Mansfield Park

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Mansfield Park Chapter 46 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fanny receives another letter from Mary over a week later. Mary writes to tell Fanny that there is a vicious rumor circulating about Henry, and that she should not believe it and should know that Henry is still totally devoted to her. Once again, she asks if Fanny will let her come get her from Portsmouth.
Mary’s letter seems to have arrived earlier than it should have, before Fanny has even heard the rumor, highlighting the fact that the timing of the post affects how letters work as communication.
Themes
Letters and Character Theme Icon
Having heard no such rumor, Fanny is confused and concerned. She is surprised by the implication that Henry has done something improper, since she had begun to believe that he really loved her. When no second letter follows the next day, Fanny is disappointed.
Mary’s context-less letter is mysterious and confusing. Fanny seems to have been about to flip in her resolve against Henry, as evidenced by the fact that she had finally believed he loved her.
Themes
Letters and Character Theme Icon
Mr. Price, who is reading the newspaper, asks Fanny if one of the society page articles is referring to her cousin. Fanny reads the excerpt, which states that Maria has run away with Henry and their whereabouts are unknown. Fanny insists it must be a mistake, but slowly realizes that it is probably true. Fanny is shocked and horrified by the scandal, and by Maria and Henry’s careless disregard for the disgrace their behavior brings upon their families.
In contrast to the privacy and intimacy of letters, Fanny learns of Maria and Henry’s transgression in the very public newspaper. Maria and Henry’s selfishness shocks Fanny, as adultery in 19th century England means total social disgrace not just for the people involved, but also for their families.
Themes
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
Letters and Character Theme Icon
Two days later Fanny receives a letter from Edmund, confirming that they do not know where Maria and Henry have gone, and adding that Julia has eloped with Mr. Yates. Edmund also tells her that Sir Thomas is sending for Fanny to return to Mansfield tomorrow, and that Susan is welcome to come stay with them for a few months.
Maria’s actions are not only taboo—they also serve as a threat to the institution of marriage by revealing how marriage might be devoid of love. Adultery also threatens the system of inheritance, as a child’s father may not be known.
Themes
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon
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Fanny is thrilled to be soon leaving Portsmouth and to take Susan with her. She is shocked by Julia’s elopement, but too distracted to dwell on it. Susan is excited to go as well. They prepare for their travels the next day, and Edmund arrives in the morning. A half hour later, they leave Portsmouth.
Julia’s elopement poses its own milder threat to marriage as a monetary system as well as a class system, since elopement is used for marriages across social and economic classes.
Themes
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
The trip is relatively quiet, because Edmund is so upset. The family matters weigh heavily on him, and he is also distressed by how ill Fanny looks after months of being in Portsmouth. Susan enjoys looking out the window. They arrive at Mansfield at dinner time, and Fanny is nervous to see everyone, but happy to be back. Lady Bertram, upon seeing her, hugs her, calls her “dear Fanny,” and says that she can at last be comfortable.
Fanny is finally out of Portsmouth, having realized that the happy life she dreamed of among people of her own social class is impossible. When she gets back to Mansfield, she is greeted with all the kindness that she was not given as a child, shown by how Lady Bertram calls her “dear Fanny.”
Themes
The Country vs. the City Theme Icon
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon