Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park Summary and Analysis of Chapters 31-36

At Mansfield Park the next morning, Henry informs Fanny that her brother William has finally been commissioned as a lieutenant. Henry has introduced William to Henry's uncle, the Admiral. Fanny cannot believe the good news, and is overwhelmed with gratitude - that is, until Henry tells Fanny of his feelings for her. She is wholly confused, because he has chosen to dampen a happy moment with a suggestion that is horrid to her. Henry then gives the rattled Fanny a letter of congratulations from Mary. Fanny writes back asking her to never mention the proposal again, and tells Henry in no uncertain terms that she cannot even think of marrying him. The following day, Fanny feels terrible about writing such a curt note to Mary, and hopes that she has put off Henry Crawford once and for all. However, she soon finds out from Sir Thomas that Mr. Crawford has begged him to intervene with Fanny. Her uncle finds her in the former nursery, and is horrified to learn that Fanny has not been allowed to light a fire because of Mrs. Norris's miserly treatment. He also asks that she come downstairs to talk with Henry. He does not at all understand why she would not accept his proposal, and begins to argue with her. She refuses to argue back, saying only that one of her chief objections to Henry was the way he treated her cousins, his daughters. Sir Thomas accuses her of ingratitude. She breaks down in tears and tells him that in time she might find Henry a more appealing lover, and promises to meet with him the following day.

Henry gets to the point right away: he is desperate to get Fanny to agree to marry him. Sir Thomas seems intent upon aiding him. He lays a guilt trip, so to speak, on Fanny, reminding her how hard Henry worked to acquire William's promotion. However, nothing can change her mind. Sir Thomas suggests that perhaps in time she will change her mind, and tells her that he will have to inform his wife and Mrs. Norris about Fanny's decision. Mrs. Norris becomes livid but leaves Fanny alone, and Lady Bertram informs her that she ought to accept Henry's proposal. Lady Bertram feels responsible for Henry having fallen in love with Fanny, because it was she who sent her maid to help dress Fanny on the night of the ball. She promises Fanny one of her pug dog's puppies.

Edmund is surprised to see Mary Crawford upon his return to Mansfield after his ordination because he had assumed that she had left. Indeed, he had remained away in this hope. Sir Thomas tells him of Henry's proposal and asks Edmund for help changing Fanny's mind. Edmund encourages her to accept Henry's proposal. After dinner, Henry reads one of Shakespeare's works with great verve, and Fanny once more remembers his acting ability. The men debate the benefits of reading well, and Henry cannot leave Fanny alone. Since the Crawfords are scheduled to leave Mansfield, Sir Thomas works ceaselessly to encourage Fanny to change her mind. Edmund also pressures Fanny, and she reminds him of Henry's immoral behavior toward his sister, Maria. Edmund remarks upon how happy Mary is about the possibility of Henry and Fanny's betrothal. He then says that he has told Mary and Mrs. Grant that Henry needs to work even harder to convince Fanny to marry him. Fanny asks him how he spent his time at Lessingby with his friend Owen, and whether he liked the Owen sisters. Edmund says that he did, but that they were mere girls when compared to women like Mary and Fanny.

Mary arrives to say goodbye to Fanny and mockingly scolds her for not accepting her brother's offer. However, Mary is more concerned with Edmund, and confides in Fanny her sadness about leaving Mansfield. She catalogs a group of women who at one time or another have been love with her brother, and informs Fanny then that the necklace given to her to wear to the ball was actually a gift from Henry. Fanny is horrified, but Mary assures her that Henry only wanted to do something nice for her, and once again reminds her of his involvement in William's promotion.


By allowing her readers to listen in on the conversations that Fanny has with Henry and Mary, Austen provides insight into the true characters of the Crawford siblings. They never think for a moment that Fanny might turn down Henry, because she is so lowly placed in society. Henry, they both feel, is doing her a great favor by offering to marry her, but Henry's insistence that she marry him to elevate him morally only attests to his low character. Furthermore, Mary's statements about how much she likes Fanny should not be fully believed. She seeks out her company only when Edmund is gone, and all she wants to talk about his him. Since there is no one else to talk to, it seems that Fanny will do. At this point, it become unclear whether Mary suspects the true nature of Fanny's feelings for Edmund and sees her marriage to her brother as a means of getting rid of the competition - in addition to insuring her own continued presence in Edmund's company.

In this section, Austen demonstrates her strong belief in companionate marriage: marriage for love, and not for money. Despite the temptations of such a rich future, Fanny continues to believe in the idea of companionate marriage - the idea that couples should only marry for love, and not for riches or social position. The depth of Fanny's insights into Henry Crawford's immoral character also become apparent. He wants her because she is unattainable, not because of any genuine feelings for her. For Fanny to oppose the wishes of the patriarch Sir Thomas, to whom she owes so much, speaks volumes. Earlier, we saw Maria marry solely for money, but it seems likely that although she will have the best house in the area, she will be unhappy. For Fanny to persevere in spite of pressure from her "betters" is remarkable indeed, especially given Fanny's lowly social status.

It must be understood what Fanny is giving up in maintaining her desire to marry Edmund, whom she loves. She will be poor, and forever at the beck and call of her family, with no independent means of making a living. Some scholars argue that Fanny is enslaved, but Fanny's life of luxury is hardly the same as the conditions endured by Africans brought to the colonies to raise sugar. However, Fanny must watch her step: she doesn't have the luxury of "snitching" and telling the others how Henry behaved with Maria and Julia.

Henry's oratory skills recall his ability to act, and the consequent insincerity of his actions and speech. The grievous harm caused to Maria and Julia by Henry while they were involved in the play must not be forgotten. He enjoyed having the sisters battle over him. Also, the play provided the backdrop for Mary and Edmund's budding relationship. In essence, the play offered an unreal setting, or an insincere union. Indeed, Fanny seems to be the only young person who is not acting. Her feelings are based on years of observation of Edmund's character. The Crawfords' departure for London has given Edmund and Fanny an opportunity to escape their insincere influence. What is keeping them apart, however, is their lack of sincerity. Fanny loves Edmund, but she finds that she cannot tell him. He, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be aware of his true feelings for Fanny because of the physical attraction he feels for Mary.