Fanny begins riding again the next morning. While she is out, Mr. Rushworth and his mother arrive at Mansfield Park in order to plan the group visit to Sotherton. They pick a date for the trip. Needing to make sure that Henry is available, Mr. Rushworth walks to the Parsonage to ask.
This beginning section of the chapter serves to advance the novel’s plot as the group plans for their trip. As usual, Fanny is left out of the plans, unable to control her own fate as the least powerful member of the household.
While Mr. Rushworth is out, Mrs. Grant and Mary arrive at Mansfield. The Mansfield residents fill them in about the Sotherton plans. Mrs. Rushworth tries to convince Lady Bertram to come, and though Lady Bertram consistently rejects the invitation, she does so in such a mild-mannered way that Mrs. Rushworth keeps trying.
This section shows how manners sometimes interfere with successful communication, as Lady Bertram’s consistent rejection of Rushworth’s invitation is not taken seriously because her refusal is so gentle.
Finally Mrs. Norris steps in, and tells Mrs. Rushworth that the exhaustion of traveling would be overwhelming for Lady Bertram. She tells her that Lady Bertram will stay home and that Fanny will keep her company, while Edmund will join them at Sotherton. Mrs. Rushworth concedes Lady Bertram’s absence, but expresses her disappointment that she and Fanny, who has not yet seen Sotherton, will not come.
Mrs. Rushworth’s disappointment that both Lady Bertram and Fanny will not be at Sotherton suggests that the class divide between Fanny and her relatives might be less perceptible or important to outsiders than to the family members.
Mrs. Rushworth goes on to invite Mary and Mrs. Grant to Sotherton. Mrs. Grant turns her down, but Mary accepts. Mr. Rushworth then returns with the news that Henry can come on the date they agreed upon, and Edmund returns home, where he is informed of the plans.
With the date decided and the whole party invited, it appears that the Sotherton trip will be another instance where Fanny, due to her lower status, attends to Lady Bertram while everyone else has fun.
Edmund goes into the breakfast room, where Mrs. Norris worries about if there is enough space in Henry’s barouche (a kind of carriage). The family argues back and forth about which carriage to take, with Maria and Julia advocating for the barouche, and Edmund loses the debate. Edmund then says that, since there is so much room in the carriage they chose, they should take Fanny with them. Edmund asks if Lady Bertram would let Fanny go to Sotherton if she did not need her company, and Lady Bertram says she would, but that she does need her company.
Edmund continues to advocate for Fanny. During the carriage debate, Maria and Julia want to take the barouche rather than their own carriage because the barouche is more expensive and fashionable, showing their superficiality and obsession with money. Austen also ironically shows how Lady Bertram’s excessive neediness and languidness are pandered to, while Fanny’s humble requests are consistently denied.
Edmund offers to stay at home in Fanny’s place, prompting an outcry from the others. Mrs. Norris objects that she has already told Mrs. Rushworth that Fanny will not be going. Edmund explains that he has already discussed Fanny’s attendance with Mrs. Rushworth, and that she whole-heartedly extended an invitation to Fanny. Mrs. Norris is annoyed, but concedes that Fanny should be allowed to go. Indeed, when Fanny learns of the plan she is extremely grateful, a feeling that is exaggerated by Fanny’s increasing appreciation for Edmund, which are developing into romantic feelings.
Mrs. Norris tries to mask her desire to keep Fanny from having fun along with her cousins by saying that she already declined the invitation and it would be in bad taste to accept it now. As usual, Mrs. Norris attempts to disguise her cruelty in a guise of good manners, showing how good manners can be abused to mislead people and hide immoral intentions. Fanny sees Edmund more and more as a love interest.
Ultimately, Edmund does not have to stay home, because Mrs. Grant offers to keep Lady Bertram company instead. Everyone is thrilled with this plan, and Mrs. Norris claims to have been about to suggest it just before Mrs. Grant proposed it.
Mrs. Norris again shows how she wants to take all the credit for being helpful and kind without actually doing anything to act that way (and often acting the contrary).
Wednesday, the day of the outing, arrives. Henry arrives in his barouche to take them to Sotherton, with both Maria and Julia vying for the seat in the front next to Henry. Mrs. Grant suggests that Julia take the seat, much to her delight and Maria’s discontent. They take off.
Maria and Julia, who normally enjoy a close relationship, here compete for the seat next to Henry and his attention. This shows how the marriage process can drive a wedge between female relationships.
During the carriage ride, Fanny admires the scenery and looks forward to talking about it with Edmund, who is riding his horse behind them. Mary, meanwhile, pays no attention to the environs. The narrator contrasts Fanny and Mary, who are sitting next to each other, saying the only thing they have in common is their interest in Edmund. When Edmund catches up with the carriage, both Mary and Fanny exclaim “there he is!”
Mary’s city upbringing prevents her from appreciating the beauty of the nature surrounding them, while country-raised Fanny enjoys the scenery. Meanwhile, the narrative sets Fanny and Mary in opposition to each other, firmly establishing them as foils to each other and competitors for Edmund’s love.
Maria is sullen because Julia is sitting in the front with Henry, and she grows jealous as she watches them flirt. Julia doesn’t hesitate to rub in her good luck, telling the passengers in the back about how stunning the view is up front.
Henry’s attention to Julia ruins Maria’s ride, showing how competition for male attention strains the formerly loving relationship between Julia and Maria.
Once they arrive closer to Sotherton, however, Maria remembers her engagement to Mr. Rushworth and perks up. She points out the land that Mr. Rushworth owns to Mary, bragging about his property. Mrs. Norris also delights in Mr. Rushworth’s wealth, and even Fanny compliments it. Maria is giddy with pride as they pull up to the house.
Maria’s sadness that Henry does not pay attention to her abates as the grounds reminds her that her fiancé is rich. This in turn reminds her of her success in a marriage process that values wealth and status above all else in a partner.