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 her. Fanny maintains her position in the background of the family affairs.