As you may have noted I am plodding through analysis of the chapters of ‘Mansfield Park’ at a seemingly slow pace. I am reading it much quicker than I’m blogging it, but I am only writing blog posts on chapters we’ve looked at in class so far.
In this chapter Fanny is brought into the household of Mansfield Park and we see her being welcomed (or not, as the case may be) into the family. We can see immediately that Mrs Norris is classist – prejudiced against lower classes, a snob. She doesn’t empathise with Fanny, being annoyed that she doesn’t seem gracious of her new home, not even noticing that she’s homesick.
We can see that Austen dislikes the ‘Miss Bertrams’ and their silly pass-times: “making artificial flowers or wasting gold paper”. She presents the two sisters as a complete contrast to Fanny, confident young women who are not the most kind. Austen shows that the sisters notice that Fanny isn’t like them, and distinguishes her from them, “my cousin cannot put the map of Europe together”. They assume that she is ignorant and stupid, and the adults seem to agree, suggesting that some people “were stupid” and expressing that it was just a shame that Fanny had to be like that too. This shows the attitudes to the working class.
Edmund is the only character who accepts Fanny and treats her as equal. He helps her write to William and becomes someone she can confide in. Immediately there is a distinction between Tom and Edmund, Tom is described as “careless and extravagant”, yet Edmund is described as “good” and to be a “clergyman”. The fact that he is going to be a clergyman shows his goodness, as in those days your goodness was shown through your Christianity. The chapter ends telling us that Fanny loves Edmund very much, and that “her heart was divided” between him and William (her favourite brother).
The first passage shows the financial affairs, and that Tom has wasted money. Tom’s character is shown through two phrases, that he has “some shame” showing his regret, yet this is undermined by the phrase “cheerful selfishness”.
Mrs Norris is expected to now take care of Fanny, to “claim her share in their niece”. Fanny doesn’t want to go, and goes to Edmund to talk to him about the matter, saying “I love this house”. This shows how her attitudes to Mansfield Park had changed now she had grown up. Edmund mentions that she is important, and she is surprised by this fact. Fanny had obviously not been called important before, her mum had given her away and the residents at Mansfield generally considered her inferior. Edmund suggests that she “will necessarily brought forward as you ought to be”, that she’d be raised up properly. At Mansfield she would have people to hide behind, yet at the Parsonage with Mrs Norris she’d have to speak for herself , her life would change with social circles etc.
Mrs Norris obviously had no intention to do so (much to Fanny’s relief), “Mrs Norris had not the smallest intention of taking her”. She only suggested the Bertrams adopt her to look Christian and benevolent. She uses many excuses to show how she couldn’t possible take Fanny, that she is a “poor desolate widow” and must have a “spare room”. She turns it back onto Sir Thomas, suggesting that “Nobody that wishes me well, I am sure, would propose it.” and persuades the Bertrams to keep her.
Thanks for reading,