Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Fanny wakes up the next morning, she is still unhappy about everything that happened the previous night, and how Tom tried to bully her into taking part in the play. Fanny dresses and goes into the room that used to be their schoolroom, now called the East Room, which is generally considered to be Fanny’s space since no one else wants it.
As Tom’s insistence that Fanny take a part in the play continues to wear on her, she seeks out one of her favorite quiet spaces, the kind of place that Fanny misses later in the book in the city of Portsmouth.
Themes
The Country vs. the City Theme Icon
In the East Room, there is no fire in the grate, but Fanny still spends her time there, since she can go there to be alone and read and think without being ridiculed or called ungrateful. The narrator describes the room’s décor: Fanny’s plants, the plain, old furniture, a picture that William drew. Fanny paces the room, feeling conflicted about having refused the part. She wonders if she is not being selfish in refusing it. Fanny feels reassured by the fact that Edmund shares her convictions. Still, Fanny looks around the room and sees Tom’s presents to her, and feels torn.
The lack of the fire in Fanny’s grate in the East Room shows how her care is neglected, and when Sir Thomas later lights one it symbolizes Fanny’s elevated place in the family. As Fanny struggles with Mrs. Norris’s comment that she is being selfish, she feels torn between having good manners and pleasing others or doing what makes her comfortable and what she feels is proper.
Themes
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon
Edmund knocks on the door and enters the room, asking Fanny for her opinion. He tells her that the theatre scheme is even worse now that someone from the outside is playing Anhalt. He asks what she would think if he played the part himself instead. He tells her to imagine how improper it would be to establish such a friendly relationship with someone like the lower class Anhalt actor, and how strange Mary must feel playing the love interest of a stranger. Fanny is sorry for Mary, but also sorry that Edmund would have to compromise his morals. Edmund though, believes keeping the play within their small circles is supremely important, and Fanny cannot think of another solution, so Edmund decides it is the best course of action.
Edmund’s concerns about having an outsider play Anhalt are caught up in class distinctions, as he says that he would not like to establish a friendly relationship with someone so much lower class and have Mary pretend to be in love with him. Again, this shows Edmund’s hypocrisy in how he thinks about class distinctions—while he rejects the differences his parents and aunt make between himself and middle class Fanny, he supports maintaining class distinctions between them and the lower classes.
Themes
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon
Edmund mentions how kind Mary was to Fanny the night before. Fanny agrees, but not enthusiastically. He tells Fanny he will leave her to her reading, but that he is glad the decision, which was torturing him, is made, and he will tell Tom at breakfast. Fanny, however, is so overwhelmed by the news that after he leaves she cannot read. She blames Mary for manipulating Edmund into deciding to act, and resolves to refuse to take part in the play.
Edmund’s decision disturbs Fanny both because it undermines her own decision not to act, which she rationalized by remembering Edmund’s support, and because she worries that Mary, her competitor for Edmund’s affection, is using her charm to manipulate Edmund so they can spend more time together (and, perhaps, to chip away at his moral convictions).
Themes
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
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