Areas of Study
Areas of Study
Henry is rated as a 'capital improver'. He is delighted by the prospect of change and enjoys bringing it about. Similarly, Mary says that 'resting fatigues me'. The Crawfords are the embodiments of the new age, carrying new ideas and perpetual movement into the world of Mansfield Park and turning it upside down.
What improvements are they so keen to make?
Who is placed in their way by the author?
What are the results of their 'improvements'?
Who really should be 'improved' - and in what ways?
Maria marries Rushworth for money and status, then runs off for what she imagines to be love; Julia elopes with a debt-ridden aristocrat; Edmund becomes infatuated with Mary, yet marries Fanny; and Henry, with his fortune, is urged upon Fanny by her whole family.
The motivations behind marriages and courtships form the centre of the novel, but there should never be an assumption of love = good, money = bad - it's a good deal more complicated than that.
Is Sir Thomas wrong to allow Maria to marry Rushworth?
Is Fanny right to refuse Henry?
Sir Thomas believes that Fanny should accept Henry, that love will come in time - is romantic love, in the world of Mansfield Park, a sensible condition for marriage?
The events surrounding the production of Lovers' Vows are at the centre of the novel and provide a neat microcosm of the world of the whole novel.
In what ways do the actions of Mrs Norris contribute to the downfall of Maria and Tom?
Where else in the novel is it apparent that Fanny and Edmund are the only bulwarks against the rising tide of immorality and free expression?
The theatricals are all about pretence, imitation - what is dangerous about that, and where else in the novel is there a very strong sense that a character seeking to portray an image of him/herself is not to be trusted?
Why is it important that the very structure of the house is disturbed during the theatricals?
Why is it important that Sir Thomas is away when it all happens?
A trip away to have a look at a neighbour's house - nothing could be more innocent. But have a look at the imagery in this episode of the novel - Edmund and Mary, Maria and Henry all go into the 'wilderness'. Maria says to Henry that 'I cannot get out, as the starling said' when staring at an iron gate. They all disappear, and it's most improper...
In what ways are we prepared for the scandal at the end of the novel by the events in this chapter?
Why is it important that the Crawfords are the advocates of lonely walks in the 'wilderness'?
Look at Fanny - exhausted again. With what? Is energy itself something to be mistrusted? Where else in the novel is Fanny at rest while all around her are full of indecorous, dangerous movement?
The only place the novel takes us, besides Mansfield Park and Sotherton, is Fanny's home in Portsmouth. And she doesn't like it a great deal. Far from it, in fact. She finds it to be noisy, disordered and generally the exact opposite of everything at Mansfield Park.
In what ways are Fanny's feelings about Portsmouth used to highlight the importance of Mansfield Park, the house itself, in the world of the novel?
Look at the passages when Fanny compares the two houses - what stands out and which characters in the novel could be compared in similar ways?
The different ways Mary and Fanny speak to Edmund
Fanny's physical weakness and moral strength
London versus Mansfield Park
Revulsion at vulgarity
Fanny as a truly Christian heroine
Duty, duty, duty...