Study Guide

Mansfield Park Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

  • Mr. Norris dies and Mrs. Norris moves to a small house nearby, but spends most of her time hanging out at Mansfield and mooching off her sister.
  • Since Mr. Norris died, his parsonage has been vacant.
  • Historical Context Lesson time! OK, during the 1800s in England, clergymen got "livings" which were basically a church to work in and a house to live in. As a fancy estate, Mansfield had a church on the property and a clergyman would be hired to come live and work there. The clergy was a bit of a racket in this era, though – lots of clergymen with their own fortune or with wealthy families would buy up a bunch of "livings," or houses, and then rent them out to other clergymen who would perform duties for them. We now return to our scheduled program.
  • So Edmund was supposed to get the living that Mr. Norris had vacated by dying, but he doesn't. His older brother Tom has racked up a ton of debt and Sir Thomas has to lease out the living to someone, and therefore take some money away from Edmund in order to pay Tom's bills.
  • Fortunately, Edmund has another living he can get – Sir Thomas is loaded and has lots of property. But he's still mad at Tom for being wasteful with his money.
  • Tom thinks his dad is a gigantic tool and rolls his eyes at the fiscal responsibility lecture he gets.
  • So a Dr. Grant moves to the neighborhood with his wife to become the new clergyman.
  • Meanwhile, Sir Thomas thinks that Mrs. Norris will now step up and take charge of Fanny since her husband has died and she really has nothing else going on.
  • Sir Thomas is hard up for cash after the Tom thing. He also has a plantation in the "West Indies" (a.k.a. the Caribbean) that's losing money.
  • More Historical Context! In this period if you owned land in the Caribbean it meant that you owned a plantation with slaves. For Austen's readers at the time, it would have been an interesting political point that Sir Thomas owned slaves. The slave trade was abolished in Britain in 1807, seven years before the publication of Mansfield Park. However, slavery itself wasn't abolished until years later. Basically you couldn't buy or sell slaves in England but you could still own slaves in British colonies. When this book was written, there were slave uprisings going on in the Caribbean. So Sir Thomas, as a slave owner, was directly involved in a lot of political turmoil and in some very serious moral debates going on in this period. (Learn more here.) And back to the story.
  • So everyone thinks that Fanny is going to live with Mrs. Norris now.
  • Fanny is upset to find this out, and talks with Edmund about it. He lectures her and tells her to buck up since not all change is bad, she'll be helpful to Aunt Norris, and it's not like she's moving far away.
  • Fanny is still not thrilled but she bows to Edmund's judgment.
  • However, all this drama comes to nothing since Mrs. Norris refuses to let Fanny live with her anyway.
  • Mrs. Norris talks it out with Lady Bertram and Sir Thomas and she manages to come up with about 80 excuses (lack of money, lack of space, lack of time, etc.) for why Fanny can't come live with her.
  • Sir Thomas soon just lets the matter drop.
  • The Grants arrive and Mrs. Norris quickly identifies all of the couple's faults and lets everyone else know about them. Dr. Grant eats too much! Mrs. Grant spends too much money!
  • One year passes.
  • Sir Thomas is still having financial problems and decides he needs to go to Antigua, the Caribbean island where his plantation is located.
  • Tom is going with Sir Thomas since the senior Bertram thinks he needs to straighten his son out.
  • Sir Thomas's kids could care less that he's leaving. In fact, his daughters are thrilled since they don't think he's very fun and they can party it up with dad not in the house.
  • Fanny is upset about the fact that she isn't really upset that Sir Thomas is leaving.
  • Sir Thomas hopes that William can come visit Fanny soon and tells her that it's kind of a bummer that she hasn't changed much from age ten even though she's now sixteen. Fanny is embarrassed.

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