Mansfield Park: Novel summary: Chapter 31 - 36
Summary – Chapter Thirty One, Chapter Thirty Two and Chapter Thirty Three
Mr Crawford has the chance to speak alone with Fanny the next day and says how William has been made a Lieutenant. He gives her the letters that announce it and she is speechless. The first letter is from his uncle (the Admiral) and this informs Mr Crawford he has succeeded in his object of gaining promotion for ‘young Price’. This has been gained through the Admiral’s influence.
Fanny is ‘stupefied’ to learn of the part Mr Crawford has played in this. In her excitement, she wants to tell Sir Thomas, but Mr Crawford leads her back to her seat as he does not want to lose this opportunity of having her alone with him. She is distressed when she learns he has done this for her as he offers himself to her and she thinks it is nonsense and all nothing. She leaves by one door as Sir Thomas enters by another.
She is relieved when Mr Crawford goes, but is troubled to learn he is returning for dinner. When he arrives, he gives her a note from his sister. It gives her congratulations and approval.
Fanny barely eats or talks at the meal. Afterwards, she sits with Lady Bertram and Mrs Norris and Mrs Norris talks about the expense of young people and how William’s promotion will save Sir Thomas money. Meanwhile, Fanny wonders ‘what Mr and Miss Crawford were at’ and if they are serious or not. Before Mr Crawford leaves, he asks if she has a reply for his sister. She writes one quickly and says she has ‘seen too much of Mr Crawford not to understand his manners’ and wants her to never mention the subject again.
In Chapter Thirty Two, Fanny wishes Mr Crawford and his sister would ‘but go away!’. She is astonished to see him approach the house as she thought her note conveyed her thoughts directly. She resolves to stay upstairs out of his way.
After half an hour, her uncle comes to her in the East room. He asks why there is no fire and she alludes to Mrs Norris. He understands and hopes she bears no resentment. He goes on to talk about the visit made by Mr Crawford and how he has declared himself as her lover and asked for Sir Thomas’s ‘sanction’. He then asks Fanny to come down with him to see Mr Crawford and he is surprised at her negative reaction.
She says she refuses him and that she cannot like him well enough to marry him. Sir Thomas reacts with ‘calm displeasure’ and is ‘half inclined’ to think she does not know her own feelings. He hints that he wonders if she has affections for another, but sees her scarlet face as a mark of her innocence.
She does not want to reveal her dislike of Mr Crawford’s ‘principles’, as in the way he treated her cousins (or her feelings for Edmund). Sir Thomas brings the talk to an end and says he is disappointed in her. He says he had thought her free of ‘“wilfulness of temper, self-conceit’ and independence ‘“which prevails so much in modern days”’ and which he finds ‘“offensive and disgusting beyond all common offence”’ in women. Now, though, he sees her as being ‘“wilful and perverse”’ and as not thinking of her family and of how they might have benefited from this marriage. He goes on to say he would have gladly married off one of his daughters to man who was only half as eligible as Mr Crawford.
Fanny cries and says she could not make Mr Crawford happy and she would be miserable. Sir Thomas begins to think if Mr Crawford perseveres with some patience she might change her mind. He goes down to Mr Crawford and returns to tell her when he has left. Sir Thomas says he will tell no one about what has happened. She goes for a walk as he advises and when she returns there is a fire in the East room on her uncle’s orders.
Fanny is called to Sir Thomas’s room in Chapter Thirty Three and finds herself alone with Mr Crawford. She declines him again and when the two men talk the next day, Sir Thomas tells him he will always be welcome at Mansfield Park and they part the best of friends.
Sir Thomas decides to treat Fanny with kindness and ‘to show no open interference’. He says Mr Crawford will still visit and she will see him ‘“with the rest of us”’. He adds that Mr Crawford will be leaving soon so this ‘“slight sacrifice cannot be often demanded”’. She thinks of how her uncle knows little of the truth, and how he had married a daughter off to Mr Rushworth: ‘Romantic delicacy was certainly not to be expected from him.’ She sees she must do her duty, though.
When Sir Thomas learns Mr Crawford has told everyone at the parsonage of his intention, he feels obliged to tell his wife and Mrs Norris of what has happened. Mrs Norris only shows her disapproval and adheres to Sir Thomas’s request that she does not mention it. For Lady Bertram, Fanny is elevated in her opinion of her and also tells her it is ‘“every young woman’s duty”’ to accept such an offer as this. This is described as almost the only rule of conduct she has given her.
Analysis – Chapter Thirty One, Chapter Thirty Two and Chapter Thirty Three
Fanny’s refusal of Mr Crawford’s proposal signifies a determination that has hitherto only been suggested at. Beneath the passivity that has so far prevailed, she is used to challenge the authority of her uncle, and so patriarchal society as well, in order to question the notion of the ‘good match’ based on economic prosperity.
Her uncle attempts to sway her by referring to her family and the benefits this would bring, but she remains adamant in a desire for happiness. This clear-sighted response is in sharp contrast to the preferences expressed by others, such as Miss Crawford, for the advantages of wealth, and her aunts who regard the proposal as a surprise for one of her station. Fanny’s independence is further highlighted when contrasting her reaction to Mr Crawford with that of her cousins who were entranced by him.
Summary – Chapter Thirty Four, Chapter Thirty Five and Chapter Thirty Six
Edmund returns and sees Miss Crawford and her brother. He has stayed away to avoid her, but is pleased at her welcome of him. He also learns of Mr Crawford’s proposal and is on his father’s side in that he thinks it is a good match. He thinks Mr Crawford did not give Fanny enough time to ‘attach herself’ and thinks he ‘had begun at the wrong end’. Edmund sees Fanny’s embarrassment, though, and refrains from exciting it.
Mr Crawford comes to dinner and he continues reading Shakespeare’s Henry VIII after Fanny had been reading it to Lady Bertram. Fanny has heard good readings before, but in his she sees a ‘variety of excellence’. Edmund is ‘amused and gratified’ to see Fanny become totally occupied by the reading. The charm breaks when he stops and she shrinks into herself and returns to her needlework.
Edmund talks of his service and ordination and Mr Crawford asks him about it and gives his opinion. Edmund is pleased as he thinks his seriousness will win Fanny over more than ‘gallantry and wit’ and good nature.
Mr Crawford notices Fanny shake her head when he mentions constancy and he sits with her and begs her to explain the reason for this. He also says he will let his conduct speak for him.
It is explained in Chapter Thirty Five that before Mr Crawford leaves, Sir Thomas wants Edmund to talk of him to Fanny: ‘He wished him to be a model of constancy; and fancied the best means of effecting it would be by not trying him too long.’
Edmund tells Fanny how he agrees she could not marry without love, but also asks her to prove herself ‘“grateful and tender-hearted”’ and she will be ‘“the perfect model of a woman”’ by letting him ‘“succeed at last”’. He is astonished at her reply, as she says Mr Crawford will ‘“never, never, never”’ succeed with her and says she thinks she will never return his regard. She also says they are ‘“so totally unlike”’ and would be miserable together.
Edmund says she is mistaken and that some differences are ‘“friendly to matrimonial happiness”’. Fanny presumes he is also thinking of Miss Crawford. She says she does not approve of Mr Crawford’s character and refers to the attention he paid Maria. He asks her to not think of the time of the play and that he (Edmund) was more to blame than anyone. She also refers to Julia, and Edmund says it is possible his sisters were desirous of being admired by Mr Crawford and this might have let him in.
He goes on to speak about Miss Crawford and how she and Mrs Grant spoke of Fanny when he visited them. They were surprised at Fanny’s refusal. Fanny says she was surprised by Mr Crawford and asks how she was supposed to be in love with him ‘“the moment he said he was with me”’. She says his sister should consider her as well as him. Edmund says this is the explanation he gave. He also lets her know that Mr Crawford and ‘“your friend”’ (Miss Crawford) are to leave on Monday.
In Chapter Thirty Six, Fanny dreads a visit from Miss Crawford before she goes. When she visits, Fanny takes her up to the East room when told she wants to speak with her alone. Once in there, Miss Crawford remembers aloud the last time she was there. This was when they were rehearsing the play and Miss Crawford recalls Edmund and the scene they played together.
Miss Crawford asks if Fanny was as insensible of Mr Crawford’s intentions as Edmund supposes. She tells Fanny the gift of the necklace was her brother’s idea and Fanny says she would not have accepted it if she had known. She also says she was quiet but not blind when Mr Crawford ‘“allowed himself in gallantries which did mean nothing”’. Miss Crawford says she has often scolded him for flirting, but adds he loves Fanny. She also refers to how happy he was when he succeeded in getting William’s commission.
Before Miss Crawford leaves, she asks Fanny to correspond with her and call often on Mrs Grant. Fanny would rather not have been asked the first favor, but finds it impossible to refuse. She is also relieved her secret is still her own and while this is the case ‘she could resign herself to almost everything’.
Mr Crawford visits that night and although Fanny softens a little towards him, she hopes she will not see him again until he married to ‘some other woman’. The Crawfords leave the next day.
Analysis – Chapter Thirty Four, Chapter Thirty Five and Chapter Thirty Six
Edmund, Sir Thomas and Miss Crawford continue to exert pressure on Fanny in the hope she will agree to marry Mr Crawford. Despite this, Fanny continues to feel the same way and is relieved her secret – of loving Edmund – has not been revealed.
Edmund’s lack of prescience is demonstrated further in his shock at Fanny’s outright refusal of accepting Mr Crawford. He has not only been blind to Fanny’s feelings for him, he has also assumed she would be pleased by the offer of one thought so highly of in their social circles.
Only Fanny remains cautious, and in so doing she is more isolated than ever, but she is at least freer in her opinions. By giving her a voice of independence, she escapes a little from the passive role she has played up to this point.