Who should Fanny Price have married? At our meeting on Saturday 20th February this was a question on which members’ opinions were divided – not equally: how could it as there were 11 members, three of them first-timers (welcome Helen, Mia and Jenny) present, but there was strong support for Cassandra’s stance that she should have married Henry Crawford. This, of course, led to a discussion of both Fanny and Henry’s characters and personalities.
Some described Fanny as puritanical and ‘wishy washy’ – lacking in humour and spirit – while others defended her as physically frail but morally strong, particularly during the Lovers’ Vows period when she refused even her beloved Edmund’s request to take part. And could a ‘wishy washy’ character have withstood Sir Thomas’s veiled bullying and even Edmund’s cajoling when she refused Henry’s proposal.
Henry, one of Austen’s less villainous villains, also divided opinion: was he a reformed character who would have given Fanny some spirit and whom she would have kept on the straight and narrow, or was he an incorrigible womaniser who would have reverted to type after ‘the honeymoon period’ of marriage was over? As one member said, we will never know. Some derided Edmund and Fanny’s future married life as being a pretty dull affair but others felt they were well suited and likely to achieve happiness in their own way.
We spent some time talking about Mary’s character trying to decide whether she was a true friend to Fanny or merely using her in the absence of any other suitable young women to socialise with. Had her London upbringing and values blinded her to the virtues of a country lifestyle and, especially, we considered her attitude to the clergy. Some of us wondered why Edmund could not make up his mind to propose to Mary as he so often seemed on the point of doing. His strong moral objections to some of her ‘playfulness’ did, as we find later in the novel, have sound grounds and saved him from a union which would not have been a happy one for him.
Anna pointed out that our studying MP volume by volume brought out the strong structure of the novel, this being particularly evident in Volume II which covers the period of the play, Sir Thomas’s absence and return, and the proposal. Mary made the comment that during the game of Speculation Mary Crawford said ‘No cold prudence for me. I am not born to sit still and do nothing. If I lose the game, it shall not be from not striving for it.’ which she felt encapsulated the novel.
Members had fun working together on Bill’s quiz on Volume II and we had our usual quotes challenge.
Volume III which we will discuss at our next meeting on 20th March promises to be equally interesting.
Business matters covered at the meeting were:
- Those (Mary, Anna, Marilyn, Bill, Margaret , Mia, Sue, Sarah – and anyone else who lets us know) interested in being involved in our presentation at JASA’s September conference will get together separately to work on this.
- Mary offered to take on responsibility for our library.
Members, please – those present at this meeting and those who were unable to attend – comment on this or add your own post about this meeting: we all learn from each other and this is where we can share our insights as well as at meetings.