Mansfield Park

Description

Description

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The novel tells the story of Fanny Price starting when her overburdened family sends her at age 10 to live in the household of her wealthy aunt and uncle, through to her marriage. It is a jolting change, from the elder sister of many, to the youngest at the estate of Sir Thomas Bertram, husband of her mother’s older sister. Her cousin Edmund finds her alone one day and helps her. She wants to write to her older brother William. Edmund provides the writing materials, the first kindness to her in this new family. Her cousins are: Tom age: 17, Edmund age: 16, Maria age: 13 and Julia age: 12. Her aunt is kind but her uncle frightens her with his authoritative demeanour. Fanny’s mother has another sister, Mrs Norris. She is the wife of the clergyman at Mansfield parsonage. Mrs Norris has no children and takes a great interest in her nieces and nephews. Mrs Norris keeps up a strict difference between her Bertram nieces and lowly Fanny. Sir Thomas helps the sons of the Price family find occupations as they are old enough. William joins the Navy as a midshipman not long after Fanny is at Mansfield Park. He visits them once before going to sea, and writes to his sister.

When Fanny was fifteen, Aunt Norris is widowed and moves into a cottage of her own. Her visits to Mansfield Park increase, as does her mistreatment of Fanny. Tom Bertram incurs a large debt and to pay it, Sir Thomas sells the living of the parsonage, freed up by the death of Uncle Norris, to clergyman Dr Grant.

When Fanny is 16, Sir Thomas leaves to deal with problems on his plantation in Antigua. He takes Tom along and trusts to Aunt Norris for the others. Mrs Norris takes on the task of finding a husband for Maria and finds James Rushworth, with income of ₤12,000 a year, but weak-willed and stupid. Maria accepts his marriage proposal…
Though Jane Austen was writing at a time when Gothic potboilers such as Ann Ward Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto were all the rage, she never got carried away by romance in her own novels. In Austen’s ordered world, the passions that ruled Gothic fiction would be horridly out of place; marriage was, first and foremost, a contract, the bedrock of polite society. Certain rules applied to who was eligible and who was not, how one courted and married and what one expected afterwards. To flout these rules was to tear at the basic fabric of society, and the consequences could be terrible. Each of the six novels she completed in her lifetime are, in effect, comic cautionary tales that end happily for those characters who play by the rules and badly for those who don’t. In Mansfield Park, for example, Austen gives us Fanny Price, a poor young woman who has grown up in her wealthy relatives’ household without ever being accepted as an equal. The only one who has truly been kind to Fanny is Edmund Bertram, the younger of the family’s two sons.

Into this Cinderella existence comes Henry Crawford and his sister, Mary, who are visiting relatives in the neighborhood. Soon Mansfield Park is given over to all kinds of gaiety, including a daring interlude spent dabbling in theatricals. Young Edmund is smitten with Mary, and Henry Crawford woos Fanny. Yet these two charming, gifted, and attractive siblings gradually reveal themselves to be lacking in one essential Austenian quality: principle. Without good principles to temper passion, the results can be disastrous, and indeed, Mansfield Park is rife with adultery, betrayal, social ruin, and ruptured friendships. But this is a comedy, after all, so there is also a requisite happy ending and plenty of Austen’s patented gentle satire along the way. Describing the switch in Edmund’s affections from Mary to Fanny, she writes: “I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that everyone may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people.” What does not vary is the pleasure with which new generations come to Jane Austen. –Alix Wilber
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The novel tells the story of Fanny Price starting when her overburdened family sends her at age 10 to live in the household of her wealthy aunt and uncle, through to her marriage. It is a jolting change, from the elder sister of many, to the youngest at the estate of Sir Thomas Bertram, husband of her mother’s older sister. Her cousin Edmund finds her alone one day and helps her. She wants to write to her older brother William. Edmund provides the writing materials, the first kindness to her in this new family. Her cousins are: Tom age: 17, Edmund age: 16, Maria age: 13 and Julia age: 12. Her aunt is kind but her uncle frightens her with his authoritative demeanour. Fanny’s mother has another sister, Mrs Norris. She is the wife of the clergyman at Mansfield parsonage. Mrs Norris has no children and takes a great interest in her nieces and nephews. Mrs Norris keeps up a strict difference between her Bertram nieces and lowly Fanny. Sir Thomas helps the sons of the Price family find occupations as they are old enough. William joins the Navy as a midshipman not long after Fanny is at Mansfield Park. He visits them once before going to sea, and writes to his sister.

When Fanny was fifteen, Aunt Norris is widowed and moves into a cottage of her own. Her visits to Mansfield Park increase, as does her mistreatment of Fanny. Tom Bertram incurs a large debt and to pay it, Sir Thomas sells the living of the parsonage, freed up by the death of Uncle Norris, to clergyman Dr Grant.

When Fanny is 16, Sir Thomas leaves to deal with problems on his plantation in Antigua. He takes Tom along and trusts to Aunt Norris for the others. Mrs Norris takes on the task of finding a husband for Maria and finds James Rushworth, with income of ₤12,000 a year, but weak-willed and stupid. Maria accepts his marriage proposal…