Mansfield Park: Novel summary: Chapter 11 - 16
Summary – Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve and Chapter Thirteen
Letters from Antigua tell of the return of Sir Thomas in November and both of his daughters prefer to not think about it. Miss Crawford mentions the subject one evening at Mansfield Park and supposes that when this happens Miss Bertram will marry and Edmund will be taking his orders. Edmund agrees and she compares his father to ‘“the old heathen heroes, who after performing great exploits in a foreign land, offered sacrifices to the gods on their safe return”’. Edmund replies with a serious smile and says there is no sacrifice and glances at his sister as he says, ‘“it is entirely of her own doing”’. He adds that his taking orders is as voluntary as Maria marrying.
Miss Crawford criticizes the clergy again and he suggests this is received opinion from her uncle, the Admiral. She counters this by pointing out she is staying with Dr Grant, who she describes as kind but ‘“an indolent selfish bon vivant”’.
She is invited to sing with the others and Edmund and Fanny are alone at the window. She talks about nature’s harmony and say how he taught her to think and feel in this way. He refers to the stars and they agree to go on the lawn and gaze at them. The singing starts, though, and he says he will wait till it is over. He moves slowly towards the singers and requests to hear them again when they finish. Mrs Norris scolds Fanny away from the window with the threat she will catch cold.
In Chapter Twelve, Tom returns and Miss Crawford does not want to attract him anymore and he is as indifferent. In September, Mr Crawford leaves for Norfolk but comes back again gladly and does not look beyond the present moment. Both of the Bertram sisters think they are his favorite. Julia does so because of hints from Mrs Grant, and Maria because of hints from Mr Crawford.
Fanny is the only one to find anything to dislike in his return and implies her worries to Edmund. However, these hints are lost on him. Around this time, she attends her first ball, of five couples, and Tom comes over and talks to her and asks her to dance.
In Chapter Thirteen, Mr Yates is described as also being present and is a friend of Tom. He had been involved in acting in a play, but he did not have the chance to perform. His stories interest the group, though. Tom says they should ‘“raise a little theatre at Mansfield”’. The sisters are taken with the idea, and Edmund questions it. When Tom raises it again, Edmund warns that it shows a lack of feeling on their father’s account and reminds him Maria’s situation ‘“is a very delicate one”’. Tom says he is taking it too seriously, and it is only for ‘“a little amusement”’. Edmund is sure their father would not want his grown up daughters acting and warns against the cost of it too. He refuses to take part. Tom leaves the room and Fanny comforts Edmund as she is in full agreement with him.
The next day Edmund is unable to dissuade his sisters and when Henry comes and says he hopes his sister will be involved, Edmund is silenced.
Analysis – Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve and Chapter Thirteen
The introduction of the idea of a theater at Mansfield begins to take shape in Chapter Thirteen and the difference between Tom and Edmund is marked by their opinions of whether this should happen or not. Edmund’s reluctance is based on his father’s patriarchal code, which he sees as being prohibitive of his grown up daughters taking to the stage. Conversely, Tom (as well as their sisters) shows no regard for his father’s views, and this highlights irresponsibility or a sense of freedom depending on one’s point of view.
Edmund’s attraction to Miss Crawford is made more vivid in these chapters as he is seen to be drawn to the inside world of culture, of listening to her singing, rather than the outdoor world of nature, which is represented by the stars and Fanny in this instance.
Summary – Chapter Fourteen, Chapter Fifteen and Chapter Sixteen
They have difficulties on deciding on a play to act in and Fanny notices the selfishness of the group. She would like to see a play for her own gratification, but thinks ‘everything of higher consequence was against it’. Tom mentions Lovers’ Vows, which Mr Yates had been preparing for, and this receives a general welcome.
Both of the Bertram sisters want to play Agatha and hope the others will press the part on one of them. Mr Crawford says Miss Julia must not play it as they have had many laughs together and cannot countenance seeing her ‘“dressed up in woe and paleness”’. He says it pleasantly, but Julia feels an injury and thinks she has been slighted for Maria. Before Julia can say anything, Tom agrees that Maria must be Agatha and Julia will be better as the Cottager’s Wife.
Yates thinks this part is too small for her and Mr Crawford suggests she play Amelia, but before she can agree Tom says Miss Crawford has a greater claim on this role. Mr Crawford pushes again for Julia, but she desists especially on seeing her sister’s serene face. Julia says if she is not going to be Agatha she will not be anything else. She leaves and only Fanny feels some compassion for her jealousy.
Later, Fanny is alone and she reads the play with eagerness. She also thinks the parts of Agatha and Amelia are ‘in their different ways so totally improper for home representation’. She thinks her cousins cannot know how unfit the roles are for women of ‘Modesty’ and wants them to know through the ‘remonstrance which Edmund would certainly make’.
Miss Crawford accepts the role of Amelia in Chapter Fifteen. Edmund has been away and learns of the choice of play. Fanny looks to see his reaction, and notes he is amazed. When Mr Yates is out of the room, Edmund tells Maria he thinks the play is ‘“exceedingly unfit for private representation”’ and hopes she will give it up. He thinks she will when she has read it, but she informs him she is already acquainted with it. He says she must lead the way in matters of decorum and she replies that he sees things ‘“too strongly”’. He insists their father would not like it and she argues if she gives up the role, Julia will play it instead and will not retract her agreement.
Mr and Miss Crawford appear after dinner and she compliments Lady Bertram on the choice of play. She asks who is to play Anhalt. Mr Yates says to Tom that he thinks Edmund should and Tom says he will not ask him. She asks Edmund what he thinks and he says they should change the play. She says if any part could tempt him, Anhalt would as he is a clergyman. He argues against it and she moves her attentions to Mrs Norris ‘with some feelings of resentment and mortification’.
Tom asks Fanny to play the Cottager’s Wife and she excuses herself with a frightened look and says she cannot act. Tom keeps trying to persuade her and she looks to Edmund. The others urge her to as well and Mrs Norris says she should take the part ‘“with good grace”’. Edmund says she should not be urged into it and Mrs Norris reacts sharply and says Fanny is being very ungrateful ‘“considering who and what she is”’. Edmund is too angry to speak and Miss Crawford looks with astonishment at Mrs Norris. She tries to comfort Fanny and tells her to not mind.
Tom says they still need somebody to play Anhalt and gives some names. Charles Maddox is agreed upon as Miss Crawford says she has met him before.
In Chapter Sixteen, Fanny is agitated that night and the next day. She goes in the old school room where she usually finds some consolation. She feels undecided about what she ought to do (if she should act or not) and her doubts increase as she walks around the room.
Edmund comes to her and asks her opinion and advice. She shrinks from the idea of this, but he continues and says how the introduction of Charles Maddox means the end of ‘“privacy and propriety”’ and thinks he must take the role of Anhalt to prevent Charles from coming. He also explains Miss Crawford’s place and the thought of her acting with a stranger, and that her feelings should be respected.
Fanny says she is sorry for her, but is more sorry to see him drawn into it. He says he hopes his concession will allow him a ‘“material gain”’ and keep it restricted to the immediate circle. He wants her approbation and says how Miss Crawford’s kindness to Fanny last night made a claim on his good will. Fanny agrees she was kind and he is satisfied with this. He says will tell Tom of his decision. He leaves and she thinks of what he has told her as ‘“the most unwelcome news”’ and thinks it is ‘“all misery now”’.
Analysis – Chapter Fourteen, Chapter Fifteen and Chapter Sixteen
Propriety is seen to be invested in the parts women play in society, and the onus of being dignified and modest are evidently expected of the Bertram sisters. Much as Maria skirted round the authority of the iron gate at Sotherton, here she refuses to listen to Edmund, her father’s proxy, and insists on taking on the role she has been offered.
The double-standards of these attitudes to how women should behave are apparent as only the decorum and modesty of the women is seen to be at stake. The men may behave as they see fit with comparatively few expectations placed on them. It is relevant that concern for Maria rests on her engagement to Mr Rushworth, and to public flirting with Mr Crawford, but Edmund is concerned initially over the idea of both sisters acting in public. The theme of double-standards also appears in Fanny’s doubts over Edmund taking part in the play. She may not want to see him drawn into it, but this is because he will now be acting opposite Miss Crawford as well as taking part in the theatricals when he has already opposed it.