Mansfield Park: Novel summary: Chapter 43 - 48
Summary – Chapter Forty Three, Chapter Forty Four and Chapter Forty Five
After Mr Crawford leaves, Fanny receives a letter from his sister and she reads from it that ‘nothing decisive’ has yet taken place between her and Edmund.
Fanny grows closer to Susan and conversations often turn to Mansfield Park. Fanny sees Susan has a ‘very great admiration’ for the place and people described and Fanny thinks what a blessing it would be to have a home to invite her to. She also thinks if it were possible for her to return Mr Crawford’s ‘regard’ he would likely agree to such a measure.
Fanny receives a long-awaited letter from Edmund in Chapter Forty Four and on seeing the length of it she prepares herself for the contents. He is back at Mansfield Park and he describes how on first seeing Miss Crawford in London he saw the weak side of her character in the influence of Mrs Fraser who he describes as a supporter of the mercenary and ambitious.
He goes on to say Miss Crawford is ‘a very different creature’ in her attachment to Fanny. He also says he cannot give Miss Crawford up and she is ‘the only woman in the world whom I could ever think of as a wife’, but he fears ‘the habits of wealth’. He is considering writing her a letter to explain himself, but is worried that Mrs Fraser will be consulted. He tells Fanny he has also seen Mr Crawford at a party of Mrs Fraser and is ‘more and more satisfied with all that I see and hear of him’. He finishes by saying how he wants her at home and have her opinion on Thornton Lacey. His father means to fetch her back himself after Easter when he has business in town.
Fanny is vexed about this, and that Edmund will marry Miss Crawford and be ‘poor and miserable’. She also wants an end to the suspense and wants him to ‘fix, commit, condemn yourself’. This near resentment softens soon though.
She later receives a letter from Lady Bertram that tells of Tom’s ‘dangerous illness’ and Edmund has gone to attend to him. Further letters explain Tom’s removal back to Mansfield Park and the extent of the danger he has been in.
A few lines from Edmund in Chapter Forty Five show the severity of Tom’s illness and the physician’s fears of the damage to his lungs. Edmund also writes that he has not yet contacted Miss Crawford but will go to see her when Tom is better.
Mansfield Park is now home to Fanny and she wants to return, but three months later, and after Easter, Sir Thomas has still not come for her. She wants to be at home to be of service and is astonished Tom’s sisters remain in London at this time as they have the means to travel when they choose. Fanny thinks the ‘influence of London’ as being ‘at war with all respectable attachments’.
After a long gap of weeks, Fanny receives a letter from Miss Crawford expressing her fear of Tom’s illness and is agitated on the subject. She asks her to tell her news of it, and also refers to ‘Sir Edmund’ and how he might do more good with the Bertram property ‘than any other “Sir”’. Her latest news is that Mr Crawford has seen Mrs Rushworth (Maria), but he cares for nobody but Fanny. He offers again to take Fanny home and she joins him in this invitation. Fanny is tempted, but sees much to condemn: ‘The sister’s feelings – the brother’s conduct – her cold-hearted ambition – his thoughtless vanity.’ The decision is, she feels, out of her hands anyway as her awe of her uncle means it is ‘instantly plain’ to her she must decline the offer.
Analysis – Chapter Forty Three, Chapter Forty Four and Chapter Forty Five
The letter from Miss Crawford in Chapter Forty Five exposes Miss Crawford’s ambiguous reaction to the news of Tom’s severe illness. As well as showing concern, she also expresses a mercenary element that considers the benefits of Tom’s death (as this would make Edmund the heir to the title). He would also be the heir to the property, as Miss Crawford references, and so be of greater monetary value than at present.
Fanny’s interpretation of the letter demonstrates once more her clarity in reading the actions of the brother and sister, in that she spots their vanity and ambition if not their more attractive qualities.
Summary – Chapter Forty Six, Chapter Forty Seven and Chapter Forty Eight
Fanny receives another letter from Miss Crawford a week later and this warns her to not listen to a rumor concerning Mr Crawford and to think it is a mistake. She does not explain fully, but hints of something between him and Maria. Fanny is aghast and has heard no such news. She is not jealous, but thinks it strange as she had begun to think Mr Crawford loved her.
The next day her father shows her a newspaper article that appears to refer to the Rushworths and a fracas, and how Mrs R (Mrs Rushworth) has left her ‘husband’s roof’ ‘with the well known and captivating Mr C’. Fanny is shocked and the evening passes for her in misery, with feelings of sickness and shudders of horror.
She receives a letter from Edmund in London after a few days and he says the ‘latest blow’ is that Julia has eloped to Scotland with Mr Yates. He also tells her he will be in Portsmouth the morning after she receives this letter as his father wants her home for Lady Bertram’s sake. He also wishes for Susan to come too for a few months.
Edmund comes for them and he holds Fanny close and says: ‘“My Fanny – my only sister – my only comfort now.”’
In Chapter Forty Seven, they return to Mansfield Park. Here, Mrs Norris is ‘an altered creature’. Maria had been her favorite and the match between Maria and Mr Rushworth had been of her contriving. She thinks if Fanny had accepted Mr Crawford this could not have happened and in her blind anger ‘she could have charged [her] as the daemon of the piece’.
The story of what happened comes to Fanny from Lady Bertram and letters. Maria had gone to Twickenham for Easter to stay with a family. This is also where Mr Crawford ‘had constant access at all times’. Mr Rushworth was in Bath for a few days and she did not have anyone, even Julia, to act as a restraint. Maria returned to Wimpole Street (London) and Sir Thomas received a letter from a friend and this told him of ‘unpleasant remarks’ about his daughter’s intimacy with another. He was set to go down to London when he received another saying Maria had left. He went there in the hope of ‘snatching her from further vice’.
After a few days at Mansfield Park, Edmund talks to Fanny on the subject of Miss Crawford. He says how Miss Crawford spoke of the ‘folly’ of her brother and his sister and he is shocked by this lack of ‘reluctance’ and ‘horror’ and feminine loathings on her part. He sees her as being spoiled by the world. He goes on to say that Miss Crawford was more concerned with their detection than ‘the offence’. He says he was stunned by this. Miss Crawford also said if Fanny had accepted Mr Crawford this would not have happened, and Edmund says the charm is now broken. Miss Crawford said it now remained for her brother to marry Maria and Edmund’s father should let things run their course. She thinks if Maria is induced to leave Henry there is less chance of them marrying. Edmund thinks he has never understood her and she has been a ‘“creature of my own imagination”’. He thinks through habit Miss Crawford gave a sort of laugh and asked if his lecture had been part of his sermon.
In the final chapter, Chapter Forty Eight, the first-person narration explains Sir Thomas is suffering the most and feels he should not have authorized the marriage between Maria and Mr Rushworth as he knew her feelings.
Tom gets better, and he matures, and the match of Julia and Mr Yates comes to be accepted. Tom is less selfish now and feels like an accessory for the events at Wimpole Street for ‘all the dangerous intimacy of his unjustifiable theatre’.
Sir Thomas questions the ‘education’ of his daughters and how he contrasted the excessive indulgence of their aunt with severity. He sees now they had no understanding of ‘their first duties;’ and he was not acquainted with ‘their character and temper’.
When Maria and Mr Crawford are together, she hopes to marry him but when she sees this will not happen they become each other’s punishment. She procures a divorce from her husband with no difficulty. Sir Thomas refuses to have her back at home and Mrs Norris blames Fanny for this, but he assures her he would not have her back if there were no young people of either sex as he would not offer the neighborhood such an insult. He will support and protect her, but will not attempt to restore the character Maria has destroyed.
Mrs Norris leaves to be with Maria and Sir Thomas is relieved at her departure. As for Mr Crawford, he left with Maria ‘at last’ ‘because he could not help it’ and regrets Fanny ‘infinitely more’ when the bustle is over. His share of the offence is not equal in punishment, as ‘the public punishment of disgrace’ is ‘less equal than could be wished’ (for men and women, that is).
The Grants stay away on purpose and they leave the area when Dr Grant succeeds ‘to a stall in Westminster’. Miss Crawford lives with them and finds no one to satisfy ‘the better taste she had acquired at Mansfield’.
Edmund has scarcely done regretting her to consider Fanny in a different light. The match between Fanny and Edmund is approved of by Sir Thomas and Susan substitutes her as Lady Bertram’s companion.
To complete the ‘picture of good’ the married cousins move to living at the Mansfield parsonage after the death of Dr Grant.
Analysis – Chapter Forty Six, Chapter Forty Seven and Chapter Forty Eight
The final chapter summarizes events and gives a morally uplifting ending as those who have sinned are punished, and the altruistic are rewarded with marriage. Even Sir Thomas and Tom are sorry for the parts they have played in the downfall of others, and London (which represents worldliness and sin) is condemned in these and earlier chapters for the malign influence it has had on the characters of those who should know better.
Maria’s punishment for adultery is, it is pointed out, more severe than any criticism a man would receive. This criticism of gender inequality is only lightly referenced and not examined, but is in keeping with the tone of the novel that often makes sidelong glances at this society’s unfairness.