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Women's Education in Mansfield Park Essays

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Women's Education in Mansfield Park

 
    In Mansfield Park, Jane Austen presents three different kinds of formal

education for women. Two of these have the ultimate goal of marriage, while the

third is, possibly, as close to a gentleman's education as a woman's could be.

Although there is some overlapping of these three types, each one is, basically,

embodied in one of the major female characters -- Maria Bertram, Mary Crawford,

and Fanny Price -- to show the follies and the triumphs of each. Unlucky Maria's

education teaches her next to nothing, and Mary's has no true substance below

the bright surface. The timid, mousy Fanny Price, however, may be partly in debt

to her progressive education for the happiness that she earns at the end of the

novel.

 

            In Austen's world, a girl's education was almost inseparable from

her home life. What she learned and, consequently, her conduct, was often a

reflection of what her household was like, and this is certainly true of Maria

and Mary.

 

            Maria, brought up by a distant father, an indolent mother, and an

indulgent aunt, doesn't learn until too late that selfish actions can bring

disastrous consequences. (What is said for Maria in the subject of education is,

of course, also true for Julia -- however, for the sake of brevity, and as Maria

is the more prominent character of the two, she is the model of comparison in

this essay.) Sir Thomas regrets his neglect of his daughters' moral education

after Maria's character is exposed:

 

He had meant them to be good, but his cares had been directed to the

understanding and manners,...


... middle of paper ...


...           Fanny fares the best of the three characters discussed, by being

true to herself, and by being considerate of others. She receives what is due to

her, as a classical hero does -- she is torn away from her rightful place as

eldest sister, to be thrust into a lowly position where she must prove herself

worthy before returning to her first home. There, she finds things have changed

for the worst, but helps set things right before riding away to a new life of

domestic felicity. The way Fanny was brought up, her moral and formal education,

are akin to tools and amulets carried by mythical heroes -- they may not always

be obvious, but they are a source of strength and comfort in the hero's times of

need.

 

Works Cited

Austen, Jane.  MansfieldPark. 1814. London: Oxford University Press, 1966.


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