Jane Austen's Mansfield Park is a novel obsessed with home and family. It
begins a story of one family, three sisters, and quickly expands to a story of
three families, the Bertrams, the Prices, and the Norrises. Family upon family
is added, each one growing, expanding, and moving until the novel is crowded
with characters and estates. An obsession with movement creates an overall
feeling of displacement and confusion. Fanny Price is moved from Portsmouth to
Mansfield and then back to Portsmouth and back to Mansfield. She occupies
several houses, Mansfield, Thornton Lacey, the parsonage, and almost Mrs.
Norris' house. Julia and Maria Bertram, the Crawfords, the Grants, Susan Price,
even Mrs. Norris experience a move. The only constant is Mansfield Park itself
with its immovable Lady Bertram and pug. More positively, Mansfield becomes a
visual representation of family. The novel's title, more an abstraction than a
reference to place, attempts to define "home," an idea in the novel not
contained by place.
In Mansfield Park, what defines home becomes the essential question
for Fanny Price. The estate as a reflection of self is a prominent theme in the
novel. Henry Crawford's suggestions for improving Thornton Lacey would raise it
"above a mere Parsonage House" by "giv[ing] it a higher character[.]. . . From
being the mere gentleman's residence, it becomes . . . the residence of a man of
education, taste, modern manners, good connections" (219-20). Crawford's
improvements would give the house "such an air as to make its owner be set down
as the great land-holder of the pari...
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very much at home in Mansfield Park.
Austen, Jane. Mansfield Park. New York: Oxford UP, 1990.
Edmundson, Melissa. "A Space for Fanny: The Significance of Her Rooms in
Mansfield Park." Persuasions On-line 23.1 (2002): 5 pp. 21 April 2003
Edwards Jr., Thomas R. "The Difficult Beauty of Mansfield Park." Critics on
Jane Austen. Ed. Judith O'Neill. Readings in Literary Criticism 5. Coral
Gables, FL: U of Miami P, 1970. 90-96.
Moler, Kenneth L. "Miss Price All Alone: Metaphors of Distance in Mansfield
Park." Studies in the Novel 17 (1985): 189-93.
Smith, Leroy W. "Mansfield Park: The Revolt of the 'Feminine' Woman." Jane
Austen in a Social Context. Ed. David Monaghan. Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble,
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