Free «Mansfield Park» Essay

Mansfield Park

Introduction

Mansfield Park, where is liked for Jane’s revolutionary thinking infused in it, is also largely criticized and disliked by Jane Austen’s many fans. The reason for which is the sheer lack of conventional writing of Jane Austen present in the book, where by the girl-meets-boy theme is rather overshadowed with various social, moral and emotional aspects covered by the book. Therein lays the challenge of understanding this book. Her other previous works can be easily understood based on their simple themes: Sense and Sensibility is about the balance of a person’s emotions and thinking, Pride and Prejudice is about how people tend to judge each other immediately, Emma is about entering into adulthood, and Persuasion is about embracing second chances that lives gives. But this novel poses a dilemma of understanding as it incumbents various themes that multifold the storyline and shape events that seem to at one point aggravate, annoy, irritate for the lack of romance and intrigue found in her other novels, but at the same time provoke thought and understand for the social and personal characteristics found in the era of 1800s as depicted by Jane’s writing. The readers stay confused in trying to define the novel: is it about slavery? Is it about how education changes a person? Is it about the social bondages and mores? Is it about emotion free reasoning? Or is it about the distinction between reality and appearances? The existence of multi themes in the novel makes it all the more deep to understand and we are presented with a revolutionary piece of work to ponder on. The main dilemma in the book is regarding the main character Fanny Price, who is in no way a similar counter part of the Pride and Prejudice’s famous Elizabeth Binnet. But rather she is a degraded, misunderstood and deprived portion of the society who has to strive for her destiny to be found and served a position in the society, that is, through a decent marriage proposal. Thus, to analyze the novel, the foremost analysis is to be of the main character, Fanny Price, who unveils a tale of misery and an accumulation of various societal and personal elements that make the story the in depth creation as it is. Followed by this, is the analysis of the central themes of the novel which come under three areas: slavery, nature and nurture and emotion and reason.

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Main Character

Fanny Price is the main and lead character of the storyline by Jane Austen in Mansfield Park. Unlike Jane’s other creations, this character is highly different from other heroines. She is shy, humble, held together and low in confidence. She owns a weak personality which is bound by several social mores. Although, she is the ‘always right’ girl as depicted by her actions and understanding in the book, but she is displayed as a weak person nonetheless. She is the kind of a person who is easily overthrown by domination and power and does hardly take a stand for her rights. She is not witty or even lively. But it could be said that the reason behind her gloomy personality is the lack of resources and privileges she has in her life, such as lack of a proper family support, etc.

Fanny is poor and lacks a proper family structure and a proper home. In the story she is shown with out parents, but the presence of an aunt and uncle, who are primarily rich, offers an alternative to a family. She is raised by them. She is shown to be like the type of orphans in Victorian novels who go through separation from parents. Like other of Jan Austen’s heroines, Fanny too is destined to marry and she eventually does by the end of the novel. But as much as the main aim of the girl is to get a social standing in the form of marriage, the portion of her marriage is rather a small section of the book and her life after marriage is not much stressed upon, rather the stress of the novel is upon the struggle of reasoning and emotions that pave way for that aim to fulfill. This aim had the background in the form of the fact that the women did not pursue professional careers and the only thing they were borne to do was to serve their families and husbands, through cooking, cleaning and looking after them, etc. Fanny, too, had to strive for marriage and gain a good proposal through her virtue and personality. Since, her personality was weak, therein posed a challenge for the girl.

Pondering over the main character, it raises the question whether Fanny Price is Jane Austen’s version of Cinderella. Some similarities can be found. The fact that Fanny was deprived of a proper family qualifies her as being similar to Cinderella. There was also absence of complete freedom of choice. But the closure for Fanny is not a fairy tale ending, as Jane leaves the aftermath hanging with little expressions over how the marriage unfolds for her.

Central Themes

The element of the book that causes the dislike and discomfort for the readers, is the very element that makes the book a revolutionary one: its confusing and numerous themes. There are three themes that seem to overrule the entire play and yearn for a discussion. These are the issue of slavery, the contrast of nurture with the nature, and the power of reason over emotions in decision making.

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Slavery

An interesting, rather a serious, social issue is raised in the novel by Jane Austen. This is the issue of slavery and human trafficking, where humans are sold off to other countries just like objects and commodities, without their consents. They are properties who are shipped from one place to another. A business performed by Sir Thomas who is seen absent for most of the novel busy in his trading, known as the slave trade. Fanny inquires about his business which shows her disproval and discontent for the morality of the business. But surprisingly through, his business is justified.  His trading activities are justified by the events of the novel when he is to perform a parental role and obligate to the family. His activities are termed as a moral liability, where in fact the act of slave trade is rather immoral and according to the modern times, a highly despicable business to enter to.

Austen, through the trading and business activities depicted in the book, displays her social awareness and the world in the 1800s. She shows urban poverty in the form of Fanny’s parents’ home which was an example of a failure of a family and a failure of a marriage.

Nature Vs Nurture

Other than the social stratification and the immoral business ventures and trading activities, the novel Mansfield Park also is based on the theme of the influence of nature and nurture upon the character building and personality characteristics of a person how these deem wisdom to choose the right from wrong and assess opportunities and threats in life. The novel argues and sets forth a debate over the dilemma that whether the innate, that is the in born characteristics owing to the genetic heritage taken on froom the parents, or the learned and observed characteristics and behaviors from the environment  where one grows and lives, account the for the final personality of a person. According to the socialization theories, the environment plays a vital role in how a person gets to be when he grows and this is clearly depicted and evident in the novel on several occasions and by several characters of the novel.    Fanny and her brothers and sisters are separated while young due to their previously disgruntled family and a failed marriage of their parents which only resulted in a disaster for the children who then are made to live in different environments which later eventually leads them in to obtaining rather different personalities. There are also the cases of Mary and Henry Crawford, who too are shuffled between different family lives. But the dilemma therein lies in the fact that it is still ambiguous as whether they were naturally like this or did they take on the characteristics as the eventful result of the family shifts and environmental shifts they faced during their lives. Education then becomes an integral element of the debate which reflects the idea that educations infuses wisdom and understanding and the power to use reason to judge in many of life’s problems. Edmund is shown as yet another complex personality who struggles for his emotions for the girl Mary and continues to give justifications for her behavior on account of his love for her. This shows a rather ambiguous of a role and we wonder whether the education, the environment or the natural heritage accounts for this shape of the personality of his.

Emotion Vs Reason

Lastly the issue of reason versus emotions in decision making and understanding f life’s issues which also qualifies as the theme of the novel is discussed. Fanny is shown to portray self denial in many of the situations and she is mostly very vulnerable and also very weary of the world and its happenings. She shares this vulnerability with Edmund who too finds himself at a rather defensive and wearier condition like that of Fanny. She avoids emotions and uses reason to judge what is to be done. Reason, then in the novel, is shown as having a crucial importance in her life and those of others as opposed to emotional decision making. Emotions limit possibilities and the strength of the decision, whereas reason eliminates a lot of different weaknesses in a decision and Fanny uses reason to decide what is best for her which only shows how wise she is.

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Conclusion

Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park infuses confusion to the minds of the readers as it presents various important issues that relate to society, personality, education, decision making and slavery. The readers are faced with dilemmas of understanding the main theme of the novel which is never known, but what is known is the idea of a very different and odd type of a literary heroine. Fanny Price can be said is the Jane Austen’s version of Cinderella who even though does not directly relate to the storyline of Cinderella as she does not altogether finds a prince, but she surely passes a challenge of getting a social standing. Coming back to the original requirement for attracting a marriage proposal, that is wisdom, fanny is shown to practice it immensely with sound decision making using reason as her weapon. This only depicts the idea that Fanny may be an odd character and different from Jane Austen’s other creations, but she is an ideal heroine with a strong sense of decision making and reasonable understandings of the world.

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