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This lesson will focus on the plot summary of Jane Austen’s novel ‘Mansfield Park.’ We will review the main plot points of the novel and discuss its major themes.

About Jane Austen

Jane Austen was an English writer known for her novels in the early 19th century. Her novels can be and were considered to be social commentary, which is a type of literature aimed at bringing attention to current social issues.

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She was born on December 16, 1775 and was mainly educated at home. Austen never married and always lived with her immediate family. She published several very famous novels, including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and the novel we’ll be talking about here, Mansfield Park.Austen died at the age of 41 on July 18, 1817. There is a plaque in dedication to her in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Now let’s discuss the main storyline of Mansfield Park and its important themes, or main underlying topics.Mansfield Park was published in 1814 and touches on the issues of social relationships, slavery, and morality.

Mansfield Park Plot Summary

In the novel, due to her family’s strained finances, young Fanny Price, is sent to live with her rich aunt and uncle, Lady Bertram and Sir Thomas.

Fanny moves into Sir Thomas’ home, Mansfield Park, and meets his children: Tom, Edmund, Maria, and Julia. Edmund and Fanny form a close friendship, though the rest of the family treats her as a second-class citizen because she is poor. Fanny’s other aunt, Mrs. Norris, lives nearby and is verbally abusive towards Fanny.

Over time, Fanny begins to have romantic feelings towards Edmund.Sir Thomas is a slave owner and has plantations in the Caribbean, and he often goes there with his eldest son, Tom. During the novel, Sir Thomas is gone for an extended period to deal with some problems at his plantations. While he is gone, with Mrs.

Norris’ help, Maria becomes engaged to Mr. Rushworth, a wealthy neighbor.Siblings Henry and Mary Crawford arrive near Mansfield Park to stay with their sister, the parson’s wife.

The Crawfords are both attractive and wealthy, and both of them form relationships within the Bertram family. Mary and Edmund become romantic with each other even though she originally wanted Tom because, as the eldest son, he will inherit Mansfield Park. Henry flirts with both Maria and Julia. Fanny disapproves of Edmund’s relationship with Mary and Henry’s relationship with the engaged Maria. Tom returns home from the Caribbean, but he is often drunk and disturbed.In a key scene, the group performs the play Lovers’ Vows, which was a racy play for the time. Fanny does not approve of the play’s message, but Edmund agrees to participate because he is so entranced by Mary.

Sir Thomas comes home during the performance of the play and is angry.Maria marries Mr. Rushworth with her father’s approval even though she still has feelings for Henry. As a joke, Henry tries to get Fanny to fall in love with him, but she refuses. Ironically, he actually does fall in love with her and begins pursuing her.

She doesn’t love him, however, because she still loves Edmund and is also suspicious of Henry.Sir Thomas is very angry when he learns that Fanny won’t accept Henry’s proposal of marriage since it would help her improve her place in society as Henry is much wealthier than her own family. Sir Thomas sends Fanny back home, where he thinks she’ll change her mind once she remembers what real poverty is like. At her home, she and her sister, Susan, form a friendship. When Henry visits, she still refuses to marry him even though she sees how much her family struggles.Henry leaves and meets up with Maria, who leaves her husband for him. In this time period, this was a serious offense, and the whole Bertram family is engulfed in scandal.

During this time, Tom also becomes very ill.Fanny returns to Mansfield Park with Susan and Sir Thomas is very apologetic, seeing now that Fanny was correct to be suspicious of Henry. Mary, on the other hand, blames the whole scandal on Fanny, saying that Henry and Maria would never have gotten together if Fanny had just agreed to marry Henry in the first place. After this, Edmund breaks off his engagement with Mary since he sees that she wasn’t who he thought she was.Edmund and Fanny become close friends again and, eventually, get married and live in the parsonage (church) at Mansfield Park, where he is the minister.

Maria is sent to live far away with only Mrs. Norris for company.

Analysis

The first important theme of this novel is the development and collapse of social relationships. Fanny is poor, and it is expected that she will try to marry ‘well’ in order to improve her standing. Yet, Fanny is also very principled, which is why she won’t marry Henry even though he is wealthy. In the end, her principles ensure that she and Edmund marry.

The novel seems to be saying that sticking to your values is an important virtue.Mansfield Park also touches on the issue of slavery, which was an important issue during Jane Austen’s lifetime. Sir Thomas’ wealth comes from his plantations in the Caribbean, and the family (Fanny included) enjoys a luxurious lifestyle at Mansfield Park. Some critics see this as ‘approving’ of slavery.

On the other hand, Fanny often questions her uncle’s involvement in the slave trade, which would suggest that this is an abolitionist novel. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as the slave trade was a hot issue during this time and was widely discussed.This novel is also about morality. Each character has a sense of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ but they don’t necessarily agree with each other. For example, Maria engages in an adulterous relationship with Henry, which leads to her downfall. On the other end of the spectrum, Fanny refuses Henry’s advances and sticks to her own moral code.

Who is right and who is wrong? The Crawfords also have their own moral code, which is very different than Fanny’s. They are self-serving and, often, don’t care how their actions might hurt other people.

Lesson Summary

Mansfield Park is a social commentary by Jane Austen, an English writer known for her novels in the early 19th century. Published in 1814, social commentary is a type of literature aimed at bringing attention to current social issues, usually explored through themes, or the main underlying topics.Mansfield Park focuses on the life of Fanny Price and her experience living at Mansfield Park, where she’s been sent due to her family’s financial problems.

The main themes of the novel are the development and collapse of social relationships, slavery, a big topic during Austen’s life time, and morality.

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