Adventures in Reading

Mansfield Park: Volume 2, Ch. 6 – Volume 3, Ch. 1 1/2
October 10, 2007, 6:23 pm
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If at this point any affection has returned for Henry Crawford it may be too soon extinguished: chapter six begins with him announcing his goal to make Fanny fall in love with him. He argues Fanny has improved while his sister argues that he is merely bored, and based on his behavior in the previous chapters it is very difficult to think he has honorable intentions.

Here William, Fanny’s brother, makes an appearance, which adds another facet to Fanny’s personality. What is important is that through all of this Henry is publicly displaying his increasing affection for Fanny while she does her best to decline his attentions. Finally much of this accumulates at the coming out ball held at Mansfield Park in Fanny’s honor. What all of this leads to is that Henry grants the grand gift of asking his uncle, an Admiral, to help William with a promotion in the Navy. After all of these kindnesses (particularly the last one) he reveals to his sister that he is really in love with Fanny and wishes to marry her, even if it is “a little beneath him” (585).

And this is where Fanny begins to display some gumption (that is quite Clarissa-esque) : she has no desire to marry Henry and as far as his improved behavior towards her, “she still tried to believe it no more than what he might often have expressed towards her cousins and fifty other women” (593). The refusal would not be quite so difficult until her uncle comes to question her about the proposal. If we remove any romantic attachment this really is a rather good match, and certainly one that a girl in Fanny’s position would be fortunate to receive. But not only does she not love him but she is entirely aware of his past character in regards to her cousins – something her uncle is oblivious of.

The concern of Fanny being in love with Edmund briefly flickers through Sir Bertram’s mind, but soon her charges Fanny with, “that you have disappointed every expectation I had formed, and proved yourself of a character the very reverse of what I had supposed … I had thought you particularly free from wilfulness of temper, self-conceit, and every tendency to that independence of spirit, which prevails so much in modern days, even in young women, and which in young women is offensive and disgusting beyond all common offence” (599). Of course Fanny is too good to reveal the rather embarrassing information regarding Henry and Maria (and Julia), and is charged with only thinking of herself (599).

This situation is an important theme in Clarissa where despite her family and friends encouragement to marry Mr. Solmes she refuses, and thus is charged with being willful and disrespectful (and ultimately put under house arrest). It seems very much throughout this literary period that an emphasis was placed on punishing young people (women in particular) for not agreeing and acting upon the advice of their (male) friends and family. In addition, Sir Bertram’s momentary concern that Fanny could be in love with Edmund plays off of an interesting bit of foreshadowing from the beginning of the book where Mrs. Norris suggests that if the cousin is raised with the sons no love interest will occur. While I am not sure of the marriage practice between first cousins in this period, I am not sure if that is entirely the reason why the match is looked disfavorably upon from the start.

Juxtaposing this, Edmund is realizing that in regards to Mary, “it does appear more than manner; it appears as if the mind itself was tainted” (573).

Today’s image is from the Jane Austen Society UK‘s summary of Mansfield Park.

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