Mansfield Park: Novel summary: Chapter 37 - 42
Summary – Chapter Thirty Seven, Chapter Thirty Eight and Chapter Thirty Nine
With Mr Crawford gone, Sir Thomas’s next object is that Fanny will miss him, but she is so ‘gentle and retiring’ he cannot tell if this is the case and asks Edmund how affected she is. Edmund thinks it is a little early, after three or four days, but expects Fanny to show regret over Miss Crawford’s absence.
Miss Crawford is, however, ‘the chief bane of Fanny’s comfort’ and she hopes she does not return. She is sure, though, that it is more likely than ever that Miss Crawford will marry Edmund.
William visits and Sir Thomas plans for Fanny to return home to Plymouth with him ostensibly to see him in his uniform and to see her family again for a couple of months. Sir Thomas also hopes the absence from Mansfield Park will make her miss the ‘elegancies and luxuries’ and sober her into valuing the comfort and ‘greater permanence’ she had been offered.
Edmund confides in Fanny of his hopes for Miss Crawford before she leaves and says he will write when he has anything worth writing about. She thinks she will have to arm herself against this: ‘The vicissitudes of the human mind had not yet been exhausted by her.’ When Edmund says goodbye, she knows ‘he was giving her the affectionate farewell of a brother’.
Fanny and William travel together in Chapter Thirty Eight and he desists from talking about Mr Crawford. Nevertheless, he laments her feelings as he thinks of him as ‘the first of human characters’.
She has heard repeatedly from Miss Crawford and Mr Crawford writes a few lines in the letters too. Fanny finds the correspondence ‘as unpleasant as she had feared’ as she had been forced to read out the lively letters to Edmund. She then had to hear his admiration of Miss Crawford’s language. Fanny finds it ‘cruelly mortifying’ to have addresses from the man she does not love and being obliged to administer ‘to the adverse passion of the man she did’. She sees leaving Mansfield Park as also giving her the advantage of Miss Crawford having no motive to write, as she will not be writing with Edmund in mind (as Fanny presumes Miss Crawford was writing to him through her).
They reach Portsmouth and are greeted. Fanny notes her father talks to William more than her after the initial welcome. The family are noisy and she is ‘almost stunned’ by the noise, the smallness of the house and the thinness of the walls as it brings everything ‘so close to her’.
William’s ship is preparing to leave and a fuss is made over his preparations. She thinks she is being unreasonable at the lack of welcome as ‘William’s concerns must be dearest – they always had been – and he had every right’. She wonders, though, about the little enquiry that is made about her and Mansfield Park.
When she goes to bed, she considers the size of the room she is sharing with her sister Susan. She soon learns to ‘think with respect of her own little attic at Mansfield Park, in that house reckoned too small for anybody’s comfort’.
In Chapter Thirty Nine, Fanny is disappointed further once William leaves. She thinks her father is more negligent and coarser than she had been prepared for and he scarcely notices her ‘but to make her the object of a coarse joke’. She is more disappointed in her mother, who shows no kindness than she did on the first day. She shows preference instead to the boys and another sister, Betsy. The ‘incessant noise’ brings her the greatest misery and she compares it to the ‘cheerful orderliness’ of Mansfield.
Analysis – Chapter Thirty Seven, Chapter Thirty Eight and Chapter Thirty Nine
At Plymouth, Fanny’s distaste for the home of the immediate family is alluded to when she compares it unfavorably to Mansfield Park. The rooms are smaller, her father is coarse and her mother is kinder to the others. She is overlooked and living in relative poverty, and Sir Thomas is proved correct in that at least she is valuing the comforts of Mansfield Park more than ever.
The impoverished state of the Price family is, when seen through Fanny’s eyes, something to be ashamed of. She has learned to value the material comforts and privilege that Miss Crawford spoke so openly of in previous chapters. She reacts against the bad manners of others, and in this novel of manners this is perhaps not surprising. There is, though, no defence of why the family are living in poverty, or criticism of how Sir Thomas maintained his wealth, at this juncture. The material differences are accepted, and poverty is rejected in its coarseness.
Summary – Chapter Forty, Chapter Forty One and Chapter Forty Two
Fanny was right to not expect too many more letters from Miss Crawford, and is surprised to be glad when she does receive one: ‘Here was another strange revolution of mind.’
She becomes closer to Susan and she uses some of the money her uncle gave her to join a circulating library and lets her share in her interest of poetry and biography. She knows through her aunt’s last letter that Edmund has gone to London and has no doubts what will ensue (as Miss Crawford is there). The postman’s knock brings daily terrors as she expects to hear of the ‘promised notification’ (of Edmund marrying Miss Crawford).
It is explained in Chapter Forty One that Edmund has been in London for a week and Fanny has still not heard from him. She has been in Portsmouth for nearly four weeks now and Mr Crawford comes to visit. She is discomposed, but remembers to introduce him to the family as ‘William’s friend’.
He talks for a while and moves on to mention taking a walk. Ten minutes later Fanny finds herself out with Susan and Mr Crawford. It is ‘pain upon pain’ when they encounter their father and Fanny is obliged to introduce them to each other. Her father is civil, to her relief, and they all walk to the dockyards on Mr Price’s behest.
When Mr Crawford, Susan and Fanny are alone, he speaks of his business in Norfolk and how he has been helping people. This is ‘well aimed’ at Fanny until he refers to having a friend and guide to help him at Everingham.
He turns the conversation to Mansfield Park when he perceives he has said enough about Everingham, and he could not have chosen better. When he and Fanny have a minute alone, he tells her she is the only reason he has come to Portsmouth. She is relieved when he declines her father’s invitation to dinner as he has been brought up ‘in a school of luxury and epicurism’.
Mr Crawford joins them in church the next day in Chapter Forty Two and when they take a walk later ‘somehow or other’ he is walking between the Miss Prices with an arm under each of his. He says Fanny needs the free air of the country before the end of two months when she is expected to return to Mansfield Park. He says she just has to let him and his sister know if she wishes to return sooner and they will take her back.
Analysis – Chapter Forty, Chapter Forty One and Chapter Forty Two
Mr Crawford persists in his apparent love for Fanny and it is she rather than he that is perturbed at his arrival. Her comparative lack of wealth is seen to be an embarrassment for her; he, however, remains composed and possibly more open-minded to her home environment. As one who has been taught by Mr Norris to think in hierarchical terms, it is evident that she has learned well as she too looks askance at the family she was born into.