A special guest editorial by Lila Proof, PhD
Early in the novel, the Bertram girls ask Fanny Price "which way she would go to get to Ireland." Fanny's response that she would "cross to the Isle of Wight," contextualizes the struggle against empire. She is saying that the Bertrams shouldn't go to Ireland at all--but tellingly, she is then derided as "ignorant."
But this is merely prelude to the Sotherton episode in the novel. On the journey out -- we might almost say "on the expedition" -- Julia Bertram sits beside Henry Crawford on the barouche-box. He "entertains" her with some anecdotes about an "old Irish groom" of his uncle's. Henry's bigoted remarks are not necessary to move the plot along. Austen could easily have come up with an alternative topic for Henry. Julia joins in the laughter at the expense of a man who is both an immigrant and a subordinate.