Summary and Analysis
With much pleasure, Mrs. Dashwood broke the news of their departure to John and Fanny. She still expected her stepson to fulfill his promise to provide for them but "began shortly to give over every hope of the kind." By continual references to his increasing expenses, John made it plain "that his assistance extended no further than their maintenance for six months at Norland." Mrs. Dashwood coolly invited Fanny and John to visit them at Barton, but it was with great satisfaction and warmth that she extended this invitation to Edward, in complete defiance of the wishes of his wretched sister.
After tearful farewells and a melancholy journey, the Dashwoods were cheered by the sight of Barton Valley. They soon reached Barton Cottage, their new abode, with which Mrs. Dashwood "was upon the whole well satisfied." Though she talked of making many necessary additions and improvements, many far exceeding their limited means, "they were wise enough to be contented with the house as it was" and settled down with their possessions.
The next day, Sir John Middleton called on them: "His countenance was thoroughly good-humoured; and his manners were as friendly as the style of his letter. Their arrival seemed to afford him real satisfaction, and their comfort to be an object of real solicitude to him." However, his eagerness often lacked subtlety and his perseverance, discrimination.
Lady Middleton and her eldest son, aged six, called the following day. Her elegance impressed the Dashwoods favorably, but she had none of her husband's frankness and warmth; "though perfectly well-bred, she was reserved, cold, and had nothing to say for herself beyond the most common-place inquiry or remark."
To the modern reader, the Dashwoods may seem to appear self-pitying when they describe themselves as "poor." They can afford to keep three servants, and the three daughters do no work outside their home. But they were actually poor according to the standards of their social class at that time. The daughters of "gentlemen," like Elinor and Marianne, did not go out to work unless they were actually impoverished. And then the only position acceptable to young women of their class was that of governess.
The author's own love for the well-ordered beauty of the English countryside is shown in this chapter in the description of Barton Valley and the location of the Dashwoods' cottage: ". . . a view of Barton Valley as they entered it gave them cheerfulness. It was a pleasant, fertile spot, well wooded and rich in Pasture. . . . The situation of the house was good. High hills rose immediately behind it, and at no great distance on each side; some of which were open downs, the others cultivated and woody. The village of Barton was chiefly on one of these hills, and formed a pleasant view from the cottage windows."
Characteristic of Austen's style is her habit of making asides, usually ironic or slyly humorous. "On every formal visit," she observes, "a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse. In the present case it took up ten minutes to determine whether the boy were most like his father or mother." She thus gives us the impression that the conversation among the newly found relations didn't flow very quickly.