Books: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Chapters 33–40)

Mr Crawford will not take "no" for an answer, no matter how many different ways Fanny tries to say it. And she gets no help from Edmund who, while acknowledging he wouldn't want her to marry against her wishes, says he does wish she wished to marry Mr Crawford. Could there be anything worse than having the person you love say they wish you'd marry someone else? Well, there's the fact that Edmund is in love with someone else too. That's pretty heartbreaking for Fanny as well.

Fanny is rescued two-fold from all the pressures of Mansfield—that is, the hopes she'll come to her senses and accept Mr Crawford, and the hateful pressure of having to hear Edmund rhapsodize over Miss Crawford—by (a) Mr Crawford and his sister going to London, and (b) a visit from William. Together, Fanny and William plan to go to Portsmouth where William's sloop is docked and where the Price family lives. Fanny hasn't been "home" in some eight years or so.

As Bartok says: This can only end in tears.

For one thing, Fanny has been brought up so differently. And for another, she has been absent so long that there really is no place for her in the family. It might have been all right if William had been able to stay and ease her into the household, but upon their arrival in Portsmouth, William is informed his ship is almost ready to leave. He must go.

Fanny struggles to fit into the Price family but she is used to quiet and the place is noisy. She is used to order and the place is highly disorganized. She is used to propriety and in the Price home there is none; her father drinks and swears, people yell through the house, the children misbehave, and the servants can hardly be bothered to do their work.

In one person, however, Fanny finds some comfort: Her sister Susan. At first Susan appears too strident and temperamental, but Fanny comes to understand it is only because Susan struggles against the very things that upset Fanny and shows her frustration in ways Fanny never would. Susan does not scruple to speak out and tell her brothers, her little sister, the servants what they should and shouldn't do. To no avail. And so Fanny shows Susan how to sit quietly up in their shared room, away from the bustle, thus removing themselves from the very stimulants that strike them the wrong way.

Meantime, Fanny has word that Edmund has gone to London himself. Now Fanny lives in dread of the news that Edmund and Miss Crawford will officially be engaged . .  .

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