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|Chap. 39- Packs a punch!
Written by Ramya
(10/13/2010 2:57 p.m.)
To me this is one of the most brilliantly written chapters in Austen. As a study in human nature, it is flawless. I am reminded of another such excellent chapter in another novel that blows me away every time I read it (Chap. 2 of S&S).
This chapter is almost self-contained. In a few short strokes, it paints a vivid picture of everything that is wrong about Mrs. Price and her family. For everything that is wrong can seemingly be traced back to Mrs. Price, who stands as the central figure in the canvas.
It is obvious that Mrs. Price has made a really bad choice in her husband. He must have been handsome and dashing enough in his youth, but he has deteriorated into an unattractive "icky" figure reeking of booze, with little information, authority or kindness. Mrs. Price herself is a weak woman, unable to manage either her children or her servants.
The description of the household management of the Prices leaves one almost uncomfortable. Their home is a place of confusion, noise and unregulated behavior. The house is dark, dirty and small. The children recieve dissimilar treatments from their parents. At the outset, it appears as though Austen is subscribing to the notion that "a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper."- Chap. 10, Emma. However, she demolishes that idea with another masterstroke- Mrs. Norris in a similar situation would have been much better situated and been much more respectable than Mrs. Price.
Fanny's reaction to her home is both slightly comical and pitiable. I do agree with TomP2 that JA gently pokes fun at Fanny throughout the novel. It appears that she has become somewhat "refined enough to be uncomfortable with those among whom birth and circumstances have placed her" to quote another novel. In more general terms, Fanny may be said to be suffering from reverse culture shock.
Reverse Culture Shock (a.k.a. "Re-entry Shock", or "own culture shock") may take place — returning to one's home culture after growing accustomed to a new one can produce the same effects as [culture shock]. This results from the psychosomatic and psychological consequences of the readjustment process to the primary culture. The affected person often finds this more surprising and difficult to deal with than the original culture shock. - thanks, Wikipedia. ;-)
However, her suffering is real. No one is actively kind to her, or even really bothered with her, except for Susan. In another brilliant reversal, just as Edmund was her advocate and mentor in Mansfield Park, we find in the very next chapter that Fanny has become a mentor to Susan.
Hats off to Austen!
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