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Essay on Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

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From the juxtaposition of Fanny Price and Mary Crawford, Austen teaches us that the power of silence is infinitely more destructive and revealing than that of words.
Much of Fanny's pain can be attributed to her silence. When Edward proffers his arm to Mary as they are exploring Sotherton, "the gratification...of feeling such a connection for the first time made him a little forgetful of Fanny" (83). "Connection" is a double entendre — not only does Mary's taking his arm physically connect them as they walk arm-in-arm, her scintillating wit allows for a bond unlike any other he's ever experienced. In fact, Edward is so eager to develop this new relationship that he forgets about Fanny's needs—multiple times—and stoic as she is, Fanny bears it until others notice her suffering. When Edmund takes Mary riding, Fanny is left without a means of exercise and is forced to entertain her aunts' ridiculous demands. Both the heat of the day and her feelings of "discontent and envy" culminate in a headache, and Edward does not realize the extent of his neglect until he sees her demeanor as she lies upon the sofa (66). Then, Fanny is obliged to drink some wine by Edward, and "she wished to be able to decline it; but the tears, which a variety of feelings created, made it easier to swallow than to speak" (66). This encounter is a microcosm of the entire problem. The bitter wine, offered by Edward, is representative of the suffering Fanny had recently gone through. However, "Fanny wished to be able to decline it." Not only does Fanny have no desire for the wine, she feels that she is unable and helpless to do anything. Additionally, the word "tears" is another double entendre, referring both to the tears on her face and to the tears in her tru...


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...to be a clergyman, but Mary wishes he would aim higher so their future would be more comfortable. Moreover, Mary's momentary loss of words after being berated by Edmund for her attitude regarding Maria and Henry's affair in the Masterpiece Theater adaptation reveals her lack of morality and that she could never be a match for Edmund. She opens her mouth, but no words come out. She turns away and averts her eyes before meeting his gaze again. When she finally speaks, it is clever and biting, no less than what we expected—"A pretty lecture, I must say. Will it be one of your sermons?" Mary hides her pain through her words, but in her momentary pause we see that she cannot say anything of value because she is not capable of understanding Edward's morality. Mary's words are her armor, the cleverness and charm of her conversation carefully obscuring who she really is.





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