Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mr. Norris dies when Fanny is fifteen, and, as a result, Mrs. Norris moves to a smaller house. She is not especially aggrieved by her husband’s death, but regrets the smaller income she will receive now that he is dead. Dr. Grant takes Mr. Norris’s place as the reverend at Mansfield Park’s parish. He brings with him his wife, Mrs. Grant, and no children.
Mrs. Norris’s inner nastiness comes through again when her husband dies, as Mrs. Norris’s main concern is her decreased income, not the loss of her partner. Mrs. Norris’s apathy suggests their marriage was not a love match, and not especially happy.
Themes
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
Edmund is supposed to be entitled to inherit his uncle’s wealth upon his death. However, Tom, who has a gambling habit, needs to pay back his debts, and Edmund uses his inheritance for that purpose. Sir Thomas feels that Tom has wronged Edmund by robbing him of part of his inheritance. Tom feels somewhat remorseful, but quickly rationalizes his poor decisions.
Austen begins to comment more directly on the problems with the inheritance system in 19th century England as she shows how Tom, despite his irresponsibility, is set to inherit Sir Thomas’s fortune. Edmund, meanwhile, will be left with nothing after helping his brother.
Themes
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon
Now that Mr. Norris is dead, Sir Thomas expects that Mrs. Norris will take Fanny into her household, desiring company. Lady Bertram, hearing Sir Thomas’s musings, tells Fanny. Fanny finds the idea very distressing, and discusses it with Edmund, who soothes her.
Much of Fanny’s distress at Mansfield is due to Mrs. Norris’s cruelty. The other characters, however, fail to see this, because Mrs. Norris shows her good manners around them.
Themes
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
Ultimately, Fanny’s fears turn out to be unnecessary, because Mrs. Norris intends to do everything she can to avoid taking Fanny in. She tells Sir Thomas that the White House, where she lives, is too small for another person since she must have an extra bedroom for guests, and that due to her grief and her reduced income, she is utterly incapable of caring for Fanny. She says she is trying to put money away for Lady Bertram’s children to inherit one day.
Austen has already shown the reader that Mrs. Norris’s excuses for not taking Fanny in are not true—she hardly grieves her husband, and never hosts guests. Mrs. Norris’s hypocrisy is comedic, but also shows how two-faced Mrs. Norris is, illustrating how good manners do not always correspond to good morals.
Themes
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
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Sir Thomas is perplexed, since Mrs. Norris indicated otherwise when they first discussed adopting their niece. However, he believes Mrs. Norris when she insists it is for the good of his children that she saves an inheritance, and is content to continue hosting his niece. Fanny learns that plans to move her to the White House are off, much to her happiness. Mrs. Norris completes her move into the White House and the Grants move into the parsonage.
Mrs. Norris’s insistence that she is saving money for her nieces and nephews is what convinces Sir Thomas to keep Fanny. This shows how the problem of the male primogeniture inheritance system pervades all aspects of life, including domestic decisions that might seem otherwise unrelated.
Themes
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon
The Grants are extremely friendly, pleasant people, prompting Mrs. Norris to make it her mission to find out their faults. She learns that Dr. Grant is an indulgent eater, which satisfies her. Lady Bertram feels threatened that Mrs. Grant, who is not especially beautiful, has married so well.
Austen uses comedy to reveal the gap between Mrs. Norris’s outer charm and inner rottenness. Lady Bertram, meanwhile, shows she is still preoccupied with marriage long after her own marriage.
Themes
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
Sir Thomas, needing to settle business matters in Antigua, decides to go there himself, and takes Tom with him in an attempt to set the young man straight. They leave England for what they anticipate will be a year. Sir Thomas is sad to leave his family, and concerned about leaving his daughters in the less-than-attentive hands of Lady Bertram.
Sir Thomas, clearly worried about Tom’s ability to manage his estate once he dies, hopes to encourage responsibility in his son by showing Tom his investments, interesting him in the business, and removing Tom from the bad crowd he circulates with in London.
Themes
The Country vs. the City Theme Icon
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon
Lady Bertram is displeased that her husband is leaving, but, because she is so self-centered, is not especially concerned for his safety. Julia and Maria are not sad whatsoever, and instead are excited to benefit from the looser oversight of their mother.
Austen mocks the family’s lack of sadness at Sir Thomas’s departure, pointing to the lack of real love in the household through Lady Bertram’s dispassionate manner and her daughters’ excitement.
Themes
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
Fanny, likewise, is happy that Sir Thomas is leaving, but feels bad about then. Then Sir Thomas says something critical of her, and his coldness prevents Fanny from feeling too bad.
Sir Thomas’s stiff, cold, brusque manner prevents Fanny from developing a loving relationship with her uncle.
Themes
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon