Mansfield Park Summary and Analysis
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Austen’s Realism in Mansfield Park
Mansfield Park Summary: Introduction
Mansfield Park, written by Jane Austen, is a significantly arduous novel full of incredible characters and moments. Just like Jane Austen's other novels, Mansfield Park focuses on a timid young girl wanting to find a place for herself in the social order. In this novel, our attention is drawn towards Fanny Price's life and her experiences in Mansfield Park. It is a poor neighborhood, yet she is forced to live there because of her family's financial situation. After she becomes ten years old, her family sends Fanny to her wealthy relatives. The main themes of the novel are the struggle of social relationships, slavery, which is still present during Austen's lifetime, and morality. In this paper, I will analyze Austen's way of using realistic details in the novel Mansfield Park.
To start off, as a social realist, Jane Austen uses ordinary people, places, events, and situations, contrary to her other novels during the time. This novel offers themes that are both realistic and complicated such as family relationships, education, desires and principles, virtue and vice, illusion, and reality. Based on the novel’s theme of realism, the characters have their characteristic traits and weaknesses, yet it is hard to understand the ending as the meaning varies from person to person. Additionally, we see Austen's moral sense in this novel. In Mansfield Park, she leaves her cheerful attitude and leans towards to criticize the problems of her time.
Austen puts different senses of morality into different characters' personalities and experiences. For instance, Fanny and Edmund are prudish and lacks charm, while Mary Crawford and her brother Henry are bright and full of life. The character Sir Thomas is full of discrimination and narrow-mindedness. Fanny acts snobbishly towards the Portsmouth family. She is always ready to judge people, especially the Crawfords, and Edmund is nothing different. On the other hand, she tries to focus on the bright side of life and avoids talking about the grim reality of people as if she is forcing to see the full half of a glass. We understand it from this part of Mansfield Park:
"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort."
She avoids writing about issues she is not familiar with. She doesn't portray servants, small tradesmen, cottagers, or the upper class in-depth because she does not know them completely. She describes the class of people she is perfectly familiar with, her people. Without knowing all the details, writing about a real-life issue would not be so realistic. She portrays a lot of real-life concepts in this novel; the grim reality of good and evil, the sophistication between vice and morality, and the inevitable feelings of human relationships. In Mansfield Park, the characters' personalities, feelings, experiences, and relationships between them, show us what we all experience throughout our lives. Austen tells the readers her experiences, and we can see that she tries to avoid looking at the empty by using realist writing techniques. She knew that her writing style was the best way to explain the realities to the readers. And showing these realities in her writings is an effective method to make people understand and comprehend them. What she did with novels achieved the main goal of the realism movement, which is to describe life as it truly is, to describe real, ordinary people, their problems and concerns as clearly and truthfully as it can be.
In Mansfield Park, there is a famous part of a scandal, which is also a unique example of a realistic feature. In the afternoon, Fanny is spending time in the front room with her father, and her father is reading a newspaper. Fanny learns about a scandal about Mrs. Rushworth that he ran off with Henry Crawford. She is shocked after hearing this in the Rushworth household. This incident shows us the real-life struggle with love, hate, and marriage. Henry Crawford's feelings and behaviors are really hard to understand. It is very hard to understand who he loves or wants to marry. Although it is clear that he is trying to impress Maria and Julia to gain their interest just for fun. He even tries to make Fanny fall in love with him just for his enjoyment. Fanny doesn't actually like Henry Crawford because of his behaviors towards her sister, Maria. Yet, after Fanny rejects him, he becomes more obsessed with her and begins to spend more time with her. He acts like an angel to her, and he keeps that attitude for a while. The scandal between Henry Crawford and Mrs. Rushworth creates the feeling of betrayal and deception for Fanny. She feels like she was being fooled and thinks both of them like specks of dirt. There is a good quotation that emphasizes the convoluted reality of her feelings:
”had loved, she did love still, and she had all the suffering which a warm temper and high spirit were likely to endure under the disappointment of a dear, though irrational, hope, with a strong sense of ill-usage.”
As we see in this quote, Julia is one of the sufferers of heartbreaks in this book. Mansfield Park represents love as something chaotic and deceptive with both good and bad sides. By using these complicated relationships, love, betrayals, lies, and heartbreaks, Austen emphasizes the complexity and absurdity of real life. Austen actually tries to illustrate life without romantic idealization. The important thing is the facts of life, the commonplace, and the ordinary characters of daily life. Austen's purpose of using realism is to indicate the reality and morality that is generally relative and inherent for everyone. This kind of narration helps the reader face reality, just like in the real world, instead of the imaginary world of fantasy. Austen is a novelist who wants to create her works of art to show people the real world and make them face what is real and what is fantasy. In Mansfield Park, we see an ordinary person, Fanny Price, and her life experiences. To sum up, with the characters' transition of feelings and complicated and ambiguous relationships are just a tool for Austen to show us how reality works. By Miss Crawford words, we see the importance of each person’s own will:
"Everybody likes to go their own way—to choose their own time and manner of devotion."
As we see, Austen directly mentions the real-life experiences of people without any kind of fictional elements.
Mansfield Park: Conclusion
After all, Jane Austen, a social realist, wrote her third published novel, Mansfield Park, to show the reality with all the clarity and clearness. The novel is mainly about an ordinary young girl, her feelings, and her experiences throughout her life and the events that revolve around her. Jane Austen's way of using those issues actually shows us how she deals and uses realistic features in a successful way. The people reading Mansfield Park not only get the harsh feeling of passion but also get a grip on the reality of Jane Austen's time. It is definitely a must-read for everyone interested in literature that includes the real world's features.
“Jane Austen: Social Realism and the Novel.” The British Library, The British Library, 12 Feb. 2014, www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/jane-austens-social-realism-and-the-novel.
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