|Edmond finally realizes that he loves Fanny.|
Action: Fanny is at her parent's home in Portsmouth. She sees flaws in both her parents that she didn't realize existed. She is especially disappointed with her mother who is a poor manager of the household. Her only ally is her sister Susan since her older brothers have left for the Navy. She is very homesick for Mansfield Park and recognizes that she now thinks of it as home, not here with her family. Henry shows up for a visit and stays a few days. He is charming and not too pushy. His motives and actions actually seem to have improved and Fanny softens a bit toward him. When he leaves, he promises that he is a changed person and will wait for her to come around. He is in love and will prove himself. But not long after he leaves, Fanny receives a letter from Mary asking her to ignore all the gossip about Henry and Mariah Rushworth. Then a newspaper article hits Portsmouth that details the affair: Henry and Mariah have run off together, breaking up Mariah's marriage. Not long after letters from Mansfield Park and from London fill her in on the details. These letters include alarming information about Tom's poor health. Poor Fanny is stuck in Portsmouth and cannot help anyone. Eventually Edmond comes to get Fanny. He tells her that he has broken things off with Mary because he realized he had been blinded to her real personality by her charms and looks. Finally, in the course of time, Edmond realizes that he loves Fanny. They wed and live....in the parsonage (you thought I was going to say, "happily ever after.")
Surprises: After Henry leaves Portsmouth, the majority of the action is captured in letters to/from Fanny. Even though she is the heroine of this story, she is on the sidelines for most of the action. In some ways it felt like Austen was trying to finish up the story and just wanted to speed things along. Austen also inserts herself as the author into the narration. For example, when Austen refers to the time period that passes before Edmond realizes that he loves Fanny, she says, "I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion..." It is an interesting literary device that I've noticed Austen uses in several of her books, it gives the feeling of hurrying the plot along. Just when we, the modern reader, think we are getting to the good stuff about Edmond and Fanny's love we are almost dismissed by statements like this:
I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmond did cease to care about Mary Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire.Sigh. I wanted a few more lovey-dovey details than that! I knew to expect this rather abrupt ending to Mansfield Park because I had read the ending before I finished the book. Overall, however, the reading experience was very satisfying. It was very Austenesque. For the past few weeks I've been able to live alongside Fanny Price, having been transported back to the Regency time period by one of the world's truly great authors, Jane Austen.
Read-along fun. I want to encourage you, my reader, to consider joining me for my next read-along. It is a fun way to read the classics in small, weekly, bite-sized pieces that make the task quite doable. If you want to join me and want to weigh in on my selection, leave me a note in the comment section or send me an e-mail. I am leaning toward Middlemarch by Eliot or something by Dickens. But I could probably be persuaded to read some other classic if you will join me. Let me know.