mrs. Norris takes offense, stating that the apricot tree was very expensive. Reverend Grant declares that Mrs. Norris has then wasted her money.
Mr. Rushworth, who usually is a quiet man, finds that he has more to say about his property. After talking for sometime, Mary Crawford asks Mr. Rushworth about the history of his manor. The house was built, Mr. Rushworth states, in Queen Elizabeth's time and is quite old. When Mr. Rushworth continues talking about the changes he would like made at his estate, he confesses that he would like to find someone he could trust to do the work: he could then leave his home and return when the work is done.
Fanny suggests that she would rather stay, if she were he, and watch the progress. Mr. Rushworth tells her that his one and only experience with a transformation of this scale left him feeling disoriented because of all the destruction that is necessary before restoration can be done. There was too much dirt and confusion, he says.
Henry, on the other hand, states that if he were Rushworth, he would want to be in charge of every change, even if he were not very experienced in how things should be done. At least in that way, the transformation would be in his own taste. Rushworth disagrees. He does not have the ingenuity for such a task, he says.
(The entire section is 523 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Edmund asks Fanny what she thinks of Mary. Edmund was a little put off by comments Mary had made the night before. Mary had complained about an uncle, and Edmund thought it was impolite to criticize a family member in such a public gathering. Fanny agrees with him. But when Fanny states that she thinks Mary displayed ingratitude in speaking about her uncle, Edmund corrects Fanny, making Mary's social infraction seem less important than it was.
This makes Fanny realize that she and Edmund might be pursuing different paths. Edmund is much more infatuated with Mary than Fanny is. Edmund also recognizes that he might be falling in love with Mary, though he does not admit this out loud.
The narrative then sheds light on Mary's affections for Edmund. Mary had at first thought Edmund too dull for her attention. But she has come to appreciate his company. Mary finds Edmund agreeable, yet she does not know why.
For Fanny's part, she does not understand why Edmund must spend so much time with Mary. She tries to suppress her jealousy, especially when, the next day, Edmund asks Fanny if he can borrow her horse so that Mary can go for a ride. With Mary riding the horse, Fanny does not get a chance to do the same. Fanny remembers how Edmund had given her that same horse so she could ride it daily to encourage good health. Now, when he takes that privilege away, Fanny's feelings are hurt.
From a distance, Fanny watches Mary ride Fanny's horse with Edmund. They are in a nearby field, and Fanny can see that they are laughing. She also believes she sees them hold hands. She tries to convince herself that this is only natural. But she admits that seeing them together causes her pain.
Fanny waits for Edmund and Mary to return. They are late getting back. Mary apologizes, but Edmund makes excuses for her. Edmund says that in being late, Mary has kept Fanny from riding in the hot sun. Now that there are clouds in the sky, Fanny will not become overheated.
Later, Edmund asks Fanny if she is planning to ride her horse the next day. He goes on to tell her that Mary would like to ride more. He wants to know if this would be all right with Fanny. Fanny responds that Mary can have her horse again. Edmund's request for Fanny's horse continues for the next four days. Fanny therefore has no opportunity to ride.
One evening, after a dinner at the clergyman's house, Edmund and Julie come home to...
(The entire section is 533 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Plans to visit Mr. Rushworth's estate, Sotherton, are renewed when Mr. Rushworth arrives at Mansfield Park with his mother. Mrs. Rushworth makes a point of encouraging the trip to Sotherton. The plan had been delayed due to Mrs. Rushworth's absence from the manor.
How to travel there and who should go takes up much of the Bertrams' discussion. They decide that Henry should drive, as he had earlier offered his carriage. At the moment, however, Henry is at the home of the clergyman. In order to confirm Henry's availability, Mr. Rushworth volunteers to find him.
While they are waiting, Edmund questions why they cannot travel in their own carriage. His suggestion is denied because Henry's carriage is larger and can accommodate more people. When the list of people who will go is named, Edmund notices that Fanny's name is not included. Mrs. Norris insists that Fanny must stay behind in order to take care of Lady Bertram. At this, Edmund volunteers to stay with his mother, thus giving Mrs. Norris no further argument against Fanny joining the party. Again, however, Mrs. Norris objects. She says that Mrs. Rushworth has not invited Fanny. Mrs. Norris supplied the list of guests to Mrs. Rushworth, and Fanny had not been included.
In response, Edmund tells Mrs. Norris that when he was walking Mrs. Rushworth to the door as she was preparing to leave, he had mentioned Fanny's name and had asked if Fanny might be welcome at Mrs. Rushworth's home. Mrs. Rushworth had graciously consented. After this announcement, though she remains against Fanny going to Sotherton, Mrs. Norris concedes.
Fanny is not present during these discussions, but when she is told she will be going to Sotherton, she is filled with excitement—until she learns that Edmund will not be joining them.
Henry and Mr. Rushworth enter the house with Mrs. Grant, the clergyman's wife. When she hears that Edmund is not going to Sotherton, she offers to stay with Lady Bertram, thus relieving Edmund of this task. Fanny is quite happy with this arrangement, as is Mary Crawford.
During the ride to Sotherton several days later, Fanny is amazed at the scenery around her. Except for the first trip to Mansfield Park, Fanny has never been so far out into the countryside. Maria meanwhile is sorting through her mixed emotions as the carriage traverses the rough path. She is jealous of Julia's seating position in the carriage, which is next to...
(The entire section is 446 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
A tour of the Rushworths' estate begins with a walk through the mansion. Mrs. Rushworth leads her visitors through various rooms, describes the furnishings and their origins, and discusses the history of the mansion. The tour ends at the family's chapel.
Fanny is disappointed with the chapel, which is very plain and unadorned in comparison to what she had imagined from stories she has read. Fanny lets her disappointment be known. Mrs. Rushworth explains the difference between public chapels, which are often filled with banners and relics, and private family chapels, which are provided for more personal meditations.
Mary Crawford comments somewhat sarcastically that private chapels in mansions such as the Rushworths' were used to force servants to cluster together to say prayers multiple times a day when they probably would have rather stayed in bed an hour longer in the morning. Mary's views are then extended into an overview of the practice of religion. She goes so far as to criticize the clergy. She is stopped, however, when the conversation takes another turn.
The group notices Mr. Rushworth and Maria Bertram standing side by side in front of the altar. Comments are made about how appropriate this image is, considering that they will soon be married. Henry reacts to the comments by pressing close to Maria and whispering in her ear that he does not like seeing her standing so close to the altar with her intended. In this way, Henry is subtly inferring that he does not want Maria to marry.
Julia, Maria's younger sister who has fixed her intentions on Henry, dislikes seeing Henry attentive to her older sister. The tension between the two sisters has been mounting. After all, Maria is engaged and should not entertain Henry's flirtations. So Julia reminds everyone of the planned wedding by exclaiming that it is a shame that Edmund has not yet been ordained. If Edmund were a pastor, how nice it would be for him to perform the future wedding ceremony.
At this statement, Mary Crawford is caught off guard. She did not know that Edmund wants to be a clergyman. She turns to him and questions his choice of vocation. Usually, she states, a younger son only turns to this profession when there is no other choice available. Why does Edmund not choose to be a lawyer instead? The choice of clergyman is a weak one, she suggests.
Edmund asks why Mary has not considered that he has experienced...
(The entire section is 536 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Edmund Bertrom and Mary Crawford have left Fanny sitting on a bench in the woods. Fanny was tired and needed to rest. Edmund told her that he and Mary would return in just a few minutes. But an hour later, Fanny has not seen them.
Henry and Maria approach her. Mr. Rushworth is with them. Henry has been making suggestions about how Rushworth might transform his acreage. They notice an iron gate nearby and look beyond it to a knoll. From that small raised hill, Henry suggests, they could gain a better view of the land. But when they attempt to open the gate, they find it is locked.
Rushworth had meant to bring the key with him but had forgotten it back at the house. He volunteers to retrieve it so that they can proceed to the knoll. While Rushworth is gone, Maria questions Henry about his relationship to Julia, her sister. Julia had sat next to Henry on the ride from Mansfield Park to Sotherton. Maria asks what Henry and Julia were laughing at while they were traveling. Henry tells her that he was telling Julia silly stories. Maria wants to know how Henry views the differences between herself and her sister. Henry says he finds Julia easy to entertain. Maria is more serious. He insinuates that Maria is like the gated land and that she seems to be waiting for Mr. Rushworth to bring the key to open it.
Maria then sees a way to get beyond the gate and not have to wait for Mr. Rushworth to return. Fanny objects, telling Maria that she might hurt herself or ruin her clothing. However, Maria manages quite well and is pleased that she and Henry can go forth. Fanny reminds Maria that Mr. Rushworth will expect her to wait and might be disappointed when he returns to find her gone. But Maria does not change her decision. She will not be far, she declares, and Mr. Rushworth will be able to easily find her.
Henry and Maria walk far enough away that Fanny has problems seeing them in the distance. After a while, she hears footsteps coming toward her. Julia appears and says that her sister has committed a neat trick to have Henry all to herself. Fanny asks that Julia wait for Mr. Rushmore, but Julia declares that Mr. Rushmore is her sister's responsibility.
When Mr. Rushworth appears, he is mortified and so dejected that Maria has not waited for him that he sits down next to Fanny and decides not to look for Maria. Fanny, however, encourages him to follow Maria. Before Mr. Rushworth leaves, he admits his...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
Sir Thomas has sent a letter stating that his business in Antigua is completed and he will be returning home in November, a few months away. The letter causes gloom at Mansfield Park. Maria is saddened by her father's news not merely due to the subsequent presence of her father in the house but also because of what his presence means to her. With her father home, Maria's marriage will soon follow. This thought makes Maria feel disheartened. She wonders if something might pass in the next few months that might alter the direction of her life.
Meanwhile, Mary Crawford, Fanny, and Edmund are standing at a window in the Bertrams' house, staring at the fading light of the day. Mary laughs at the thought of Sir Thomas's return and then explains her thoughts. She finds that Sir Thomas's homecoming is much like the return of heathens from centuries earlier, who returned from battle and offered sacrifices in honor of their victories. Mary is referencing Maria's marriage to Mr. Rushworth because she senses that Maria is not happy with the prospect. In addition, Mary mentions that once Sir Thomas is home, Edmund will take his orders to become a minister.
That is not a sacrificial act, Edmund tells her. He looks forward to becoming a clergyman. He reminds Mary that becoming a minister is his calling. Mary asks if Edmund will make a living from his calling. Will a salary be supplied? Edmund answers in the affirmative, but he declares that has nothing to do with his decision. Mary suggests that becoming a minister is a lazy way to make a salary. She then provides examples of clergymen she has known. She includes her own brother-in-law, Dr. Grant, the minister at Mansfield Park. He is a lazy man, she says. He is slovenly and his only passion is to eat, she tells them. That morning before she left the house, Dr. Grant had been yelling at the servants who had cooked a goose that Dr. Grant claimed did not taste right. He would probably be yelling all day over that incident, Mary says. She had left the parsonage to escape the noise and confusion there.
Edmund argues that Maria's opinions of clergymen is a reflection of someone else's failed conclusions. Fanny says that Dr. Grant should not be used as an example of what clergymen are like. Dr. Grant would possess the same character faults no matter what job he had taken. His laziness is a reflection of who he is, not of his profession.
When Mary walks away to join...
(The entire section is 457 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
In September, Tom Bertram, the older son, returns home to Mansfield Park. He has been away with friends, spending much of his time partying. He entertains the other people staying at his home by telling them of his adventures.
Mary's affections for Tom have changed. In his absence, Mary has become more attracted to Tom's younger brother, Edmund. Tom also shows a loss of interest in Mary.
Around the same time that Tom returns, Henry Crawford decides to travel. He goes to Norfolk, and this makes both Maria and Julia upset. They think him selfish to leave them. However, Henry comes back to Mansfield Park earlier than expected, which, of course, pleases the Bertram girls, who forgive him immediately. Fanny admits to herself that she must be the only one who is not pleased to see Henry come back.
Maria has become especially bored by Mr. Rushworth by now, although she hides her feelings. Fanny, however, thinks she sees through Maria's pretense. She mentions to Edmund that Maria appears more interested in Henry than in Mr. Rushworth. Edmund disagrees. He believes that Henry likes Julia the most. This causes Fanny some confusion. She relies so heavily on Edmund's considerations that she does not trust her own evaluation. So she continues to watch Maria, seeking confirmation one way or the other of her own intuitions or of Edmund's reflections.
At one point, Fanny is sitting near Mrs. Norris and Mrs. Rushworth, overhearing their conversation. Maria and Mr. Rushworth are paired for their fourth dance in a row, and Mrs. Norris comments on how happy Maria looks. Maria's eyes are sparkling. Mrs. Norris evaluates Maria's countenance and concludes that Maria is very much in love with Mr. Rushworth. Fanny, on the other hand, remembers how for the first three dances, Maria's expressions were much sadder. It was not until Henry entered the room and was dancing near Maria that her face reflected any pleasure.
This is Fanny's first ball, but she finds herself sitting on the sidelines, hoping someone will ask her to dance. Tom Bertram enters, sees Fanny, and walks toward her. Fanny hopes Tom is coming over to ask her to dance. But instead, Tom sits down next to her and tells her of a sick horse he had been nursing. He then awkwardly asks Fanny if she wants to dance, adding that he thinks dancing is mere folly. Fanny turns down his invitation. Only when Mrs. Grant approaches him and asks him to join her party...
(The entire section is 475 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
John Yates, an acquaintance of Tom Bertram, is introduced in the narrative. Yates loves acting and was about to be in a play. But three days before the performance, the grandmother of one of the actor's died, so the play was cancelled. When Yates remembers that Tom had invited him to stay at Mansfield Park for a while, he hurries over to the estate. Upon greeting Tom, Yates talks up the idea of putting on a play there.
Tom is excited and talks about the possibilities to his brother and sisters. Yates, Tom announces, would be the manager. It would be a small performance, just for the group of them. There would be no audience and no publicity. As Tom wanders through the manor, he searches for a place to stage the play. He finally settles on two of his father's rooms that adjoin one another.
Edmund is against the idea. He protests that his father would disapprove of the performance, especially if there is any expense. Tom says there would be little money spent, as they would mostly make do with what was available. There is the question of scenery and other stage props, but Maria suggests that they make the play itself the focus of their attention rather than the stage and its decorations.
Edmund continues to argue and hopes his mother will state her objections. Lady Bertram, who is somewhat drowsy through the entire discussion, does not stand against the idea. Tom takes advantage of the situation and proclaims that the play might be a pleasant diversion for their mother. Lady Bertram has, after all, been apprehensive about her husband's upcoming return. The play would help ease their mother's tension.
Then Edmund thinks about confronting Mrs. Norris and imploring her to be on his side. However, when Mrs. Norris comes to the house, Edmund is dismayed. Mrs. Norris likes the idea and becomes quite animated as she thinks about how she might assist the young actors and their endeavors.
Edmund then brings up the concept that maybe it would be all right for the men to be involved, but that his father might be very disagreeable with his sisters taking part. Edmund reminds Tom that although he and Tom put on performances all through their childhood, their sisters were never involved. Julia protests that she is free to do as she wants. And when Henry Crawford arrives, he speaks for his sister, who he is sure would be delighted to take part.
Fanny is the only one who takes Edmond's...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
The physical preparations for the play have begun. A carpenter has been summoned to make adjustments in the room. Mrs. Norris has ordered material for the stage curtain. Upon its arrival, she supervises the sewing of it. All the while, though, no play has yet been selected.
Tom Bertram and Mary Crawford argue in favor of a comedy. The others prefer a tragedy. They go through a list of Shakespearean dramas, but all are rejected for one reason or another. The women insist on the play having three strong female roles and will accept no less. Most of them agree that the play should have only a few characters. When they come upon a comedy, the play is rejected because it is too silly. When they read tragedies, they find that they do not have enough people to carry out all the characters.
Tom complains that they are wasting too much time. He says that in order to find a play, they must stop being so nice or so particular. He says he will lead the way. He will take any role they give him as long as the play is a comedy. The character they give him can have a minor part. He no longer cares.
Then Tom comes up with the idea to do Lover's Vows. The play has both comedic and tragic aspects. Since everyone is tired of their indecision, they give in. Yates is very pleased with their choosing Lover's Vows as it is the exact play that he had been rehearsing with his other group of friends. Yates knows all the parts by heart.
After finally coming to an agreement, the group then falls into disarray as they argue about which part each will take. Most of the discussion centers on the female roles.
Henry suggests that Maria do the part of Agatha. Julia, Henry says, is too lighthearted and the role of Agatha is very dramatic. Julia feels slighted by Henry's assessment and stares hard at her sister. Maria looks very pleased. Tom then says that Julia should take a more minor role, by which Julia is even more insulted. She walks out of the room when she sees that her sister is very pleased with the men's assumption that she is perfect for the starring female role. However, Maria does not want to appear too haughty, so she proclaims that she is not sure that she will be able to do justice to the role. Maria does admit that she would do it better than her sister.
Fanny, as usual, is in the background of all the activity. As the others squabble about roles, she makes...
(The entire section is 478 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Mr. Rushworth shows up at Mansfield Park and decides to become a part of the play. He asks Maria to help him chose a part. Maria looks over the list of characters and selects a role that is not too demanding. She also decides that she will delete many of the lines Rushworth has to recite because the less he has to learn, the better.
Edmund is still very upset about his family and friends going forward with their plans to do the play. He appeals to his sister Maria. The role she has chosen is too crass, and he does not want to see her act it out. He asks her to read the script so that she is better acquainted with it. Marie responds that she is very familiar with the role she has chosen and sees no problem in acting it.
Edmund disagrees with her. He tells her that if she stands up for what is morally right, others will follow her. If she refuses to be a part of the presentation, others will also drop out of the play. Maria, however, finds nothing objectionable about the role. She tells Edmund that she knows he means well, but the two see things differently. Besides, she adds, if she gives up her part, she knows that Julia will gladly take it over.
Edmund states that he thinks Maria should rethink her decision. He does not think their father would approve. At this, Lady Bertram agrees. However, Mrs. Norris reinforces Maria's reluctance to quit the play. Mrs. Norris lists all the work she has done to ensure that the play might be a success. She also lists the money that has been spent on the curtains she had made. She takes advantage of the attention focused on her and adds a side note: she caught the young son of one of the workers on the mansion picking up scraps of wood from the construction of the stage. She is proud that she has so much concern about the welfare of the family.
Tom, Maria, Yates, and Henry sit at a table to the side, discussing who should play the parts that are still not taken. Tom asks Edmund to take a role, but again Edmund refuses. Then he asks Fanny. Fanny insists she cannot act, but Tom says she must help them. When Fanny refuses, Mrs. Norris reprimands Fanny. She tells Fanny that she is ungrateful and should be more considerate, especially since she holds a lower position in the family.
Fanny begins to quietly cry, and Mary Crawford goes to her side to console her.
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Fanny goes to her bedroom quite upset about Mrs. Norris's comments to her. She dreads the next morning and having to face the Bertrams with the possibility that neither Mary nor Edmund will be there to defend her.
Her bed is in the small, cramped attic room, where she has slept since she first arrived at Mansfield Park. Over the years, though, she has gradually moved some of her things into the room one floor beneath her bedroom. The lower room is more spacious. It had been used when her cousins were children, but was later abandoned. So Fanny has slowly taken it over.
In the bigger room, she has collected books and furniture discarded by the rest of the family. She has plants that she cares for and a desk she uses for reading and writing. There is also a fireplace there, but Mrs. Norris has banned Fanny from ever making a fire in it. Although the room is most often cold, Fanny likes the spaciousness it affords and thinks of it as a good place to contemplate. It is to this room that she has hastened to sort through the emotions she is currently experiencing.
She rethinks the events of the earlier part of the day. She had been shocked that Tom insisted that she be in the play. But she also wonders if she has been fair. Mrs. Norris had called her obstinate and ungrateful. She wonders if that is true. She looks over at a stand that contains gifts that Tom has given her over the years. Maybe she should be more considerate of him. She is unsure if what she has done is right. Then she thinks about how Lady Bertram used to defend her. Edmund used to often be on her side, too. But things seem to have changed.
Just then, she hears a knock on the door. Edmund enters the room. He tells her that he wants her opinion on a decision he is considering. He informs Fanny that his brother Tom is insisting on bringing an outsider into the house in order to fill out the cast of characters in the play. Edmund believes this is a breach of privacy. No stranger should have the privilege of being in their midst night and day, witnessing their private moments. So he, Edmund, will fill the open role in the play to avoid this.
Fanny is shocked. She has never seen Edmund so inconsistent, has never observed him going against his own better judgment. She wonders how he could take on a part in the same play he has condemned.
Edmund tells Fanny that he must do it for Mary Crawford's sake. The role he is taking...
(The entire section is 494 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
Tom and Maria secretly celebrate their success. Tom is glad that Edmund has consented to take a part in the play. He is also somewhat content to find that Edmund has lowered his high standards, going against his own dictates and concerns about the morality of the play.
Maria's victory is that she has won the leading role as well as the approval of Henry. Henry has chosen her over her sister Julia she is sure.
Tom suggests to Edmund that now that he has joined them, Fanny might also change her mind. Fanny is afraid that she might be forced to take the role, but Mrs. Grant has stepped in. She will take on the part that Fanny was to play.
In a way, Fanny is a little jealous. Everyone praises Mrs. Grant for being so gracious. In contrast, Fanny is forgotten. While Mrs. Grant has become the center of attention, Fanny knows that she could go back to her room and no one would miss her. In addition, it was Mary who made the arrangements with Mrs. Grant, so Fanny, once again, must feel gratitude for Mary's intervention for Fanny's sake. But Fanny's heart is aching. She does not approve of Edmund's feelings for Mary. Fanny feels completely insignificant.
Julia is also silently moping and feels neglected. She senses that Maria has won Henry's affections. Though no one knows it, Julia had fallen in love with Henry, and now she feels she has no chance to win his favor. She reflects on how close she and Maria used to be when they were younger. Now they act more like mortal enemies.
Mrs. Grant confides in Mary that she thinks Julia is in love with Henry. Mary says that she believes Henry is in love with both of the Bertram sisters. That cannot be, Mrs. Grant says. Henry cannot become involved with Maria. She counsels Mary to go to her brother and discourage any such feelings. If Henry cannot control his emotions, then she, Mrs. Grant, must send him away.
Mrs. Grant longs for Sir Thomas to return. He is the true head of the family. When he is present, everything else falls into place. He controls his children, comforts his wife, and keeps Mrs. Norris in her place.
Fanny, meanwhile, all by herself outside the bustle of activities around her, notices Julia. Fanny senses that she and Julia are sharing similar feelings. Both feel dejected and abandoned. Both have broken hearts. But Fanny concludes that the bond between them is not strong enough for her to go to Julia and confide in...
(The entire section is 446 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
Relationships and tempers are straining as the day of the first rehearsals arrives. More money than had been appropriated is spent as painters are called into service to paint backgrounds for scenes. In his exuberance, Tom invites neighbors to sit in the audience, a scheme no one has approved.
Fanny's major part in the preparations is to listen to everyone's complaints. Mr. Rushworth cannot remember his lines, so Fanny tries to provide him with measures to improve his memory. Nothing seems to help. Fanny has to continually prompt him. Not one of the actors wants to practice with him.
Tom, who has taken on an assortment of minor characters, is losing his patience and speaks his lines too fast. Some people complain that they have too many lines. Others remark that they have too few. Fanny is kept busy, acting as audience and critic, though she is far too meek to actually criticize any performance. Despite the many chores Fanny performs, Mrs. Norris tells her she cannot afford to sit around and do nothing. If everyone did as little as Fanny, Mrs. Norris states, nothing would get done. Lady Bertram defends Fanny, then asks the girl what the play is about. Fanny does not want to explain it and suggests that Lady Bertram wait until the play is ready so that she can see it for herself.
Later, Mary comes to Fanny's room and says she is too embarrassed to practice a particular scene with Edmund. Fanny has read it and is very nervous about watching Mary and Edmund perform it. In the scene, Mary's character admits her love for the man that Edmund plays. Mary begins reading her lines when there is another knock on Mary's door. It is Edmund, who has come to also ask for Fanny's help. Fanny's spirits sink.
Mary tells Fanny and Edmund that she had peeked in on another practiced scene, one between Maria and Henry. She had seen the two of them embrace, and so had Mr. Rushworth. Mary had tried to explain that it was all acting, though she was not sure that it was.
That evening as the time for rehearsals draws near, the cast is told that Mrs. Grant will not be able to attend. Her husband is sick and she must stay with him. So Fanny is encouraged, against her will, to read Mrs. Grant's lines. As they are ready to start, there are footsteps in the hallway. Sir Thomas has returned.
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
Sir Thomas surprises everyone with his premature return to Mansfield Park. No one is sure of how Sir Thomas will react to what they have been doing.
Once they compose themselves, Tom, Edmund, Maria, Julia, Lady Bertram, and Mrs. Norris all move toward the drawing room to greet Sir Thomas. With the Bertrams gone, Mr. Rushworth continually asks if he should go into the drawing room too. He is immobilized until Henry Crawford tells him that he should indeed join the rest of the family.
The Crawfords then decide to leave, telling Yates that he is welcome to go with them to their home. Yates, not knowing Sir Thomas's nature, does not see why he should have to leave. He is so engrossed in the play, Yates expects that the rehearsals will go on after a break for tea because they must be ready for the upcoming performance.
Fanny has been left behind again. Her former fear of Sir Thomas fills her mind and makes her feel faint. Now that she must face Sir Thomas, she, like the Bertram children, feels guilty about all the transformations they have made in the house to accommodate the play. Dreading her reunion with Sir Thomas but knowing that it is inevitable, Fanny walks toward the drawing room and pushes the door open. Just as she enters, she hears the mention of her name. Sir Thomas is asking where his "dear Fanny" is. Fanny is astonished.
Sir Thomas looks up as Fanny stands before him. He remarks on how much she has grown and how beautiful she has become. Fanny's face becomes flushed. Sir Thomas has changed, she thinks, and she does not know how to feel about him. She wonders if she still needs to fear him. Or maybe she should have missed him more when he was gone. Sir Thomas even asks her about the well-being of her family. His absence from his home has made him grow sweeter, Fanny believes.
Lady Bertram is also flushed, sitting next to her husband. She is surprised at how much excitement she is experiencing at having him home. She feels so comforted at seeing him again. Mrs. Norris, however, has mixed emotions. She is at a loss, realizing that her power has been greatly diminished now that Sir Thomas is back.
It is Lady Bertram who broaches the topic of the play. Up to that point, Sir Thomas had not seen any signs that his house has been overtaken with the production. But Sir Thomas does not pay too much attention to the subject until he gets up and goes to his private rooms. When...
(The entire section is 520 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
The next morning, Edmund makes a point of going to see his father and explaining his involvement in the play. He tells his father that he was at first against it, but under the circumstances of involving a stranger, he chose the best way to control the situation, which was to become more involved. Edmund insists that the only person—throughout all the discussions of putting on a play—who was against the idea was Fanny. Fanny was the only one who understood how the production might offend him.
Sir Thomas does not want to spend any time or energy in reprimanding his children. The play would not go on, and that would be the end of it. Carpenters arrive to dismantle the stage and put Sir Thomas's room back in order. The only person upon whom Sir Thomas wants to place blame is Mrs. Norris. But when Sir Thomas calls her to his room, Mrs. Norris goes on so long and so tediously about all the good things she has done in his absence that Sir Thomas becomes tired of her. She reminds Sir Thomas, for instance, that if it were not for her efforts, Maria would not be engaged to such a good and well-meaning man as Mr. Rushworth.
Yates had spent the morning hunting. All the while he was out in the field, he planned how to approach Sir Thomas and insist that the play be resumed. When Yates returns and sits down to breakfast with Sir Thomas at the table, Yates realizes that Sir Thomas is not a man to be taken lightly. He is the most tyrannical parent Yates has ever met. Yates quite abruptly drops the subject of the play.
Maria spends most of the morning waiting for Henry to come to the house, meet with her father, and ask for her hand. She is certain that Henry loves her as much as she loves him. Mr. Rushworth has left for his estate, and Maria hopes he will never return. When Dr. Grant enters the house to meet with Sir Thomas, Maria is extremely happy to see that Henry has accompanied him. Unfortunately, when Henry speaks, Maria does not hear what she hopes Henry will say.
Henry asks about whether the play will continue as planned. Tom informs him that the stage is in the process of being dismantled and all signs of the proposed production will be soon taken from the house. If there had been any need of his services, Henry states, he would continue his residence at the parsonage. But since there is none, he will be leaving shortly. He must visit his uncle, Henry professes, though it is quite obvious to Maria that...
(The entire section is 561 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
Sir Thomas has cast a sombre gloom over the household. He wants to entertain no outsiders, not even the Grants, though they are an important part of Mansfield Park. Only the Rushworths are now welcome, as far as Sir Thomas is concerned. That is his final word.
Edmund complains to Fanny that the family is so serious now. Fanny reminds Edmund that nothing has really changed. Sir Thomas's appearance in the household has always caused a quiet mood. It is only that his absence was so extended that his return stands out in such contrast. Edmund teases Fanny, saying that she likes his father because Sir Thomas likes to flatter her. His father thinks Fanny is pretty, Edmund says. And rightly so, Edmund adds. Fanny is growing up and becoming healthier. She ought not to be embarrassed at people looking at her and admiring her. Mary often talks in Fanny's favor, Edmund tells her. Mary thinks Fanny should talk more, though. She should share more of her thoughts.
Fanny tells Edmund that she thoroughly enjoys listening to Sir Thomas talk of his adventures. But she wonders why the conversation about the slave trade that her uncle is involved with in Antigua did not go further. No one else had any questions, so Fanny was concerned about encouraging it.
Edmund's mind is somewhere else. He continues to talk about Mary. He tells Fanny that he hopes Mary will learn to like his father and that in turn his father will appreciate Mary. Edmund also remarks on his sister. He has noticed that Sir Thomas has given his approval of Mr. Rushworth. He wonders if that will continue once Sir Thomas discovers how dull Mr. Rushworth is. Edmund wishes Maria would break her engagement with the man.
Sir Thomas does come to see Mr. Rushworth in an altered light. Mr. Rushworth's lack of skill in business as well as his inferiority in book learning startles Sir Thomas. He has also noted Maria's lack of interest and her coldness toward Mr. Rushworth. He questions why she has chosen to marry the man. He will not have his daughter sacrifice her happiness. Sir Thomas questions Maria about her engagement, and he tells her that he will take the steps necessary to break it.
Maria, however, will not allow it. She insists that she has the highest esteem for Mr. Rushworth. Sir Thomas relents, believing that maybe Mr. Rushworth is young enough to improve. Maria, for her part, is convinced of going forward with the marriage, especially...
(The entire section is 439 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
With Maria on her honeymoon and Julia gone to join her, Fanny finds herself the only young female at Mansfield Park. This condition has given her more attention than she has ever experienced in her life. Not only is she called upon to do chores, she is also required to act as a companion. This includes requests by Mary Crawford.
Fanny visits the parsonage more frequently now, and though their personalities and favorite topics differ, she spends hours in Mary's company. Sometimes Fanny just sits and listens to Mary play the harp. Often they walk through the gardens as they talk. Fanny admits that she does not love Mary, but she is amused by the woman. For her part, Mary enjoys Fanny through her constant desire to experience something new.
In their conversations, Fanny tends to talk about her fascination with nature. This is a topic with which Mary, having spent most of her life in the city, is not very interested. Mary admits that she has enjoyed the summer in the country, but in the future, she would prefer having two houses. One house might be in the country. The other would definitely be in a more urban setting. The country, though beautiful, is too quiet for Mary. Her love of the country, she suggests, is tempered by the prospects that her visit might contain. This is an allusion to the possibility of Mary and Edmund getting married. Though it is not spoken out loud, Fanny understands the underlying message.
As Fanny and Mary are sitting outside on a bench after their walk, Edmund appears with Mrs. Grant. When Edmund is referred to as Mr. Bertram, Mary says she prefers to hear him called Edmund. Fanny disagrees, saying that Mr. Bertram has a warming effect on her, one somehow making her feel more familiar with him. Mary declares that if Edmund had a title, such as Lord or Sir, she might change her mind.
When Mrs. Grant talks about a problem she is having with the cooking staff, Mary says that when she owns a household, she will be so rich that she will never be involved in what happens in the kitchen. Edmund asks: "So you want to be rich?" Mary responds: "Don't you?" Edmund says the question is outside his means, as he has no choice but to accept whatever salary he will make as a clergyman. Besides, Edmund would rather emphasize other attributes that are more important, such as honesty. Mary mockingly announces that that is fine with her, but she will not respect him if he is poor.
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
Mrs. Grant has invited Fanny to dinner, but Lady Bertram cannot understand why. Is it merely due to the absence of Maria and Julia? Why would anyone want Fanny to sit at their table, she wonders. Lady Bertram tells Fanny that maybe she should not go.
Edmund overhears his mother's comments and is surprised by her sentiments. Why should Fanny not go, Edmund wants to know. His mother asks what she would do without Fanny. Who will take care of her? Edmund tells her that his father will be home. When Lady Bertram continues to resist the idea of Fanny being away for dinner, Edmund suggests that his mother should consult his father to get his thoughts on the matter.
Lady Bertram approaches her husband as soon as he comes home. Of course, Fanny should go, Sir Thomas says without any hesitation, as if he cannot conceive of any thought otherwise. It will do Fanny good, Sir Thomas adds.
When Mrs. Norris hears of the invitation, she is more confused than Lady Bertram had been. What is wrong with Mrs. Grant, Mrs. Norris wants to know. Why would she do such a foolish thing? Mrs. Norris learns that the decision has already been made, but she insists on offering warnings that Fanny should always remember her place. Fanny is not to think that this dinner invitation raises her social status. She is not and never will be on the same level as her cousins. When asked a question, Fanny should provide only the shortest answer and should never volunteer any opinions. And finally, Fanny should walk to the Grants' home, as none of the Bertram carriages will be put to her service.
Fanny's excitement about going to the Grant's house for dinner is greatly dampened by Mrs. Norris's orders. But her spirits rise when Sir Thomas appears and asks Fanny what time she would like the carriage. Despite Mrs. Norris's objections, Sir Thomas insists that no proper young lady should have to walk such a distance at night. Fanny arrives at the Grants' house in style. Edmund adds to the pleasure as he decides to join her in the carriage ride.
As they pull up to the Grants' home, Fanny and Edmund notice another carriage has arrived and recognize it as belonging to Henry Crawford. His appearance makes Edmund excited. Fanny has no feelings about this development except that she would have felt more comfortable if Henry had not been there.
During dinner, Fanny wonders if Henry's feelings about Maria and Julia remain, but...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
Henry makes a statement to his sister, Mary, that his main focus for the duration of his stay at Mansfield Park is to make Fanny fall in love with him.
Mary is thrown off guard by Henry's bold assertion. Henry should be pursuing Julia Bertram, not Fanny. The only reason Henry is interested in Fanny at all, Mary tells him, is because Fanny is the only young female left at Mansfield Park.
Henry disagrees. Fanny, he says, is the only woman he has ever met whom he cannot quite figure out. He cannot tell what she is thinking or why she uses certain facial expressions that are impossible for him to interpret. The other attraction that Fanny holds for Henry is that she seems not to like him. This is a unique experience for Henry, who has never had a woman rebuke him.
Mary agrees that Fanny has merit, but she thinks that Henry has been taken in by the new manner of dress that Fanny has recently adopted. Her dresses are more fanciful than before, making her look more attractive.
Henry ignores his sister and continues to explain what he desires from Fanny. He is going to do his best to encourage Fanny to think as he thinks, to win her attraction by focusing his attention on her and flattering her. In other words, Henry plans to seduce and conquer her.
Mary's last remark to her brother is in Fanny's defense. She warns him that Fanny is one of the most sensitive young women she has ever met. Fanny is very good-hearted and has very deep emotions. Mary tells Henry not to play with Fanny in any way that might hurt her.
Henry begins his scheme by paying homage to Fanny in many flattering ways, spending time with her, and showing her that his interests are genuine. Fanny begins to drop her defenses against Henry and starts to enjoy his company. Fanny, however, becomes distracted after receiving a letter from her brother William, who has been at sea for seven years. William is returning to England. Upon hearing this news, Sir Thomas writes a letter to William and invites him to come to stay at Mansfield Park.
Fanny becomes engrossed in William upon his arrival. They spend long hours walking together and enjoying the kind of deep relationship that can develop only between siblings. Both Henry and Edmund notice the change in Fanny. With William, Fanny breaks the chains that have imprisoned her mind. She speaks freely with her brother, expressing all of her hidden emotions. The...
(The entire section is 511 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
Sir Thomas relents and accepts an invitation to dinner at Dr. and Mrs. Grant's parsonage. Previously, Sir Thomas had been too distracted by his dwindling finances to consider social gatherings. Because his business affairs in Antigua have become more stable after his visit there, Sir Thomas has more time to think of social interactions.
At the Grants' home, Henry has insisted on sitting next to Fanny and continues to lavish most of his attention on her. This is not missed by Edmund nor by Sir Thomas, who has become aware of Henry as a potential suitor for his niece.
After dinner, the group sits down to play cards. As Henry advises both Lady Bertram and Fanny on which cards to play to their advantage, he tells a story about his most recent horse ride. While he was hunting, his horse had thrown a shoe, so he had to walk his horse home. On taking a different route, he came across a village he had never seen before. He decided that it must be Thornton Lacey, an almost deserted cluster of small houses and a vacant parsonage. Henry had suspected, and was rightly informed, that Thornton Lacey was the church Edmund would head once he had taken his orders.
Thornton Lacey, Henry reports, has a nice parsonage, but it needs a lot of work. Henry provides many details about how he would rearrange the landscape and the parsonage to make it look more elegant. The house itself had the potential of being refurbished and taking on the appearance of a mansion.
After listening to Henry continue to describe how he would transform the place, Edmund interrupts him. Edmund prefers much less ornamentation than Henry suggests and rejects much of what Henry has planned. Henry insists that the parsonage deserves a renovation, which would then make the house fit for a gentleman. Henry also suggests that he might like to live in Thornton Lacey. It would be close enough to Mansfield Park for him to keep his acquaintances with the Bertrams while giving him room to expand on his own.
The conversation then is taken over by William, who asks Fanny if she has ever danced or gone to a ball. He would like to see his sister dance and would enjoy being her partner. William informs her that when he has gone to military balls, he is most often left alone. The women, though he knows many of them, prefer dancing with officers.
Fanny attempts to cheer up William, telling him that he will have many opportunities, for one...
(The entire section is 482 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
After overhearing William talk about dancing and asking if Fanny had ever been to a ball, Sir Thomas puts a lot of thought into seeing Fanny dance for himself. He decides that she deserves to attend a ball. But where was a ball to be held? William would be leaving soon, so arrangements would have to be made before his departure. Sir Thomas quickly decides to assemble a ball at Mansfield Park.
After mild complaints by Mrs. Norris, who disagrees with having a ball at Mansfield Park without the Bertram girls, the invitations are sent. Mrs. Norris soon reverses her position and decides to claim the honor of seeing to all the arrangements. This would keep her busy, and in the end, she could take all the credit for the event.
Edmund is the only one in the household who does not become distracted by the excitement. He has other things on his mind. First, he will soon be ordained. Because his ordainment has already been arranged, he does not have to spend much time or effort in contemplating this great even in his life. There are other matters, however, that he has to consider carefully: he must chose a wife.
Edmund has grown uncertain of Mary Crawford. His affections for her have not changed, but he is now not certain whether Miss Crawford would accept his marriage proposal. He knows that their personalities differ and that Miss Crawford's emphasis on social status and wealth do not match his. The important question to him, however, is this: does Miss Crawford love him? Sometimes, such as when he heard Mary tell her sister, Mrs. Grant, that she does not want to leave Mansfield Park, Edmund thinks that he is the reason Mary wants to stay. Confusingly, Mary also makes comments that lead Edmund to the conclusion that she has no feelings for him at all.
Fanny, on the other hand, has little more to think about than the dress she will wear to the ball. She has little idea of what is appropriate, as well as few dresses from which to chose. She is sure that she will wear a special small cross—a gift from William—as her only adornment. The only problem is that she has no necklace on which to hang the ornament. She has worn the cross once, but she had used a ribbon. Where would she find a pretty chain?
Fanny walks to the parsonage to consult with Mary about a dress. On the way, she meets Mary, who has come to fetch her. While they talk about dresses, Mary reveals a small package that contains...
(The entire section is 475 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
Edmund is waiting in Fanny's special room when she returns home. Fanny is surprised to find him sitting at her writing desk, pen in hand. Edmund tells Fanny that he was writing a letter to her. He stands and gives her a small package and tells her to open it. Inside, Fanny finds a gold chain.
It is for her cross, Edmund says. At first Fanny does not know what to do. Mary had just given her the other gold chain, the one that Henry had bought for his sister. Fanny would much rather wear Edmund's chain. Her feelings for him are so much stronger than for Mary or Henry. She tells Edmund the story of how she acquired the other chain. Then she says she must give the other chain back to Mary, but Edmund will not hear of it. Edmund insists that if Fanny were to do this, it would seem she were ungrateful. Edmund does not want Mary to be upset or hurt. He admits he is touched by Mary's act of giving, and it softens his recent concern about Mary's lack of feelings. She is perhaps more affectionate as well as more empathetic than he had thought.
When Edmund expresses his feelings for Mary, Fanny silently questions if Mary deserves such a good man. Edmund tells Fanny that he is so fortunate to have two such good women to love. This declaration makes Fanny feel uncomfortable. She does not want to share him in this way.
Later, Henry Crawford seeks out William to tell him that the following day he will be traveling to London. He asks William to join him. Henry enjoys William's company, but he is also well aware that making friends with Fanny's brother will draw her closer to him. William is excited about the prospect of going with Henry.
When Sir Thomas hears that the two men will be traveling together and spending the night at Henry's uncle's home, he is thankful for William's sake. Henry's uncle is an admiral in the navy. The opportunity of meeting this powerful man should make for a good opportunity for William's advancement.
Edmund goes to the parsonage to find Mary. He wants to secure two dances with her before the ball. Mary accepts, but Edmund later tells Fanny that Mary has confused him. While Mary agreed to dance with him, she had added that it would be the last time she would dance with him. She said she would never dance with a clergyman.
Though Mary often says mean things to him, Edmund continues to make excuses for her. Edmund thinks that she is a good person at...
(The entire section is 537 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
Fanny comes downstairs, dressed for the ball. Sir Thomas comments on how pretty she looks but does not press the subject until Fanny leaves the room. After she is gone, he continues to talk of Fanny to his wife and Mrs. Norris. It is obvious that Sir Thomas is very proud of how well Fanny has grown up.
Mrs. Norris takes the opportunity to give herself and Sir Thomas credit for everything about Fanny that is positive. Fanny's beauty and fine manner are due to the advantage that Mrs. Norris and Sir Thomas have provided, she says.
As Fanny walks out of the room, she meets Edmund, who insists that she save two dances for him. As guests arrive, Fanny is thus in a good mood. However, she has been given no preparation for all the attention she is about to receive. Sir Thomas takes special effort to introduce her to everyone at the ball. This embarrasses Fanny because she is not used to being so visible. In between the introductions, she watches her brother William and wishes she were with him. Another distraction is provided by her observations of Edmund and Mary Crawford. Fanny attempts to interpret any further development in their relationship.
When Henry Crawford arrives, he seeks out Fanny and asks to be her partner for the first dance. Fanny is not aware of the significance of the first dance until Sir Thomas informs her that she and Henry are to lead the way in opening the ball. Fanny does not comprehend why she has this honor. She had assumed that Edmund, being the son of Sir Thomas, would open the dancing. Fanny tries to argue with Sir Thomas. Opening the ball would make her feel out of place, she tells him. However, Sir Thomas insists.
As she and Henry dance, Fanny thinks about Maria and Julia. They had always wanted a ball at Mansfield Park. And yet here she is enjoying all the pleasures. She hopes the Bertram sisters, once they hear of the dance, will not be jealous.
When it is time for Edmund to dance with Fanny, he tells her he is grateful to be with her. He has become tired from talking so much all night. In contrast to every other partner, Edmund knows he can dance with Fanny in complete silence and only she would understand his need. Their silence, when observed by others, assures everyone that Fanny and Sir Thomas's son have no attraction for one another.
Bystanders also notice Henry Crawford's attention to Fanny. By the end of the night, even Sir Thomas concludes...
(The entire section is 448 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary
Mansfield Park is very quiet the day after the ball. William and Henry have left for the city, and Edmund is visiting friends. The absence of her brother makes Fanny sad. She berates herself for not having spent more time with William while he was there. When she reflects on his visit, she finds missed opportunities to be with him that she should have taken better advantage of. As she sits in the drawing room with Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, she compares how much brighter the room had seemed the night before at the height of the excitement of the ball.
By the second day, Fanny begins to adjust to the return of a normal routine. She listens to Sir Thomas talk about William and is delighted when he compliments her brother for his character. Sir Thomas is sure that William will soon be promoted and that he will visit Mansfield Park much more frequently now.
It does not lighten her heart, however, when Sir Thomas mentions that Edmund will soon be gone forever. Edmund's career in the clergy will demand all his time. Sir Thomas warns that the family must learn to adjust to Edmund's absence.
When Fanny is gone from the room, Sir Thomas talks about her to his wife. He tells her how impressed he is with Fanny and suggests that they should praise her more frequently to her face. Lady Bertram tells her husband that although she must get used to having her other children gone, she is thankful that Fanny will always be there. Sir Thomas chides his wife at this remark, telling her not to be so sure about always having Fanny around. He warns that Fanny, too, will one day be married. Lady Bertram cannot bear this thought. She has no idea what she would do without Fanny there to aid her.
Mary Crawford has been confined to the parsonage and has spent too much time alone. The winter weather has also kept her trapped inside the house. Her misery mounts, and one morning she can no longer bear not having someone near her age to talk to. She thus walks over to Mansfield Park to find Fanny.
Mary wants to know what Edmund wrote in his letter. Fanny tells her she heard little of it, as the letter was addressed to Sir Thomas. All Fanny knows is that Edmund will be delayed, his friend having asked him to extend his visit. Mary then asks about Edmund's friend. She has heard that Edmund's friend has three sisters. Mary wonders if any of the three women might be the reason Edmund is staying over. Mary cannot...
(The entire section is 478 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary
Mary is delighted when her brother Henry returns to Mansfield Park. She hopes to find out the reason he had left. Before she can get an answer, Henry excuses himself from her company and goes to visit the Bertrams. When he is gone more than an hour, Mary is astonished. What could he be doing there?
Henry does not keep Mary waiting too long for an answer. Upon returning to the parsonage, Henry has nothing to do but talk of Fanny. He describes how beautiful Fanny is looking and finally confesses to Mary that he is determined to marry Fanny.
At first, Mary is bewildered. The thought of her brother marrying Fanny had never crossed her mind. She had known that he was attracted to Fanny, and she had warned him not to hurt Fanny with his usual flirtatious games, but she did not think his feelings for Fanny would extend to a proposal of marriage. Fanny, though beautiful and demure, was beneath him. It did not take long, though, for Mary to come to accept Fanny as a potential sister-in-law. Henry's connection to the Bertrams would only help to make her prospects of marrying Edmund much stronger.
Henry continues to talk only of Fanny and about how much he wants her. He does admit that so far Fanny has shown no sign that she will accept him. Mary thinks this foolish. How could Fanny resist? What an honor it would be for Fanny to marry Henry. What amazing luck Fanny has had throughout her life, first to be taken in by the Bertrams and now to become a part of the Crawford family.
Mary finally makes a connection between Henry's love of Fanny and his visit to London. She insists that Henry went to the city to tell their uncle, the admiral, of his pending engagement. Henry denies this, saying that the admiral would be one of the last people to know. Their uncle is against marriage, seeing it as the ruin of any man. But Henry refuses to tell Mary his reason for the trip. She will have to wait, he tells her.
Mary is content. The news of Henry's love for Fanny is enough for her. Although she would not have chosen Fanny as Henry's wife, the more she considers it, the better the match appears. She tells her brother that Fanny will not marry him unless she loves him. But all he has to do, because Fanny has such a tender heart, is to ask her to love him. Fanny will not be able to resist.
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Chapter 31 Summary
The next morning, Henry wastes no time in going to the Bertrams’ residence even though it is too early by social standards. He has important news to convey. He has three letters in his hand and gives them to Fanny.
The first letter is from Henry’s uncle, the admiral, telling him that Fanny’s brother William has been promoted to lieutenant. The other two letters are copies of correspondence between Henry’s uncle and other officials, demonstrating how William’s promotion had been processed. As Fanny reads the letters, Henry tells her that the only reason for his having visited London was to further William’s promotion. He adds that he stayed away from her only as long as he could stand. He had wanted to wait until he received the confirmation of William’s advancement before he left but the extra time was unbearable. Henry opens his heart to Fanny and asks her to marry him.
The two elements, the news about her brother and Henry’s proposal, are too much for Fanny to digest. Her emotions rock her first in the direction of happiness and then to disgust. She cannot fathom why Henry would be proposing to her because she has given him no encouragement in the past. If anything, she has only demonstrated that she did not like him. Because of this, she disbelieves Henry is being honest. Although she feels infinitely obliged to Henry for his part in obtaining William’s new rank, she is distressed about his outpouring of emotions for her. She rejects him and leaves the room.
Later that evening, when she is sure Henry has left, Fanny goes downstairs only to discover that Sir Thomas has invited Henry to dinner. When Henry appears at suppertime, he hands Fanny a note. It is from his sister Mary. To encourage Fanny to accept Henry’s proposal, Mary assures Fanny that she completely endorses the marriage. Again Fanny is confused. She cannot understand how Mary, who is so concerned about social status, would want Fanny as a sister-in-law.
Fanny can hardly eat. Henry believes she has lost her appetite because she is overwhelmed with joy. This is not the case. Fanny has never been so agitated in her life, torn between her desire to be profusely happy for her brother and at the same time feeling appalled by Henry's forward announcement of his feelings for her.
Before Henry leaves, he asks Fanny if she has a reply for his sister. Fanny rushes to a writing table, though she has no idea how to...
(The entire section is 488 words.)
Chapter 32 Summary
Sir Thomas comes to Fannie’s room. The first thing he notices is that Fanny’s room is without a fire, though there is snow on the ground outside. When he asks why this is so, Fanny tells him there has never been one since she has been there. Sir Thomas cannot believe this to be true. Certainly it is an oversight. When Fanny insinuates that it has been Mrs. Norris’s doing, Sir Thomas stops her. He defends Mrs. Norris, stating that he knows she is harsh but that it has all been for Fanny’s benefit. Mrs. Norris’s intent has always been to best prepare Fanny for the world.
After this brief discussion, Sir Thomas tells Fanny that Henry Crawford has asked for Fanny’s hand in marriage. He thinks he is delivering wonderful news to his niece, so Sir Thomas is completely caught off guard when Fanny tells him she must refuse Mr. Crawford’s offer.
Sir Thomas insists on knowing why. Here is a young man who could offer Fanny more than she could have dreamed of. Mr. Crawford is financially secure and of the best manners, Sir Thomas reminds Fanny. Because Fanny cannot fully disclose her reasons for not wanting to marry Henry, she gives vague answers that reflect poorly on herself. Sir Thomas concludes that Fanny is acting very foolishly, that she is being very selfish. She is not thinking about the benefit her marriage would bring to her family.
Fanny cannot, of course, tell her uncle she is in love with Edmund, neither can she relate to him the behavior Henry has exhibited with Maria and Julia. Because Sir Thomas has not witnessed the suggestive conversations in which Henry took a leading role and has not seen how Henry behaved around Sir Thomas’s betrothed daughter, Fanny has no recourse but to endure her uncle’s low opinion of her. All that Fanny can say is that she does not like Henry.
Before leaving Fanny’s room, Sir Thomas confesses that his concept of her has completely changed. What he sees now is that she is willful and full of self-conceit and ingratitude. Fanny is heart-broken. Sir Thomas, since his return, had been so kind to her. Now she has lost his respect. When she mutters, “I’m sorry,” Sir Thomas says he certainly hopes so.
Sir Thomas then insists that Fanny come downstairs with him and express her refusal to Henry. Sir Thomas says that Henry deserves to hear it directly from her. Fanny is so forlorn she cannot stop crying, so Sir Thomas relents.
(The entire section is 532 words.)
Chapter 33 Summary
Fanny and Henry meet several times, and their conversations continue on the same matter. Henry insists that he loves Fanny, while Fanny insists she cannot and should not ever love him. Henry does not take her seriously and assumes that Fanny has no understanding of her own feelings. He thinks that his sudden proposal has merely shocked her into a state of confusion. He cannot imagine that the does not love him. Even if she does not love him, she at least should feel gratitude toward him for securing the promotion for her brother. He has never had any challenge in wooing other women, and does not understand why Fanny should give him so much trouble.
Although Fanny does not give in, her nature is so agreeable and gentle that Henry cannot believe it when she insists she does not love him. He will pursue her until she finally accepts him. But Fanny tells him they are not suited. Their backgrounds are so different; he is educated and a gentleman. None of this changes Henry’s mind. He loves her more each day. Her refusal only raises the temperature of his desire.
Sir Thomas, though he has told Fanny he would not bring up the topic again, feels he must approach her one more time. He is still very confused about why Fanny refuses Henry’s offer. He has hope for Henry. The young man is definitely persistent. Sir Thomas wants to know why Fanny does not admire Henry’s constancy and perseverance. He thinks Henry is an extraordinary man. Fanny might go another eighteen years and never come across another man like Henry. In an attempt to temper Sir Thomas’s feelings, Fanny suggests that she does not feel deserving of Henry.
Sir Thomas finally ends his conversation with Fanny by saying he will never force her to marry any man against her will. He had hoped the subject would not have to be spoken of again. However, he knows he must tell the members of his family because Henry is not one to keep his endeavors to himself. Mrs. Norris’s reaction is that of anger; she is not so angry that Fanny has refused Henry’s proposal but rather that she had been given it in the first place. Mrs. Norris believes Henry should have asked Julia.
Lady Bertram takes the news in a different manner. The idea of Henry Crawford asking Fanny to marry him raises Fanny in Lady Bertram’s estimation. It also elevates her concept of the whole Bertram family. “We certainly are a handsome family,” she tells Fanny. To prove her new...
(The entire section is 459 words.)
Chapter 34 Summary
Edmund returns to Mansfield Park. Upon his arrival, he meets Mary and Henry. To his surprise, Mary is extremely cordial to him, which pleases him more than he could have imagined. He had stayed away, had extended his visit, in order to come home and find Mary gone. When last they had been together, they had not enjoyed one another's company. Edmund thought this meant that their relationship was over, but now his hopes are renewed.
When Edmund has time to talk to his family, he is overjoyed to hear that Fanny’s brother William has been appointed a lieutenant. But when his father tells him about Fanny and her rejection of Henry Crawford’s proposal of marriage, Edmund experiences another type of surprise. He does not understand how Fanny could have refused. Edmund tries to interpret the reason for Fanny’s decision. Maybe, he thinks, Henry has progressed too quickly. Fanny is a very thoughtful woman. Possibly she needs more time to consider Henry’s intentions. There is a chance that Fanny merely needs to get to know Henry better.
The Bertrams invite Henry to dinner. While the family is eating, Edmund observes Henry and the attention he pays to Fanny. Although Edmund believes Fanny is worthy of Henry’s persistence, Edmund does not know where Henry finds his patience. If it were he, Edmund, who were pursuing Fanny and had to endure Fanny’s determination to resist, Edmund thinks he would surely give up. But Henry does not. Edmund thinks Henry’s constancy might, in the end, win Fanny’s hand.
After dinner, Edmund and Henry join Lady Bertram and Fanny, who are reading Shakespeare. When the gentlemen enter the room, Fanny stops reading. When Henry discovers this, he picks up the book and recites from one of Shakespeare’s plays. Almost against her will, Fanny is drawn in. Henry is very gifted in his delivery and expresses each character’s lines as if he were on stage. Edmund watches as Fanny’s attitude changes from indifference and annoyance to one of pure interest. But when Henry is finished reading, Fanny withdraws again. Henry attempts to pull her attention back to him, but he fails.
Edmund engages Henry in a discussion about the gift of dramatic elocution. Edmund says he could use some coaching from Henry in preparation for delivering sermons when he is installed in a parish church. Henry states that he had, from time to time, often wanted to give sermons, but his would have to be in a...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Chapter 35 Summary
Edmund insists that Fanny walk with him around the grounds of Mansfield Park so that they can talk. He begins by telling her that he would never suggest that she marry for anything less than love. This lightens Fanny’s heart. She had been thinking Edmund was as disappointed in her as Sir Thomas is, but Edmund is not content to leave the subject of Henry alone. He talks of Henry’s merits and believes that in time Fanny will see them too. Fanny insists that no matter what Henry does, he will never win her heart.
At this, Edmund is a little saddened. He says she does not sound like the Fanny he once knew. She sounds irrational, whereas the Fanny he knows is open minded and clear thinking. Edmund says if he had been home sooner, he would have advised Henry on how to approach Fanny. Henry should not have admitted his feelings so abruptly. Edmund knows that Fanny is not impressed with novelty. She is more comfortable with habit.
Fanny insists that no matter how he had confronted her, he and she would never get along together. They are so different. They would never be happy. She would be miserable if she married him.
Edmund disagrees. From his point of view, both Fanny and Henry are warm hearted. They both love literature, as was proven the previous night while Henry was reading Shakespeare and Fanny was enthralled. Although Fanny is more serious than Henry is, Edmund advises her that Henry’s cheerfulness will lift her spirits. Some opposition in a marriage is good, Edmund says. When he says this, Fanny wonders if Edmund is also thinking of his relationship with Mary.
Fanny refers to the days when the group was rehearsing to put on the play while Sir Thomas was still in Antigua. She reminds Edmund how objectionable Henry was acting. He was very insulting of Mr. Rushworth and acted completely unconcerned with his feelings.
Henry tells her not to remind him of those days. Everyone was wrong. He includes himself as well as his sisters in this statement. Those times, Edmund says, were not a good reflection of people’s characters. Then Edmund adds that although Henry appeared frivolous and unconcerned back then, his love of Fanny has greatly improved him. Edmund then excuses both Henry’s and Mary’s character flaws by referring to their incompetent upbringings.
Edmund concludes their conversation by talking of his previous night’s discussion with the Crawfords and the...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
Chapter 36 Summary
The day before Henry and Mary Crawford are to leave Mansfield Park to travel to London, Mary stops by to talk to Fanny. When they are alone, Fanny fears the scolding she anticipates from Mary. The two young women enter the East Room, where a fire has kept the room warm. Once Fanny opens the door, Mary recalls the only other time she has been in this room.
She asks if Fanny remembers the day they had come here to rehearse for the play they were planning. Mary had wanted to read her lines with Fanny reciting the role opposite her. Then Edmund appeared in the room. This was a time, Mary recalls, when her relationship with Edmund was just budding and there were no arguments between them. They were to act the roles of two lovers. The scene they rehearsed was an announcement of their love and their plans to marry. The memories of those moments makes Mary nostalgic, and she wishes she could return to those better times.
Fanny relaxes as Mary recounts those days. Maybe she has no reason to fear Mary’s reprisals about Fanny’s refusal to accept Henry’s proposal. Mary, too, has softened her manner. Although she had meant to chide Fanny, she finds her heart has opened more fully to this young woman whom she has learned to love. But she cannot leave without telling Fanny that she thinks Fanny is making a terrible mistake. Mary tells Fanny that she wishes she were going to London with them. If Fanny were to see how adored Henry is in London, maybe she would change her mind. Fanny has no idea, Mary says, how much other women will wonder how Fanny could possibly not accept Henry. So many women would give everything they have to win Henry’s affection, and yet the only woman Henry wants is Fanny. Mary tells Fanny she is the only woman she knows who acts indifferently toward her brother.
Fanny tells Mary that she does not trust Henry. She has seen him act frivolously around women and sport with their feelings, not caring how much he might hurt them. Mary confesses that her brother has been at fault in that regard, but it is his only fault. Now he is truly in love with Fanny, and she knows her brother will always be so. His attraction to Fanny is stronger than any she has ever seen. Mary reminds Fanny of Henry’s having procured William’s promotion. That was a sign of his love for her.
Fanny is very grateful for what Henry did. She knows that he must have worked hard at it and that he had to confront his...
(The entire section is 486 words.)
Chapter 37 Summary
Fanny’s brother William comes for a visit to Mansfield Park. It is the first time he has seen his sister since his promotion. He longs to wear his uniform to show it off, but unfortunately, according to navy regulations, this is disallowed because he will be off duty. William suggests that he take Fanny back to Portsmouth, the town where they were born, to visit their family. There he can speak to her more openly and describe all his feelings about his new rank.
Sir Thomas, who has still been scheming to make Fanny see the worth of Henry Crawford’s proposal, agrees with William’s plan. If Fanny were to spend two months at her family’s abode, she might reconcile her thoughts. She would be forced to live in the squalor of poverty and might, therefore, more appreciate the comforts of the wealth Henry is promising her. Henry might appear more appealing to Fanny, and she might change her mind about him.
Fanny’s mind, however, is on other things. She is delighted to be going home. There she will be able to relax and feel like she is on equal footing with those around her. She will be able to express all her thoughts and put no restraints on her affections.
Sir Thomas’s only concern about his niece’s leaving is that his wife might miss Fanny. Lady Bertram worries about this too. However, Mrs. Norris assures them that she will be available. Mrs. Norris enjoys being needed, and with Fanny gone, Lady Bertram will surely lean on her to make up for the girl’s absence. Then Mrs. Norris has a change of mind. It has been twenty years since she has seen her sister, Fanny’s mother. Maybe she should travel with Fanny and William. The young adults might need a chaperone. Her sister might be truly happy to see her.
The thought of Mrs. Norris going with them makes William and Fanny cringe. They both dislike their aunt and her haughty airs. They are relieved when Mrs. Norris again changes her mind. Of course, she must stay to care for Lady Bertram, she declares. She does not admit that what really keeps her from leaving is the understanding that though she might have traveled to Portsmouth for free, she would have to pay for her passage back to Mansfield Park.
With Fanny going, Edmund must also change his plans. He was to go to London to pursue Mary Crawford and win her hand. But with Fanny leaving, he, too, feels added responsibility at home. He will postpone asking Mary to be his wife....
(The entire section is 493 words.)
Chapter 38 Summary
Fanny enjoys the long traveling hours she spends with William. Without any of the adults of Mansfield Park with them, they relate stories to one another without censorship.
During a quiet moment, Fanny thinks about Edmund. She recalls letters she received from Mary before she left. Mary’s writing was often interspersed with notes from Henry, which made Fanny feel uncomfortable. Another discomfort came from Mary’s comments about how much she missed Mansfield Park and the people who lived there, which made Fanny feel obliged to read aloud all of Mary’s letters to Edmund. Fanny hopes Mary’s correspondence will cease now that she is gone. She suspects that Mary only wrote to her so that Fanny would relay her sentiments to Edmund.
Upon arriving in Portsmouth, one of Fanny’s younger brothers runs out of the family house to tell William that his ship has already docked there. Someone in uniform had come looking for William. This is disappointing news for William. It signals that he must leave sooner than he expected. He had wanted to spend more time with his family and especially with Fanny.
As they walk into the house, Fanny is surprised at the small size of the rooms. She suspects one room is a hallway until she does not see a second door. She sits down in the tiny space and watches and listens to her very noisy and rambunctious family.
Mrs. Price asks no questions of Fanny about the family at Mansfield Park nor of any of Fanny’s experiences there. Her mother’s attention is entirely focused on all the other children gathered around her. Mrs. Price orders the girls to bring food and then complains that she has not bought enough groceries.
When Fanny’s father comes in, he is more excited about seeing William. Fanny acknowledges that whereas William had remained at home until he was old enough to enter the navy, she left the home as a young child. She was not there when several of her younger brothers were born, so she could not expect them to remember her, but she is pained by her mother’s and her father’s lack of interest in her. William attempts several times to bring his parent’s attention back to Fanny, but each time he fails.
William goes to the back and puts on his uniform. When he comes out, Fanny is flushed with emotion. She is so proud to see him dressed as an officer. When she hugs him, she uses the embrace as excuse to release all her other emotions...
(The entire section is 442 words.)
Chapter 39 Summary
Fanny refrains from writing letters back to Mansfield for fear of expressing too much of her sorrows. The first week in Portsmouth has ended with nothing but disappointment. William had to leave sooner than either of them had thought. There was no time left for long walks or an inspection of his ship, which he had promised.
With William gone, Fanny has no distractions from the noisy confusion that makes up her family’s home. Everything about her visit so far has failed except for the affection she felt from William. Before William left, he told his mother to look after Fanny, that she was not used to the tumult their large family causes. But William might as well have said this to the sea because no one paid his instructions any mind.
Fanny is disillusioned by her father. She finds him crude, dirty, and gross. He curses all the time, reads nothing other than news about shipping, and never turns his head Fanny’s way except when he makes a cruel joke about her.
Her mother causes Fanny even greater sadness. Of her mother’s two sisters, Fanny believes that her mother is more like Lady Bertram. Her mother is lax in her manner, which has created extremely undisciplined children and maids. In addition, after several days of observation, Fanny realizes that her mother is obviously more fond of her sons than of her daughters. William is the most respected. The younger brothers, though they are often rude and disrespectful of their mother, come next in her mother’s affections. The girls, Fanny sees, are not much more than maids. Most of her mother’s time is spent working around the house and supervising the servants rather than raising her children. Fanny concludes that if her mother had been more like Mrs. Norris, the children might have been raised better.
Fanny had thought that by coming home to Portsmouth she might forget about all the recent discomforting events at Mansfield. She might rid her mind of Henry’s attempts to make her love him. With distance from the Bertrams, she might have gained objectivity about her feelings for Edmund. She thought she would have time to bathe in the emotional security of her family, who would love her unconditionally. But just the reverse is happening. The longer she stays in Portsmouth, especially without William, the better her living conditions at Mansfield Park seem.
As days go by, she can think of nothing but returning to Mansfield Park, where...
(The entire section is 464 words.)
Chapter 40 Summary
Fanny’s misery continues. She misses her life at Mansfield Park so much that she rejoices when she receives a letter from Mary. As Fanny had presumed, Mary’s letters decreased in frequency after Fanny left Edmund’s presence. But now, after many weeks in Portsmouth, even a letter from Mary eases Fanny’s mind from the tedium and frustration of her stay with her family. Mary’s letter, more than Fanny had realized before, provides her with a sense of affection and elegance that is much absent from her family’s home.
In her letter, Mary tells of having met with Maria and Julia, who were visiting London. At the mention of Fanny’s name, Maria’s expression became very harsh, which suggests that the older Bertram sister had heard of Henry’s proposal to Fanny. Julia was not as badly affected. Maria also told Mary that she was renting a very large estate in London; Mary says that though Maria did not marry for love, at least she has money. At the close of her letter, Mary suggests that Fanny write back so her brother might have some pleasure in hearing from her.
In Portsmouth, Fanny has enjoyed no presence in the local society. When the women learn that Fanny does not play the piano as most women of social status do, they assume that she does not deserve the status her reputation and clothes provide and that Fanny must merely be putting on airs.
With no diversions available outside of her family, Fanny decides to focus on her fourteen-year-old sister, Susan, the only sibling who offers a hint of potential gracefulness. Susan behaves more pleasantly than her brothers and younger sisters do; she often spends much of her time in attempting to change the intolerant behaviors around her. In Fanny’s mind, Susan shows signs of passion and respect, though her language and manners are crude. Fanny thinks she can teach Susan some of the things she learned at Mansfield Park. She hints that Susan should follow any occasion for improvement that arises. She offers Susan ways to do things in a much wiser manner.
In this way, Fanny and Susan develop an intimacy and spend many hours together upstairs in Susan’s small bedroom. The room reminds Fanny of her tiny attic bedroom at Mansfield Park, except for the lack of furniture and books. To remedy the lack of reading materials, Fanny locates a lending library and starts to bring books home to read to her younger sister. Until this time, Susan has read...
(The entire section is 452 words.)
Chapter 41 Summary
Fanny has been in Portsmouth for almost a month when one day she hears a knock on her parents’ door. Henry Crawford has come to visit. Fanny is embarrassed that he is there—both because she does not wish Henry to see the state of her family home and because she does not want her family to meet Henry. She cannot make eye contact with Henry for the first few minutes. Fanny feels that if she does, she will surely faint.
Henry is extremely cordial with Mrs. Price; he asks about her and listens intently. Their conversation lasts long enough for Fanny to catch her breath before Henry actually looks at her. Then Henry suggests they all take a walk, hoping to find an opportunity to talk to Fanny alone. Mrs. Price cannot afford the time, so she sends Susan and Fanny out to buy some supplies.
Henry, Fanny, and Susan have not gone far when they run into Mr. Price. Fanny is ashamed of the way her father looks but is later surprised to hear her father speak civilly to Henry. There is no cursing, and Mr. Price shows great respect for Henry. Mr. Price asks if Henry would like to visit the docks. Even though Henry has been to the docks on several other occasions, he makes it sound as if this will be his first opportunity.
The two men talk while Fanny and Susan stop at several shops to make their purchases. When Fanny returns, she hears Henry explaining what he has been doing recently. He has been to Norfolk to take care of business. There had been a disagreement with some of his renters and rather than let someone else straighten out the matter, he decided to visit them so they might come to an agreeable conclusion.
Fanny is impressed. Here is a new version of Henry than the one she had known at Mansfield Park. Henry is acting like a proper businessman, one who is willing to take the time to converse with and look after the poor and the oppressed. However, as Henry continues his conversation with Fanny’s father, Henry makes a mistake in Fanny’s eyes. He says that one day he hopes to have a fine assistant who will travel with him and help him with his business. Fanny knows that Henry is once again insinuating a possible future marriage.
Before leaving, Henry finds a chance to speak to Fanny alone. He tells her he came to Portsmouth purposefully to see her. He had no other business in the town. He could no longer stand their separation. This makes Fanny uncomfortable again. She had begun to see him...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Chapter 42 Summary
The next morning as Fanny and her family are preparing to go to church, Henry shows up at their door. He is prepared to attend church with them. Although Fanny is not glad to see him, she is pleased that Henry should see her family on a Sunday: on this and only this day each week, her family is washed and dressed in their best clothes. Once outside the confines of the small house, the children are also on their best behavior.
Fanny observes her mother and again compares her to her two sisters at Mansfield Park. The years and stress have not been good to her mother. Although she resembles Lady Bertram in looks and temperament, years of childbirth and poor nutrition have worn down Fanny’s mother. The lack of money makes her mother look shabby.
After church, as they are walking through the neighborhood, Fanny suddenly feels Henry locking his arm in hers. She is embarrassed but does not pull away. As they stroll down the streets, Fanny notices that Henry is capable of not only observing nature but also commenting on it. He is not quite as eloquent or thoughtful as Edmund can be, but Fanny again notices a change in Henry.
At one point, Henry takes a good look at Fanny and is surprised that she is so pale. He asks Fanny if she is feeling well. Fanny says she is. Henry worries that the conditions in which she has been living for the past month are not good for her. He asks how much longer she will be staying in Portsmouth. Fanny tells him at least one more month or until her uncle calls for her to return. Henry knows how negligent the Bertrams can be when it comes to Fanny’s welfare. He tells her that she must write often to Mary to let him know how she is doing. He knows she cannot lie, so he tells her that in each letter she must state she is doing well. If she does not state this in her letters, he will know that she is not feeling as healthy as she should. He and Mary will then come and get her and take her back to Mansfield. Henry, as usual, makes Fanny feel uncomfortable. She does not like for him to fuss over her. Henry explains to Susan that he does so because he knows that Fanny’s health has always been somewhat frail, and she needs the country air to keep her from becoming sick.
After Henry leaves, Fanny finds her emotions are mixed. She is glad he is gone, but he has stirred memories of Mansfield Park. With him gone, her longing to be back there increases.
(The entire section is 456 words.)
Chapter 43 Summary
Fanny receives a letter from Mary, who relates Henry’s happiness in seeing Fanny. It is obvious that Henry has told his sister everything of his visit and how anxious he is to return. Mary writes that Henry might go to Portsmouth in a few days; the only thing holding him back is a party Mary is giving. She mentions other parties, such as the one given by Maria, which Mary writes was a success. Maria looked well in all her finery and was very content in her new lavish manor in London.
Mary’s letter also includes vague references to Edmund. Fanny reads the letter several times to gather the information Mary has inferred. In the end, Fanny assumes that Edmund has not yet asked for Mary’s hand. Fanny is disgusted that Mary mentions how other people in her life describe Edmund and praise him for his good looks. Fanny questions why Mary is evaluating Edmund by the impressions of others rather than by how she feels about him. She wonders why Mary does not talk about Edmund through her own feelings of him. Mary is the one who should know him best. After rereading the letter several times, Fanny is convinced that Mary will never let Edmund go.
Mary’s mentioning that Henry is returning to Portsmouth makes Fanny feel anxious. Every day she expects to receive a letter from him, but none comes. As time passes, her anxiety eases, and she returns her attention to her sister Susan. She finds that Susan has an almost unquenchable appetite for learning. Although she is not as prone to reading as Fanny is, Susan loves to hear Fanny recite stories from history. She eagerly grasps new concepts, Fanny thinks, because she does not want to appear ignorant. Susan’s favorite stories are those Fanny tells her of Mansfield Park. Susan repeatedly asks for details of people’s dress and manners. She wants to know all about the people who live there and what life is like with the Bertrams.
The closer Fanny draws to Susan, the more she dreads leaving her behind. She begins to wonder what it would be like to take her sister with her. This leads Fanny to think about marrying Henry. If she could manage to accept Henry, she knows she could talk him into taking Susan out of Portsmouth and introducing her to a more elevated style of life.
(The entire section is 405 words.)
Chapter 44 Summary
Edmund writes a long letter to Fanny. It is the first she has received from him. He apologizes for having taken so long. He explains that during all the time he was in London, he was too sad to write and share his feelings. The source of his sadness lies in Mary. Edmund says Mary is such a different person in London. She comes under the influence of her female friends who are not good for her. They corrupt her, bringing out all her weaknesses of character. Her friends are mercenary; they seek more and more wealth and do not marry for love. They lead Mary astray.
When Mary is at Mansfield Park and in Fanny’s company, she is more empathetic and loving. This is the woman Edmund loves, he tells Fanny. He could never hope to find another woman he could love so much and consider as his bride. He knows Mary has affection for him and he will not give her up. He fears if Mary is lost to him, then so would be his relationship with Henry (whom he sees in such a good light) and Fanny.
Edmund has returned to Mansfield and from there will contemplate writing a letter to Mary. The letter will allow him more time to clarify his thoughts and to express his feelings better than he can speak them. Mary will also have more time to reflect on his words in a letter. But then, a letter might also be read to Mary’s friends, and they will influence her again to go against him. He is torn as to what to do next. Mary will be returning to Mansfield Park in June, but that is such a long time to wait.
Fanny thinks Edmund is a fool who is blind to Mary’s true nature. Mary is not fond of him, as Edmund believes; Mary is only fond of herself and her brother. Fanny believes that friends do not influence Mary’s weak character but rather that Mary’s faults affect her friends. Despite all this, Fanny senses that Edmund is determined to marry this woman. Even if he never asks her or if she refuses him, Edmund will always be married to Mary in his heart.
Then Fanny thinks of Edmund’s expression of love for herself. He writes that he misses her. He is thankful for the confidences they share. He can express himself to her without worry about what she will think.
Other letters arrive from Lady Bertram. The first letters are about everyday matters. The Grants have gone on vacation. Edmund is home. The family circle has grown so small around Mansfield Park. But in the subsequent letters Fanny reads into Lady Bertram’s...
(The entire section is 525 words.)
Chapter 45 Summary
Fanny receives another letter from Lady Bertram, which tells her that Tom is getting better. The fever has broken, though he is still in bed. Lady Bertram is relieved that Tom will soon be himself again.
Fanny relaxes with this news until she receives a letter from Edmund. Although Tom’s fever has broken, the doctor worries that Tom’s lungs have suffered and may never recover. Edmund and his father are not communicating this information to Lady Bertram because they fear for her well-being. Edmund also tells Fanny that he has decided not to write to propose to Mary, and he will postpone his visit to London until Tom is stronger.
Easter has come and gone, and still Fanny has not received a letter from Sir Thomas giving her a date for her departure from Portsmouth. She longs to go back to Mansfield Park. Spring has come, and yet she cannot truly see it in the city. In the country she is so attuned to the changes in nature that it makes her spirits rise. It makes her sad that she cannot go back immediately. It has been almost three months since she was there. She is careful not to let her parents know how much she wants to leave. However, sometimes when she is talking to them, she refers to Mansfield not as the place she has been residing but as her home.
Even though she cannot return until she is invited, Fanny wonders why Maria and Julia do not go home. She also questions Mary’s intentions. Should not Mary be concerned about the Bertrams? Then she receives a letter from Mary. Mary asks Fanny to provide details about Tom’s health. She writes that at first she thought it was merely Tom’s way of getting attention, that he might be only slightly indisposed; he might be exaggerating his illness. But rumors about the severity of his sickness had begun to circulate, and Mary has become concerned for Tom’s life. If Tom should die, Mary worries that though Edmund would inherit all the money and land, this burden would sadden Edmund. Mary adds that even though it would be difficult, Edmund probably would be the better master of the land.
Also included in Mary’s letter is the information that Henry has been visiting with Maria while Mr. Rushworth is away. This news, as well as Mary’s other insinuations, disgust Fanny. She translates what Mary is really saying and concludes that Mary will adjust her style of life and forgive Edmund for being a clergyman because he now will have considerable wealth...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Chapter 46 Summary
Fanny anticipates a letter from Mary. Fanny refused Mary’s offer of taking her back to Mansfield Park but hopes Mary will have sought Sir Thomas’s consent to do so. When the letter arrives, there is no such message. Instead, Mary mysteriously tells Fanny that the rumors about Henry should be disregarded. Henry is blameless. She is not to believe anything she hears because all will eventually be proven wrong.
No rumors had reached Fanny, so she is confused by Mary’s letter. Mary had mentioned Maria’s name and written something about the Rushworths having gone to Mansfield Park. Fanny cannot figure out what about those three people would make her worry. She cared little about Maria and Mr. Rushworth, and her sentiments about Henry are well known.
When Fanny’s father comes home, Fanny learns more. She is sitting in the parlor with her parents, looking about at the shabbiness of the house and the dirty dishes on the table, bemoaning the fact that she is confined to such a place, when her father grunts. He asks the names of Fanny’s cousins and where they live, and then he shows her a story in the newspaper. A Mrs. R., the story relates, has left her husband and run away with a Mr. C. There is enough information given in the rest of the news that Fanny immediately realizes that the author is referring to Maria and Henry. This is what Mary had been trying to tell her. Despite the warning, Fanny is shocked. Here is the man she had recently been considering marrying. Although she senses the truth of the story, she instantly tells her family it must be a mistake. The newspaper must be referring to some other people.
Fanny is not able to sleep that night. Her nerves are agitated for several days until she receives a letter from Edmund. He is in London. He has come to find his sister, but Maria and Henry cannot be traced. In addition, Julia has run away with Mr. Yates, who visited Mansfield Park while they were rehearsing the play. They have gone to Scotland.
Sir Thomas is in great distress because of both his daughters’ actions. He has requested that Edmund ride into Portsmouth and bring Fanny home. Sir Thomas has also invited Fanny’s sister Susan to accompany them. Edmund will pick them up the next day.
Torn between her excitement at finally leaving Portsmouth and the shame and disappointment for her relatives, Fanny packs her clothes and passes another night without sleep. She...
(The entire section is 503 words.)
Chapter 47 Summary
Everyone at Mansfield Park is distracted by the recent events, and no one is more distracted than is Mrs. Norris. Maria had been her favorite child; she had encouraged Maria’s marriage to Mr. Rushworth. With Maria’s recent disgrace, Mrs. Norris finds her authority at Mansfield Park has been diminished. With the return of Fanny and her sister, whom Lady Bertram warmly welcomes, Mrs. Norris feels as if she has been pushed out of the home.
With Fanny’s attention devoted to Lady Bertram, Susan is left to adjust to her new surroundings on her own. She uses the time to familiarize herself with the house and the grounds. She is thankful to have this time to herself because she must work to rid herself of the more vulgar mannerisms with which she was raised.
Fanny’s main goal, upon her arrival, is to ease the misery Lady Bertram must be feeling. Although Lady Bertram’s mind often returns to the thoughts of disgrace that her daughters have caused the family or to Tom, whose health has deteriorated with the news of his sisters, Fanny talks of subjects that remove Lady Bertram from further distress. In the course of their conversations, though, Fanny learns more details of what had happened.
When Mr. Rushworth went to visit his mother, Maria chose to visit friends. Henry had gone to the same town, and he visited Maria on several occasions. When the Rushworths returned to London, Mr. Rushworth was much agitated by rumors from his servants. A friend of Sir Thomas’s had written, expressing his concern for the family’s name, so Sir Thomas took Edmund with him to London in the hopes of finding Maria and talking sense with her. Either Maria should make amends with her husband or marry Henry to save her name. But Maria could not be found.
A few days after her return to Mansfield Park, Fanny listens to Edmund’s tale of what occurred in London. He went to visit Mary and was shocked by her lofty airs. Mary’s version of the events were colored by blaming everyone but her brother. First Mary blamed Maria, insinuating that Maria lured Henry to her side. Then Mary blamed Fanny. Had Fanny accepted Henry, he would not have been so easily swayed. Mary did not see Henry’s actions as wrong; rather, she thought the problem was that what had been done had been detected. Before he left London, Edmund told Mary there was no longer anything between them. After he stated his feelings, Mary responded that what Edmund...
(The entire section is 572 words.)
Chapter 48 Summary
The final chapter sums up the consequences of the characters’ actions throughout the story.
Sir Thomas laments that he has not properly raised his children, particularly Tom, Maria, and Julia. He allowed Mrs. Norris too much influence with his offspring. She spoiled them and made them think more of themselves than other people.
Since his suffering through a fever and illness, Tom has come to new understandings about life. Prior to his ill health, he lived frivolously. Since his physical struggles, his thinking has become clearer, and he is more helpful and useful to his father.
Sir Thomas hopes Julia still has a chance. This might be a result of Mrs. Norris’s favoritism toward Maria; Julia felt second best. It has made Julia more humble. She repents for having hurt her father by eloping and disregarding his authority. She makes amends with Sir Thomas and returns home. Sir Thomas accepts her and Mr. Yates, the man she has married. Yates would not have been Sir Thomas’s choice for his daughter, but he has more merits than Sir Thomas had first thought.
Sir Thomas cannot bring himself to forgive Maria. He blames himself and especially Mrs. Norris for Maria’s failure to consider anyone else’s feelings but her own. She is a highly passionate woman, Sir Thomas concludes, and should have been better disciplined. Maria cannot be talked out of living with Henry for several months following their affair. Maria hopes to persuade Henry to marry her. Finally, when she realizes the folly of her wishes, she leaves him. Although Mrs. Norris implores Sir Thomas, he will not take Maria back. So Mrs. Norris quits Mansfield Park and moves to another part of the country, taking Maria to live with her.
Henry Crawford is not greatly harmed. Neither his business nor his reputation is affected by his scandalous behavior, although his heart does not bear up so well. Too late he realizes how good Fanny had been for him. He will never find another woman to match Fanny’s merit.
Edmund is the only child who does not disappoint Sir Thomas. With Fanny’s help, Edmund becomes less depressed, his spirit lightening with every day. Edmund is heading for the post at Thornton Lacey, a parish not far from Mansfield Park. Before he goes, he realizes that he has never met a more genuine woman with honest feelings and thoughts than Fanny. He asks her to marry him. Sir Thomas could not have been happier to...
(The entire section is 512 words.)