Emsley's main thesis in this chapter is that Fanny is Austen's heroine who most achieves philosophic wisdom. She has been criticized as a weak character for her submissiveness and deference to others. In urging her to act gratefully and accept Henry Crawford, the Bertrams expect of her what Wollsonecraft called "spaniel-like virtues". However, it is the fact Fanny has been "long used to submission" yet still resists these urgings that proves her real strength. And while much is made of Edmund having formed her mind, in fact, we see her independent judgments growing more confident and more distinct from Edmund's as the novel progresses. This view is reinforced by her words to Henry describing a "better guide in ourselves" that all possess.
Emsley also brings out the fascinating metaphor, introduced in the chapel scene, of Mansfield Park as a nation. Edmund's moral failing, in not giving the example he has stated the clergy should, augurs ill for his model of a clergy-directed nation. Fanny, however, is an individual who departs from the stus quo in refusing to participate in the play. Austen's belief in the prerequisite of moral individuals is reinforced by Emsley's epigraph from "Catherine", which states that "the welfare of every nation depends on the virtue of it's [sic] individuals".
Here I return to Fanny's attitude toward novelty. Emsley proves -- especially through surveying Fanny's expressions about plants and the changing seasons -- that she is not without appreciation for novelty and change. In fact, it is those around her who stifle her rapturous expressions, through their indifference to "intellectual subjects" (121). For instance, Fanny attempts to engage Mary Crawford on the "wonderful ... changes of the human mind" but is met with silence. Nor does Fanny advocate habit merely for its own sake. In the scene in which Henry reads Shakespeare and discusses the art of sermons, Fanny approves of recent changes in the manner of their delivery.
Emsley has rendered the claim that Fanny is static invalid. Another character frequently criticized is Sir Thomas. Emsley sheds light on how we are to view Sir Thomas through comparing him with Mr Bennet. The former is "the longest to suffer" his family's disgrace due to "errors in his own conduct as a parent", while Mr Bennet acknowledges his family's disgrace as his "own doing", but is "not afraid of being overpowered by the impression". Sir Thomas and his son Tom are characters who have been morally indictable, but change. Fanny is a character whose consistent habit of contemplation -- both privately and in "community" when consulting her uncle -- has led to moral comfort (peace), and also to growth of personality and intellect.
*I've frequently expressed my hatred of Amis' essay "What Became of Jane Austen?" Emsley provided an excellent clue to where Amis went wrong. In her S&S chapter she points to Aristotle who "says that there is an important distinction between vice and moral weakness, the difference being that while vice is an imbalance of emotion that makes us unable to see that what we do is wrong, moral weakness is the state of knowing what is right, behaving wrongly, and being conscious of regret at falling short of practicing the virtues" (Emsley, 71) Isn't this an exact description of the difference between the Crawfords and Edmund?
**See "Frederic and Elfrida" (Seriously, what awful names, Miss Austen!)