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.
Before William and Fanny leave, Edmund promises Fanny that he will write to her. This makes Fanny very happy. She envisions that their relationship might grow stronger and more intimate through the correspondence. However, when Edmund embraces her before she steps into the carriage, she realizes his hug is all too brotherly.