Adventures in Reading

Mansfield Park: Volume 2, Ch. 1 – 5
October 9, 2007, 5:12 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Volume 2 begins with Sir Thomas Bertram’s return from Antigua, and during his absence from Mansfield the rather risqué play and increasing flirtations have been occurring. Sir Thomas truly plays the patriarchal position in the family as his absence led to the “corruption” of all the characters excepting Fanny. Interestingly enough, this does seem to establish Fanny with a certain air of independence or at least dependability to reflect and make educated decisions regarding her own behavior. For the other characters though, Sir Thomas’ return is very much seen as an intrusion into their entertainment they have been delighting in during his absence; however, for Sir Thomas, his trip has only confirmed his family as “unsteady characters” (527).

During Sir Thomas’ trip Fanny Price has, at least we are told, physically changed into a more robust and healthy looking young woman. This along with her steady character fetches a great deal of importance with Sir Thomas. While this occurs Sir Thomas meets his daughter’s fiancée: Mr. Rushworth, and finds that as “Advantageous as would be the alliance, and long standing and public as was the engagement, her happiness must not be sacrificed to it” (534). It is no secret since the entrance of Mr. Rushworth that he is… stupid. It is a clear example of a young lady marrying for wealth rather than love and in Maria’s case it is perhaps more severe, as she continues the engagement as a result of Henry Crawford leaving Mansfield and his discontinuation of communication with Maria. And thus Maria very quickly becomes Mrs. Rushworth.

Once again I must return to Austen’s character development versus Richardson’s. It would be neat and easy for Austen to write off the Crawfords as merely flawed villains that bounce off of her heroines and heroes, but Austen does not do this. Austen establishes a firm groundwork of poor upbringing that has affected the two. Even in their romances with Edmund and Maria Bertram Austen takes no steps to deny that sincere interest and emotion exists. Whether that is Edmund murmuring, “She is too good for him—much too good,” (547) under his breath after his return or Mary’s romantic reflections regarding Edmund. Henry and Mary Crawford are careless, vain, and inconsiderate people (and the list certainly goes on), but they are also complex characters with a breadth of emotion that secures that they are not simply horrible people. This moralistic blurring the reader witnesses in most every character encourages the audience to forgive flaws and imperfections.


I think you hit on why Jane Austen remains so popular, and why her fans reread the same books over and over. Her characters are beautifully drawn and so complex that each time the reader visits them, they find another characteristic to admire (or not.)

Comment by Ms. Place

Very true. Austen was quite adept at creating flawed heroines and sympathetic villains, a talent many authors lack.

Comment by bookchronicle

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