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 no one ever raises their voice, there are no acts of violence, and everyone’s feelings are consulted. In contrast, her family’s home is constantly cluttered and confused and endures ceaseless mayhem. Although Mansfield Park had caused her some pain, Portsmouth holds no pleasure.