Welcome to Week 4 of the Mansfield Park read-along! If you aren't familiar with the details, you can learn more about the read-along schedule in this invitation post. (We're reading 12 chapters per week.)
Today we're going to discuss the final part of the book: chapters 6-17 (Volume III). If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Mansfield Park read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up on some reading, you're welcome to check in later this week or whenever you're ready. :)
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
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Mansfield Park Volume III: Chapters 6-17
Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week's reading
- "[Mrs. Norris] must say that she had more than half a mind to go with the young people....William and Fanny were horror-struck at the idea." [Haha! I just love that the second line there is its own paragraph; nothing else need be said regarding Mrs. Norris's grand scheme. At least William and Fanny are spared in the end!]
- "[Mrs. Price's] days were spent in a kind of slow bustle; always busy without getting on, always behindhand and lamenting it, without altering her ways." [I feel like I could take this as a cautionary note for myself.]
- "It was really March; but it was April in its mild air, brisk soft wind, and bright sun, occasionally clouded for a minute, and every thing looked so beautiful under the influence of such a sky, the effects of the shadows pursuing each other, on the ships at Spithead and the island beyond, with the ever-varying hues of the sea now at high water, dancing in its glee and dashing against the ramparts with so fine a sound..." [Lovely descriptions. ♥]
- "The woman who could speak of him, and speak only of his appearance!—What an unworthy attachment!"
- "There is nothing like employment, active, indispensable employment, for relieving sorrow."
- "All this together most grievously convinced me that I had never understood her before, and that, as far as related to mind, it had been the creature of my own imagination, not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on for many months past." [*gives standing ovation*]
- "[Tom] became what he ought to be, useful to his father, steady and quiet, and not living merely for himself." [I just love that last part!]
- "They had been instructed theoretically in their religion, but never required to bring it into daily practice."
- "Nobody minds having what is too good for them." :)
A big part of this section is spent at the Price home, which is quite a bit different than all the time at Mansfield Park leading up to it! I feel bad for Fanny, returning to her family only to see how very little her parents regard her, how chaotic her childhood home has become, and how she no longer seems to belong. But a blessing does arise from those uncomfortable months: a closer relationship with her sister Susan. :)
The book becomes semi-epistolary for a while, focused on the letters being sent to Fanny from Miss Crawford and then Lady Bertram. And finally...finally...Mr. Crawford shows his true colors for the whole world (especially Sir Thomas and Edmund) to see. Not that it's a happy situation in the slightest, but I'm happy for Fanny, that Mr. Crawford didn't continue pursuing her and eventually win her, only to run off with someone after their marriage or torture Fanny by openly flirting with other women. :(
And Miss Crawford's true colors are displayed for Edmund to see too. Phew! As sad as it is for Edmund to realize he's spent all this time falling in love with someone who didn't really exist (not in the way he believed her to be), it's a relief that everything is out in the open.
So much is covered in that last chapter, isn't it? In some ways, I'm quite satisfied. I love the lessons tucked into certain characters' stories, like how Tom "was the better for ever for his illness" ("he had suffered, and he had learnt to think, two advantages that he had never known before") and how "education had not given [Julia] so very hurtful a degree of self-consequence" (as it had for Maria; how differently Fanny in her humility had grown up to be!).
Of course, I'm also happy for Fanny and Edmund. (I especially love that sweet paragraph about the friendship formed between Sir Thomas and Fanny!) But it's hard to completely love Edmund as a romantic hero, because for almost the whole novel he very clearly sees Fanny as a sister and has romantic feelings for another woman who does not share his morals. I wish we could get more of a glimpse into the transformation of his feelings...to not just know but actually see Edmund regarding Fanny in a new light and realizing how much he loves her.
I like the conclusion of their story, but it feels somewhat abrupt to go from the last line of chapter 16 ("Fanny's friendship was all that he had to cling to") to the account in chapter 17. While the timing is fine in how it's told (Edmund takes a while to grieve and figure out his own mind, falling in love with Fanny as he spends more time with her), it would be nice to have some actual scenes of them growing closer together. Perhaps that's not the main point, but still. :) Especially since Edmund spent so much of the book completely misunderstanding Fanny's feelings for him, for Mr. and Miss Crawford, etc.!
All in all, I enjoyed the story and seeing how everything turned out. It's not a favorite of mine, but it's an interesting book with interesting characters!
Feel free to answer one, two, or all three of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!
1. Do you think Fanny's home and family had changed a lot since she left when she was a girl, or do you think Fanny was the one who changed the most?
2. Just for fun: What sort of conclusion would you give to Susan's story if you were to write a sequel/epilogue for her?
3. Which character's growth or consequences (as described in the last chapter) brought you the most satisfaction?
As always, it was so fun to read a Jane Austen book with you, my blog friends! You provided so many great insights and thoughts, and I'm grateful for all your comments and posts. :)
Before you go, I'd love to hear your responses to the following, if you'd care to share:
- Of the Jane Austen books you've read so far, how would you rank them in order of preference?
- If you've seen an adaptation of Mansfield Park, which one(s) did you see and how did you like it/them in comparison with the book?
The next read-along I plan to host will be for Sense & Sensibility, and I hope it will include a watch-along too! I haven't entirely decided on the month...but maybe keep an eye out for the announcement sometime this spring. :)
I also ran a poll on Twitter to get an idea for what books we could read together after Sense & Sensibility, and it seems like L.M. Montgomery's stories are a popular choice. So perhaps we'll need to do a read-along of Anne of the Island and/or Emily of New Moon later this year!