|Mansfield Park, illustration by C.E. Brock, shows Fanny sewing away under the direction of her aunt, Mrs. Norris|
1. Page goal met? Almost. I read 51 pages, breaking at the end of chapter XVIII.
2. The action in this section mainly center around the return of Tom Bertrand and his friend Mr. Yates who are determined to act out a play, Lovers Vows. Edmond is determined to thwart the attempts his older brother makes to put on the play saying their father most certainly wouldn't approve. Yet he eventually decides that he will join the cast. Great jealousy is developing between sisters Maria and Julia because of the obvious preference that Mr. Crawford shows toward the elder sister. No one except Fanny will rehearse with Maria's fiance, Mr. Rushworth, even though he has two and forty speeches. Mrs. Norris and Tom both are tremendously unkind toward Fanny because she refuses to join the cast of actors. Even though Fanny won't join in she is indispensable for all the preparations, making costumes, rehearsing lines, running errands.
It is in this section that we learn about how unkind Mrs. Norris has been to Fanny ever since she entered the house over eight years before, not allowing her a bedroom among the family members or even allowing for a fire in her grate.
3. Surprises in this section? No real surprises but I was struck by two things.The first being how "small" the lives of folks living in the Regency period when Austen was alive. They worried about the appropriateness of putting on a play just for themselves and they could only include people who were also from the gentry class. The second thing that struck me was how tedious this section was to read. I kept thinking, "No wonder this is Austen's least favored book."
4. Which brings to mind this question, was life during Austen's life really like this? Days and days of preparations for an event that would serve as entertainment only for themselves? I try to think what life would be like with no TV, radios, movies, phones, computers. We would be forced to make our own entertainment, wouldn't we?