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 plays opposite her. If he allows a stranger to take the role, Mary will be compromised. And he wants Fanny's approval of his actions.
Fanny disagrees with Edmund, which makes Edmund think that Fanny does not have enough empathy for Mary.