Mansfield Park Read Along – Discussion, Pt. 2

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Mansfield Park Read Along | Austen in August Event | The Book Rat.com
This post contains spoilers for the chapters 1-31 of the book.

Read my first discussion post

Here’s the second set of discussion questions from Misty’s Mansfield Park read along! First I have to say that I’m a little disappointed with some aspects of the read along. I wanted to have reading Mansfield Park be a more social thing, so I did visit other people’s discussion posts – only to be horribly spoiled of future events in the story, a couple of times. I had to stop visiting and commenting. I thought people would only be answering the questions with information we had learned so far in the read, since there are those of us who haven’t read the book before. Instead people discussed further plot points in their answers. This made me a very sad panda. :(

Anyway, onwards to the questions.

What do you make of Sir Bertram’s treatment of Fanny when he returns home? Consider this passage:
“[Sir Thomas,] on perceiving her, came forward with a kindness which astonished and penetrated her, calling her his dear Fanny, kissing her affectionately, and observing with decided pleasure how much she was grown! Fanny knew not how to feel, nor where to look. She was quite oppressed. He had never been so kind, so very kind to her in his life. His manner seemed changed, his voice was quick from the agitation of joy; and all that had been awful in his dignity seemed lost in tenderness.”
What do you make of Sir Thomas’ completely new treatment of Fanny? Does it make you reconsider their relationship, or Sir Thomas as a character? Consider also Sophie’s piece on incest at Mansfield Park.

Hmm… I think that Sir Thomas adores Fanny as a relative only. I think the change in his manner comes from the fact that he had been gone from home for so long, and had missed his family, including Fanny, a lot. I think it’s shown in the beginning of the book that Sir Thomas is one of the few people who treat Fanny more as a relative than a glorified maid. His demeanor is just always very proper, but when he returns home after such a long time that demeanor slips in the joy of being back with family. Also, Fanny has from the start thought him to be stricter and scarier than he really is. I think he is happy to see that Fanny has turned out pretty, in the hopes that she will get some courters now, and some due attention paid to her.

Considering this same question from another angle, let’s talk a bit about Fanny’s age and status. In Vol 2, multiple characters notice how much Fanny has “improved” in looks, and Henry even states that she’s grown at least 2 inches since the Crawfords met her, less than a year ago. It’s easy to forget, but Fanny is only 16 at the arrival of the Crawfords, and 17 by novel’s end; how does this color your interpretation of the events of the book thus far? Does your opinion of Fanny, or others treatment of her, change with her age taken into account?

For some reason I thought Fanny was 18? Okay, I looked into it (from Wikipedia…), and I see that I remembered that she first came into the family at age 12, when she actually was 10. With that said, my opinion of her doesn’t change, I’ve been thinking about her as very young anyway, and like I said in part one of the discussion, I was never that annoyed by her. With the subtraction of those two years, I perhaps even understand her waiting for more than an hour alone on the park bench, but only perhaps…

We often discuss Fanny as a very passive character, but in some parts of the novel, and especially in part 2, we begin to see another side of Fanny. Through some of her more unguarded conversations with Edmund, and through her own inner-monologues, especially when speaking with Henry Crawford, we see that a different, strongly-opinionated Fanny is buried under the surface. Discuss that motif as a whole: the public and private sides of characters, how it plays into decorum and propriety, and our overall impressions of the characters and the novels. Do you wish Fanny would say the things she thinks? How would the novel change if she did so?

Well, I do sometimes wish that Fanny would speak her mind, but I can see why she doesn’t. The way she has been raised as inferior, and add to that her timid nature… I can relate somewhat – it takes a long time for me to start really talking to a new person. I spoke a bit about this in my first discussion post.

In this Volume, Henry Crawford tells his sister that he intends to make Fanny fall in love with him, that he “cannot be satisfied…without making a small hole in Fanny Price’s heart.” Discuss your reaction to this, given not only the story so far, but also Fanny’s age, character, and status (near as the reader can tell, she’s not “out” in society yet, though she does mix with the company of her family, putting her in a strange state of limbo).
Henry has some weird ways to amuse himself when he is bored. At this point he is definitely only interested in Fanny because she hasn’t paid any attention to him (as well as being the only girl around). He thinks he’s just so awesome and charming that it doesn’t really occur to him that any woman could dislike him.

Further, in Henry’s efforts to make Fanny fall for him, he seems to get caught in his own snare and fall for Fanny. What do you make of this turn of events? Do you believe Henry’s affections for Fanny are real? And what do you make of Mary’s assessment of a relationship between her brother and Fanny:
“The gentleness and gratitude of her disposition would secure her all your own immediately. From my soul I do not think she would marry you without love; that is, if there is a girl in the world capable of being uninfluenced by ambition, I can suppose it her; but ask her to love you, and she will never have the heart to refuse.”

I think there is something at work with Henry – at least he is infatuated, if not head over heels in love. I think most of the feeling stems from the novelty value – Fanny is so different from the girls he’s used to flirting with. He finds himself taken in by Fanny because it took more work to get on her good side, and get her to open up and tell him more about herself. I think if Fanny wasn’t already in love with someone else, she might very well have agreed to marry Henry (once he managed to convince her that he wasn’t mocking her). I don’t know if this would have been a good thing, since I’m not sure how long Henry would’ve stayed infatuated with Fanny. It might be easy for him to revert back to his old ways once they had been married for a while and Fanny wouldn’t seem so interesting, unique and mysterious anymore…

That’s it for part 2, I hope I can get Volume 3 read soon and answer the final questions before too long!

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