Chapter 18

That was probably his last triumph. If Maria had doubts, he took them away by offering care at a difficult time; if he had not, she might have had a warning. He might not have left their relationship on his own terms.

Mrs. Norris so far seems the kind of person everyone finds caring and decent, because she tries to make herself important by pretending to look after them. I think it's the first time it's explicitly said, but it does help me understand my previous impressions of her. She's only cruel to people she can treat as beneath her, not only because she can get away with it but because she can use it to increase the impression of her goodness: bragging about preventing the ten year old son of the carpenter from getting a free meal with the servants, for example.

I almost feel sorry for Sir Thomas. I know his business in Antigua is slavery-related, his failures as a parent, and how he enables Mrs. Norris, but I almost feel bad that he feels unmissed (though that was a peek into first bit of the next chapter) and that his world isn't what he thought it was. He's also letting himself be misled by Mr. Rushworth; of course Mr. Rushworth has no interest in acting, he was getting jealous and ignored. Later Sir Thomas will make the mistake of offering Maria a way out without offering his strong support of both options.

I've been thinking that while Fanny is too soft on the people above her, at least it does come from the same morality that will give her strength to say no to them later. It's one of those complex multi-sided traits, firmness of principle and sense of self-worth. Makes sense, too, since she probably didn't expect that marriage would be pushed on her given the way she was raised. She developed opinions with less influence from the family save Edmund, I would guess. But I'm leaking into future chapters again! Anyway, it's natural for the character that she would see Edmund's mistakes but not want him to suffer for them, and not think of his flaws.
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