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Mansfield Park | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapters 35–36 (Volume 3, Chapters 4–5)

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapters 35–36 (Volume 3, Chapters 4–5) of Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park.

Mansfield Park | Chapters 35–36 (Volume 3, Chapters 4–5) | Summary



Chapter 35

Edmund decides to let Fanny choose whether to talk with him about Henry—and sticks to his decision for a few hours until Sir Thomas insists Fanny is waiting to unburden her heart to her trusted cousin. Edmund joins Fanny on her daily walk and presses her to reveal her feelings. At first, Fanny is comforted because Edmund agrees she has responded appropriately to Henry's proposal. If Fanny cannot love Henry, she shouldn't marry him. But, he continues to her dismay, if she learns to love Henry, she will prove herself "the perfect model of a woman." Fanny's firm statement that she can "never, never, never" love Henry alarms Edmund, who insists Fanny must be objecting to the manner, not the content, of Henry's proposal. Edmund dismisses Fanny's declaration she and Henry are incompatible; Fanny's sweet gentleness is just the thing to settle Henry into responsible manhood. Edmund's arguments force Fanny to tell him what she has withheld from everyone else: Henry's behavior toward Maria, Rushworth, and Julia at Sotherton and during the theatricals reveals his dishonorable nature. But Edmund, "scarcely hearing her to the end," excuses Henry's behavior. He blames the theatricals and accuses his sisters of having encouraged Henry's flirtations.

In praising Fanny as just the woman to help Henry mature, Edmund finally admits his own interest in their marriage. Mary is now attached to Fanny as a sister, he says; Fanny is already influencing Mary against the "worldly maxims" she learned in London. Just as Fanny wants William to be happy and successful, Mary worries about Henry's happiness—she is angry that Fanny has refused her brother, but she wants to love Fanny as she should, and ... Edmund interrupts his own lecture to say, "Do not turn away from me," indicating Fanny is trying to do just that. When Fanny tries once more to justify her resistance to Henry's love, which was such a surprise to her, Edmund confidently declares she will learn to love Henry. Then, seeing Fanny's dismayed expression, Edmund changes the subject to the Crawfords' imminent departure for London. He speaks of his time with the Owens and pronounces the Owen sisters pleasant enough—but Fanny and Mary have spoiled Edmund for merely pleasant women. Fanny is so downcast by this point that Edmund leads her back to the house.

Chapter 36

Edmund assures Sir Thomas that Fanny simply needs time to adjust to the idea of Henry loving her and gets his father's agreement to leave Fanny alone on the matter. Meanwhile, Fanny waits anxiously for Mary's visit and, when she arrives, agrees by her "habits of ready submission" to speak one on one in the East room. Mary's intention of scolding Fanny dissipates into happy memories of practicing lines, in that room, in which Edmund's character proposed to Mary's. She correctly guesses Edmund agreed to play the role for her sake and reprises her irritation over Sir Thomas's early return. Taken aback by Mary's real affection for Edmund and the whole family, Fanny embraces Mary tearfully. Mary, who once looked forward to rejoining London's social life, now regrets having to leave Mansfield Park, the scene of dear memories. However, if Fanny could see the stir the news of Henry's proposal has caused in the Crawfords' London circles, she would know how lucky and envied she is. Mary laments the unhappy marriages some of her friends have made as she tries to talk up Henry, with no idea of her words' effect on Fanny. As she accuses Fanny of knowing Henry loved her before he proposed, Mary admits the gift of the necklace was Henry's idea—a ploy to get Fanny to accept from Mary what she would never accept from Henry. Fanny was indeed aware of Henry's behavior, but took it as mere flirtation. She states her disapproval of men who toy with women's affections. Pushing harder, Mary insists that Henry's love for Fanny is different—real and lasting—and offers William's promotion as evidence, hitting on the one fact Fanny cannot refute. The women embrace, and Mary leaves. She asks Fanny to write to her often, but Fanny cannot imagine what her letters might say. Later that day, Henry, quieter than usual, comes to take his leave, pressing Fanny's hand briefly. She hopes when she next sees him, he will be married—to someone else.


Chapter 35 is a low point in Fanny's young life because Edmund, her beloved cousin and counselor, lets her down badly. In a sense, he redefines their relationship, at least temporarily, as he joins everyone else in urging her to marry Henry. Edmund is now ordained—a minister who will soon be preaching to his parish and tending to other spiritual duties, including moral instruction. He walks with Fanny now not as her friend, as in the past, but as yet another surrogate parent. In a classic bait-and-switch ploy, Edmund first praises Fanny for her modesty and assures her he is against "marriage without love." Fanny is relieved until Edmund goes on to say she must learn to love Henry, to "let him succeed at last," and to prove herself "grateful and tender-hearted." Fanny is more frank with Edmund than with anyone. In clear, sincere language, she explains her incompatibility with Henry and reminds Edmund of what he also witnessed between Henry and Maria. He dismisses her words, "scarcely hearing her" as he justifies and rationalizes the behavior of the man whose sister he loves. Fanny's disappointment is profound, and readers may wonder if the Crawfords' influence on Edmund has ruined him, just as Edmund often laments about London's influence on Mary. Edmund even throws blame on Fanny, who could make Henry into a good man but refuses to do so and who has caused Mary pain. Fanny, emotions "in revolt," is so dismayed by Edmund's self-interested betrayal of their trust that she lies to escape his lecture, saying she still feels unworthy of Henry's love—a staggering act, given Fanny's almost prudish moral code—and the chapter ends as Edmund shepherds his exhausted cousin to the house "with the kind authority of a privileged guardian"—yet another surrogate parent who assumes to know Fanny's mind better than she does.

The narrator indulges in an ironic statement on the situation as Chapter 36 opens, noting Edmund "now believed himself perfectly acquainted with all that Fanny could tell ... and was satisfied." By the end of the novel, the irony is not only verbal but also situational. Had Edmund taken Fanny seriously, or had she told Sir Thomas what she knows about Henry, the catastrophe likely would have been prevented. Fanny may be a mouse whose "habits of ready submission" mislead others about her discernment, but she knows who Henry is. She tells Mary as they discuss the trick with the necklace, "I was quiet, but I was not blind." Henry engages in "gallantries which did mean nothing." Mary agrees that Henry is "a sad flirt," but Fanny will convert him into a good man—his efforts on William's behalf, which seem more manipulative every time someone mentions them, are proof of that. Her final meeting with Mary is less trying than expected, and they part amicably. Because Fanny has kept her love for Edmund secret, she feels she can "resign herself to almost any thing."

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