Mansfield Park

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Mansfield Park Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back at the house, Lady Bertram asks why Mrs. Grant has invited Fanny. They discuss the fact that Sir Thomas will keep Lady Bertram company. When Sir Thomas is home, Fanny leaves the room and Lady Bertram asks if he thinks Fanny’s invitation is proper. Sir Thomas says that he thinks it is.
Sir Thomas’s approval of Fanny’s invitation to dine at the Grants’ shows how Sir Thomas’s attitude toward Fanny has changed from his earlier desire to maintain strict class distinctions between his children and his niece.
Themes
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Fanny is very glad, but also worries about the pain of having to watch the flirtation between Mary and Edmund. Mrs. Norris, as usual, tries to make Fanny feel like she does not deserve to go, as she is lower class than the rest of them, telling her she is being ungrateful and should not let the invitation go to her head.
Mrs. Norris, unlike Sir Thomas, has not moved beyond her early desire to keep Fanny in her place. Once again, she harps on Fanny’s lack of gratitude to make her feel unworthy of the invitation.
Themes
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Mrs. Norris adds that, if it rains that night, Fanny should not expect them to send the carriage for her. Sir Thomas, however, sends Fanny out with the carriage on the way there even without the rain, much to Mrs. Norris’s dismay. Fanny is very grateful for the kindness.
Despite Mrs. Norris’s commitment to keeping Fanny in her lower-class place, Sir Thomas, who has more power than Mrs. Norris, allows Fanny to take the carriage, marking her elevated status.
Themes
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon
In the carriage, Edmund compliments Fanny’s appearance. When they pass the stable yard of the Parsonage, Edmund spots Henry’s barouche, and they realize that he must be visiting. Edmund is happy to see him, but Fanny feels the opposite.
Edmund’s compliments to Fanny, though they make Fanny happy, generally adopt a tone of brotherly praise rather than romantic love.
Themes
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At dinner, conversation flows easily, so Fanny can sit back and relax without having to say too much. The men discuss hunting while Fanny thinks about the fact that Henry is present even though Maria and Julia are in Brighton. Henry acknowledges that Fanny’s cousins are away, and they discuss the failed attempt at putting on a play. Fanny thinks critically about his dishonest flirtation with Maria and Julia, and tells him angrily she is glad that Sir Thomas ended the play. Henry is surprised by her reaction and agrees with her to smooth things over.
Henry’s presence in Mansfield despite the fact that Maria and Julia are in Brighton confuses Fanny because she thought he only came to Mansfield to flirt with them. When Fanny responds to Henry in anger, he is clearly unused to honesty and to his charm failing. Fanny’s frank, ungraceful response, although not exactly well mannered, causes Henry to concede the point.
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Mary and Henry quietly discuss the fact that Edmund will be ordained soon, and talk about his relatively meager income in the future. Henry tells Edmund he has come back to Mansfield to hear Edmund give his first sermon. The group plays cards after dinner and Mary plays her harp. She focuses on the music, upset that Edmund will be joining the clergy so soon, having thought that she could convince him otherwise. She thinks that his willingness to be a preacher despite her insistence that she will not marry one shows his lack of genuine interest in her.
Henry’s statement that he returned to watch Edmund’s first sermon shows a kinder side of Henry. Mary continues to be unsure about her commitment to Edmund because of his future career as a minister and his small income. Through Mary, Austen shows the problem with major differences in values between potential partners, as both Mary and Edmund hope the other will give up what’s important to them.
Themes
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon