Sir Thomas looks out for signs that Fanny seems sad that Henry is gone. He asks Edmund to look as well, but Edmund does not notice any changes. Edmund is surprised, however, that Fanny doesn’t seem sad that Mary is gone, since they were supposedly so close. In fact, Fanny worries that Mary and Edmund are more likely to get married than ever. Edmund is going to London to do business in a few weeks, and Fanny believes that while he is there he may propose to Mary. Fanny believes that, despite Mary’s kindness towards her, Mary does not deserve Edmund.
Fanny’s love for Edmund has gotten in the way of any affection she might otherwise have had for Mary, showing again how the marriage process often disrupts and prevents female friendships. For both Fanny and Mary, their relationship is overshadowed by the men around them—especially Henry and Edmund, who are courting their love.
William, who has a leave of absence, heads to Mansfield to spend time with Fanny. Sir Thomas wishes to organize for Fanny to return with William to Portsmouth after his visit, to see her family after so many years. Sir Thomas thinks that she will quickly grow sick of her home, and it will convince her to marry Henry so she can always live the lifestyle she is now used to.
Sir Thomas, who continues to meddle in the relationship between Fanny and Henry, decides that Fanny should go to Portsmouth to see what her life would be like if she didn’t marry into money. Again, Sir Thomas pushes the marriage for financial reasons above all else.
The one hang-up in the plan is concern that Lady Bertram, who is so dependent on Fanny, will not be able to function without her. Sir Thomas, however, tells Lady Bertram that she should think of it as a sacrifice. Mrs. Norris says that no one will miss Fanny anyway. Lady Bertram finally is convinced that Fanny should go, but says she will miss her.
Lady Bertram’s reluctance to let Fanny go is funny, because what Fanny does for Lady Bertram—fetch her letters, sit with her on the couch—is far from necessary. Austen is making fun of Lady Bertram’s spoiled upper class existence.
Fanny then writes to her family, asking to come stay with them. Mrs. Price responds kindly and accepts. Fanny is very excited to be going home to her family, as she has not seen them in seven years. She looks forward to a large, loving family, and feeling like she is equal to them all. William, like Fanny, is very excited about the plan. He tells Fanny that they could use some of her nice manners in the house.
Fanny looks forward to feeling equal to her family, suggesting that, to Fanny, social equality might be more important than wealth. Fanny privileges kindness over luxury, as evidenced by her refusal to marry Henry despite the financial security he could provide.
Mrs. Norris is upset when Sir Thomas gives William money for the trip, unhappy to see someone else be the recipient of Sir Thomas’s generosity. She tells them that she is considering going along on the trip as well, to see her supposedly beloved sister, much to William and Fanny’s horror. Ultimately, though, she decides against it, not wanting to pay for her own trip back.
Mrs. Norris’s money-grubbing once again provides ironic comedy and also horrifies Fanny and William. Mrs. Norris tries to mask her cheapness by saying she misses Mrs. Price, her sister, again giving her selfishness the veneer of good intentions.
Edmund, who had intended to go to London, delays his trip and stays home to keep his parents company. He tells Fanny that he intends to propose to Mary when he finally gets to London. He tells Fanny he will write when he does. Despite her happiness at going home to Portsmouth, Fanny cries on her last night in Mansfield Park, and she and William leave the next morning.
Edmund’s intention to propose is of course upsetting to Fanny, who still harbors her secret love for him. The fact that he intends to send news of the proposal in a letter again places letters in a place of importance, bearing news and representing for Fanny the potential for great pain.