Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park Chapter 38 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fanny and William enjoy their travels together, talking and laughing. They do not discuss Henry’s proposal, though. Despite Fanny’s hopes, Henry does not seem, from Mary’s letters, to have forgotten about her in London.
Mary’s letters continue to bear an unwelcome stream of love from Henry, making the reader understand why Fanny did not originally want to correspond with her.
Themes
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Letters and Character Theme Icon
Fanny and William stay overnight in Newbury, and then set off again the next day. They arrive in Portsmouth at their parents’ house. William exits the carriage first, and everyone hurries to tell William about a ship, the Thrush, going out to sea. When Fanny descends from the carriage, her mother, her sisters Betsey, Rebecca, and Susan, and her brother Sam greet her with kindness. Mrs. Price offers them tea, which they accept. While they wait, Mr. Price walks into the house, talks about the Thrush, greets Fanny, and then returns to talking about the Thrush.
When Fanny arrives back in the city of Portsmouth, her return home contrasts sharply with when she first arrived at Mansfield park as a child. The family that greets her is much more informal, and not stiff like the Bertram family. But the Prices are more distracted and louder, talking constantly of the ship that just came in, while the Bertrams had set aside time for Fanny’s arrival.
Themes
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
The Country vs. the City Theme Icon
No tea materializes, but two of Fanny’s brothers, Tom (Price) and Charles, do. They greet her and then return to causing a loud ruckus. Fanny has then seen everyone in the household—she has two other brothers as well, but they are adults and live elsewhere. Fanny is shocked that the house is so chaotic. At last the tea arrives, which Susan makes for her. Fanny immediately likes Susan.
The fact that Fanny does not get tea until Susan finally makes it for her shows how disorganized the household is. The lower-class, urban Price household continues to contrast with the upper-class, countryside Bertram household, where servants are efficient.
Themes
The Country vs. the City Theme Icon
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon
William emerges from another room wearing his lieutenant costume, and Fanny hugs him and cries that she is so proud. All day long people come and go to and from the house, making noise as they go. When things at last calm down somewhat, Mrs. Price asks Fanny about the Bertrams. Mrs. Price laments the difference between her own servants and the more professional ones at Mansfield.
Fanny continues to notice the house’s noise. The 19th century middle- and upper-class house was meant to be a place for rest, tranquility and repose, but the Price household represents none of these things. Unlike Mansfield Park, the Price house is run very inefficiently and without a sense of decorum.
Themes
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
The Country vs. the City Theme Icon
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon
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Fanny looks at Betsey, and remembers another one of her sisters, Mary Price, who died after Fanny had left for Mansfield. Betsey shows Fanny a silver knife, which Susan immediately insists is hers, and that Mary gave it to her on her deathbed. She says that Betsey always steals it. Mrs. Price tells Susan to drop the issue, and scolds Betsey as well. After she finishes talking with her mother about Mary and the Mansfield Park family, Fanny goes to bed.
Though it is unclear how Mary Price, one of Fanny’s younger sisters, died, the reader might recall the narrator’s early comment that Mrs. Price would have liked all of her children to get some countryside air. Austen codes the city as an unclean, sickly place, suggesting it may be responsible for Mary’s death.
Themes
The Country vs. the City Theme Icon