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ConnieAnnKirk
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Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)

Please feel free to post your impressions of anything from the first 1/4 of the novel here.  Please avoid posting any plot details that occur after Chapter 12. 
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ARMYRANGER
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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)

As I reread just the first chapter alone, I am struck by several things: 
 
First, in a mere 7 pages Austen has managed to introduce the Ward sisters, Sir Thomas Bertram, their children, and Fanny.  But the reader receives more than just a basic introduction, right away we get an immediate sense of the psychological make up of the characters... especially Mrs. Norris.  Such concision is truly remarkable.
 
Second, the ambiguity of time.  The novel starts out, "About thirty years ago..." since Jane began writing MP in 1811 that would make the year about 1781 when the novel begins, then half way down the page we read, "Miss Ward, at the end of half a dozen years, found herself obliged to be attached to the Rev. Mr. Norris..." which brings us up to 1787 for her marriage.  This technique of only alluding to dates (rather than stating them) renders an aetherial quality to the tone, creating a mood conducive to fairy tale rather than reality.  Quite a charming literary technique.  We will see this again with the dating of the ball at Mansfiel Park.
 
Third, the choice of Mrs. Norris as the character which receives the greatest development in the first few pages.  By the end of the first chapter we feel like we already know almost everything about this wretched woman.  Shouldn't convention have led Austen to reveal Fanny's character more than Mrs. Norris's?       
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Laurel
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Mrs. Morris

She's a very intrusive person, isn't she? She butts right into the first chapter full force.

ARMYRANGER wrote:
Third, the choice of Mrs. Norris as the character which receives the greatest development in the first few pages. By the end of the first chapter we feel like we already know almost everything about this wretched woman. Shouldn't convention have led Austen to reveal Fanny's character more than Mrs. Norris's?



"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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dulcinea3
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Re: Mrs. Norris

There is more to Mrs. Norris' character than Fanny's.  She is a much more forceful personality.  Also, perhaps it is partly because Fanny's character is not very developed yet.  She is only about ten and very shy.  She just kind of blends into the background at the Bertrams'.
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Re: Mrs. Norris

That's an excellent point. Mrs. Norris is basically who she is right from the start. But Fanny is just a child when we first see her, so a big part of the book will be watching her develop and watching her character emerge.

dulcinea3 wrote:
There is more to Mrs. Norris' character than Fanny's. She is a much more forceful personality. Also, perhaps it is partly because Fanny's character is not very developed yet. She is only about ten and very shy. She just kind of blends into the background at the Bertrams'.



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Re: Mrs. Norris

[ Edited ]
I agree that we pretty much know everything there is to know about Mrs. Norris early in the book. As mentioned by someone else, Fanny is still developing so her character grows over time. It seems to me like it was important for Jane Austen to tell us about Mrs. Norris early on because in some ways, her character represents the feelings of the rest of the family. They all want to do the "right" thing by Fanny as long as it doesn't inconvenience them in any way. (All except for Edward). Not only are her feelings a good representation of the family, they also influence Fanny's own feelings on her role in the family.


Message Edited by ukduchess on 05-06-2008 03:05 PM
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Re: Mrs. Norris



ukduchess wrote:
I agree that we pretty much know everything there is to know about Mrs. Norris early in the book. As mentioned by someone else, Fanny is still developing so her character grows over time. It seems to me like it was important for Jane Austen to tell us about Mrs. Norris early on because in some ways, her character represents the feelings of the rest of the family. They all want to do the "right" thing by Fanny as long as it doesn't inconvenience them in any way. (All except for Edward). Not only are her feelings a good representation of the family, they also influence Fanny's own feelings on her role in the family.


Message Edited by ukduchess on 05-06-2008 03:05 PM

I don't know; I think the family members have different attitudes.  Mrs. Norris is selfish and miserly.  Sir Thomas is kindly and does want to give Fanny what she needs.  He even mentions that if she does not marry, he will feel it his duty provide for her; I'm sure Mrs. Norris had to bite her tongue over that idea!  His main concern is not that he doesn't want to be inconvenienced so much as that he has a very acute sense of station, and he wants to raise her up as much as he can, as befits a relation of his family, but not too much, so that she is still clearly beneath his own daughters socially.  Lady Bertram certainly does not want to be inconvenienced, but this applies to all things, and not just Fanny.  Of course, she ends up finding having Fanny around very convenient, and frequently monopolizes Fanny's time!
 
I do think that your point that Mrs. Norris' feelings are a strong influence on Fanny's attitude towards her role within the family is very apt.  Sir Thomas is distant, and Lady Bertram practically comatose.  It is Mrs. Norris that speaks to Fanny the most about these things, and Fanny takes everything said to her very seriously.
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Re: Mrs. Norris

[ Edited ]



I don't know; I think the family members have different attitudes.  Mrs. Norris is selfish and miserly.  Sir Thomas is kindly and does want to give Fanny what she needs.  He even mentions that if she does not marry, he will feel it his duty provide for her; I'm sure Mrs. Norris had to bite her tongue over that idea!  His main concern is not that he doesn't want to be inconvenienced so much as that he has a very acute sense of station, and he wants to raise her up as much as he can, as befits a relation of his family, but not too much, so that she is still clearly beneath his own daughters socially. 


 
I agree that Mrs. Norris is positively vile...but I love her!  I think she is written so well, and while I acknowledge that she is unsavory, distasteful, and static, I can't help but enjoy reading her dialogue because it is so darn amusing!

However, I can't help but think that Norris is simply a product of her environment, and I almost admire her thinly veiled insincerity.  Because of her station, an odd combination of both noble and common lifestyles, I think she feels a sense of obligation to fulfill the role to which she has been assigned...and the fact that she does so begrudgingly, almost makes me root her on!  She's adhering to all the right rules, but she clearly isn't happy doing it.

Sir Thomas, on the other hand, is much more irritating to me.  Where Mrs. Norris seems annoyed by her position, Sir Thomas appears to revel in it.  He uses his station to magnify his magnanimity...yuck.


Message Edited by awashburn on 05-07-2008 12:01 PM



Message Edited by awashburn on 05-07-2008 12:06 PM
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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)

[ Edited ]


 
Third, the choice of Mrs. Norris as the character which receives the greatest development in the first few pages.  By the end of the first chapter we feel like we already know almost everything about this wretched woman.  Shouldn't convention have led Austen to reveal Fanny's character more than Mrs. Norris's?       


I mention this in an earlier post, but I think Austen uses Mrs. Norris to say something even more significant message than that which she attempts to convey through Fanny.  Mrs. Norris is a byproduct of the concept of late 18th century marriage, and I think the development of her character allows us to see from whence much of her resentment stems.  While Fanny can encapsulate our perfect romantic heroine, she defies the reality of the time. 


Message Edited by awashburn on 05-07-2008 12:08 PM
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Re: Mrs. Norris



awashburn wrote:
I agree that Mrs. Norris is positively vile...but I love her!  I think she is written so well, and while I acknowledge that she is unsavory, distasteful, and static, I can't help but enjoy reading her dialogue because it is so darn amusing!

 
I agree.  Even though I kind of hate her, she is probably my favorite character in the novel.  She is certainly the most fun to read about.  Sometimes something happens and you just know how she will respond, and you can't wait!
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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)

awashburn wrote: Mrs. Norris is a byproduct of the concept of late 18th century marriage, and I think the development of her character allows us to see from whence much of her resentment stems.

I would love to have you (or anybody else!) expand on this a bit.
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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)

[ Edited ]


Everyman wrote:
awashburn wrote: Mrs. Norris is a byproduct of the concept of late 18th century marriage, and I think the development of her character allows us to see from whence much of her resentment stems.

I would love to have you (or anybody else!) expand on this a bit.
Ok, I guess what I mean is that Mrs. Norris, as well as any other woman during this period, is only qualified as fulfilled (by society's standards) if she has a husband.  I think Austen highlights this in one of the first pages where she states that there were far more pretty women than available men...it's a competition, and the losers become spinsters, having no real worth in anyone's regard.
 
Mrs. Norris, as we find out, is not capable of landing a man with the same financial success as her sister, and so she must settle for the reverend...and I do mean settle.  If she does not do this, she may end up married to someone of even lower repute or not married at all...both of which are painted as intolerable by Austen...in this and many other novels.
 
So...although Mrs. Norris is not a character I would like to befriend and/or emulate, I have an understanding that her actions may stem from societal sources rather than a rotten core.  And part of me thinks that Austen wants readers to see that.


Message Edited by awashburn on 05-07-2008 03:35 PM
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Re: Mrs. Norris



dulcinea3 wrote:

I agree.  Even though I kind of hate her, she is probably my favorite character in the novel.  She is certainly the most fun to read about.  Sometimes something happens and you just know how she will respond, and you can't wait!


I also think she's timeless...I know these people!!!  People who do what is right because of obligation and public opinion rather than self fulfillment, and they all seem to relate to Mrs. Norris in their resentment and irritation.  There is such pressure to abide by expectation.

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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)



awashburn wrote:


Everyman wrote:
awashburn wrote: Mrs. Norris is a byproduct of the concept of late 18th century marriage, and I think the development of her character allows us to see from whence much of her resentment stems.

I would love to have you (or anybody else!) expand on this a bit.
Ok, I guess what I mean is that Mrs. Norris, as well as any other woman during this period, is only qualified as fulfilled (by society's standards) if she has a husband.  I think Austen highlights this in one of the first pages where she states that there were far more pretty women than available men...it's a competition, and the losers become spinsters, having no real worth in anyone's regard.
 
Mrs. Norris, as we find out, is not capable of landing a man with the same financial success as her sister, and so she must settle for the reverend...and I do mean settle.  If she does not do this, she may end up married to someone of even lower repute or not married at all...both of which are painted as intolerable by Austen...in this and many other novels.
 
So...although Mrs. Norris is not a character I would like to befriend and/or emulate, I have an understanding that her actions may stem from societal sources rather than a rotten core.  And part of me thinks that Austen wants readers to see that.


Message Edited by awashburn on 05-07-2008 03:35 PM


I think there's also something quite telling about her refusal to have Fanny live with her.  Yes...there's a stinginess and a desire to appear altruistic without really having to BE altruistic, but...I think Mrs. Norris is one of those people who just doesn't know how to really interact with others, so she interacts as she thinks she should to appear how she thinks she should be. 
 
Is that confusing?  Maybe....but think of this.  She is the wife of a reverend, someone who should be beneficent to those less fortunate.  So...in the quiet of her home and in, I like to imagine, the solitude of her "space" while her husband is lounging in the study or doing his pastoral duties, she comes up with the perfect "plan" to show that she is, indeed, helpful to the less fortunate.  It is not too far beyond expectations for a woman to lean on her more wealthy relatives to "assist" in something like this.
 
I have to admit that I take most all of these characters with a 1/2 grain of salt given Austen's penchant for satirizing types of people in novels.  They are all, I think, written with a slight edge of embellishment to make them seem just a tad bit ... I think the word I'm looking for is pitiful, but it doesn't sound quite right...
 
To bring this back together.....I think there's another side to Mrs. Norris, a very private side, that place where she worries about how she appears to others, where she stresses over expectations, where she dreads the interactions with others of whom she wants to fit in with, but knows that she doesn't and, indeed, possibly can't.  That side of Mrs. Norris, to me, is very wonderful and I don't know how or why I see that in her except that I make connections from others who put on that "front" to the world when deep inside they are insecure.
 
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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)



nvoggesser wrote:

To bring this back together.....I think there's another side to Mrs. Norris, a very private side, that place where she worries about how she appears to others, where she stresses over expectations, where she dreads the interactions with others of whom she wants to fit in with, but knows that she doesn't and, indeed, possibly can't.  That side of Mrs. Norris, to me, is very wonderful and I don't know how or why I see that in her except that I make connections from others who put on that "front" to the world when deep inside they are insecure.

I think I fall somewhere between you and some of the earlier, harsher, opinions of Mrs. Norris.  Where you are seeing vulnerability, I am seeing strength.  I don't envision Mrs. Norris in her private life because, to some extent, that doesn't really say very much to me.  What has infinitely more meaning, in my mind, is the fact that she clearly is making an attempt at adopting a role, though she seems to "rebel" against it. What appeals to me is that she seems to be full of "piss and vinegar"....and  I appreciate that, even at Fanny's expense.
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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)



awashburn wrote:


nvoggesser wrote:

To bring this back together.....I think there's another side to Mrs. Norris, a very private side, that place where she worries about how she appears to others, where she stresses over expectations, where she dreads the interactions with others of whom she wants to fit in with, but knows that she doesn't and, indeed, possibly can't.  That side of Mrs. Norris, to me, is very wonderful and I don't know how or why I see that in her except that I make connections from others who put on that "front" to the world when deep inside they are insecure.

I think I fall somewhere between you and some of the earlier, harsher, opinions of Mrs. Norris.  Where you are seeing vulnerability, I am seeing strength.  I don't envision Mrs. Norris in her private life because, to some extent, that doesn't really say very much to me.  What has infinitely more meaning, in my mind, is the fact that she clearly is making an attempt at adopting a role, though she seems to "rebel" against it. What appeals to me is that she seems to be full of "piss and vinegar"....and  I appreciate that, even at Fanny's expense.



And...I think that's the best thing about reading a book...we can all interpret characters in our own ways based on what we learn from them. 
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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)

[ Edited ]
I had a reply here, but realized that a quote I used was from Chapter 13, so I have moved my post to the section for the second part of the novel; maybe we can continue discussing Mrs. Norris as we continue to see her antics through that section.
 
Sorry!


Message Edited by dulcinea3 on 05-08-2008 11:37 AM
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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)

I find it fascinating how Sir Thomas stresses that Fanny's inferiority must be preserved in the family structure.  I can't help but wonder if Julia and Maria would be so nasty if they were not, in essence, instructed to be so.
 
Likewise, Sir Thomas' preoccupation with the potential of one of his sons falling in love with Fanny seems interesting.  Is he somehow intimidated by the lower classes in general or Fanny specifically?  And if so, why Fanny specifically when he his fear is manifested prior to ever meeting her?
 
In theory...and this is just a guess...could he inadvertently be regretful of his marriage to Lady Bertram (it was specifically stated that she was below him) and show this through his great concern that his own sons would marry beneath them?
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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)

Thank you for doing that, dulcinea3!  As well-read as Austen still is nowadays, there are still new readers of her, or particular novels of hers, all the time.
 
~ConnieK

dulcinea3 wrote:
I had a reply here, but realized that a quote I used was from Chapter 13, so I have moved my post to the section for the second part of the novel; maybe we can continue discussing Mrs. Norris as we continue to see her antics through that section.
 
Sorry!


Message Edited by dulcinea3 on 05-08-2008 11:37 AM


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Re: Chapters 1 - 12 (No Spoilers, Please!)

I was also fascinated by this.  Fanny is really not an adopted daughter but a ward of the Bertrams.  Sir Thomas's attitude is mirrored especially by Mrs. Norris who considers herself much the superior to Fanny although she is really in debt to Sir Thomas and her sister for her house, etc.  She is of lesser economic order than the Bertrams though she certainly advances her own economic growth by her frugal measures!
 
It is also interesting that this would be a match between first (?) cousins if it occurred.  There must have been less of a taboo of marriage between cousins then.
 
rosie


awashburn wrote:
I find it fascinating how Sir Thomas stresses that Fanny's inferiority must be preserved in the family structure.  I can't help but wonder if Julia and Maria would be so nasty if they were not, in essence, instructed to be so.
 
Likewise, Sir Thomas' preoccupation with the potential of one of his sons falling in love with Fanny seems interesting.  Is he somehow intimidated by the lower classes in general or Fanny specifically?  And if so, why Fanny specifically when he his fear is manifested prior to ever meeting her?
 
In theory...and this is just a guess...could he inadvertently be regretful of his marriage to Lady Bertram (it was specifically stated that she was below him) and show this through his great concern that his own sons would marry beneath them?



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