Jane Austen's least popular and most controversial novel, published in 1814, a year after Pride and Prejudice. Following the success of that novel, Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra that she wanted to write something less "light, and bright, and sparkling" next time. One thing is for sure: this is the novel where she spends the most time dwelling on guilt and misery.The heroine is one Fanny Price. Atypical for an Austen heroine, she comes from a relatively poor family with a lazy, unaffectionate mother and a father who loves his whiskey more than his children. Mrs. Price becomes desperate enough while expecting her ninth child to reach out to her two richer, estranged elder sisters for help. Her brother-in-law Sir Thomas Bertram responds by advancing her eldest son's career in the Navy and adopting Fanny, her eldest daughter.Fanny arrives at his estate, Mansfield Park, when she is ten years old, but her troubles only begin there. Her aunt, Mrs. Norris, meddles in everyone else's lives, especially her sister's and brother-in-law's, because she has no life of her own and practically lives at the Park since her husband is the clergyman of Mansfield Parsonage. Although she initially proposed the adoption, she subsequently treats Fanny worse than any Wicked Stepmother ever could, determined to make sure that the girl knows her place. While spoiling the Bertrams' daughters and raising them to believe they have no faults whatsoever, she can never seem to make Fanny miserable enough, constantly reminding her why she has no right to be happy every time good fortune befalls her, keeping her from mixing with society, trying to prevent her from getting a new horse when her old one dies, and forbidding a fire from being lit in the apartment she uses when not in her small attic room near the servants' quarters.Eight years of this psychological abuse and very little love and affection make Fanny a quiet, timid, passive, obedient young woman who believes nothing could be more unnatural than her enjoying herself or having her needs acknowledged or met. Any kindness practically frightens her since, in her own mind, she doesn't deserve it, and any demands made on her time or comfort are instantly met, even if it means cutting roses and running errands in such heat that she almost passes out. Nobody else around her goes out of their way to be cruel, but neither do they take much notice of her. Her uncle Sir Thomas is kind but intimidating and, although no fan of Mrs. Norris, is somehow oblivious to just how cruelly she treats his niece. Her other aunt, Lady Bertram, is lazy and apparently stupid, rarely stirring from her sofa, and uses Fanny as a personal companion to make her tea, read to her, etc.The Bertrams' eldest son Tom is harmless, aside from driving the family deeper into debt every day. Their daughters, Maria and Julia, look down on Fanny but mostly ignore her. Her only friend is their second son Edmund, six years her senior, who is always there to comfort and defend his cousin and do his best to make her happy. So it's a small wonder that 18-year-old Fanny eventually realizes she's fallen in love with him (no taboo against Kissing Cousins in this context, remember?).But that will have to wait. When Mr. Norris dies, a Dr. Grant takes over his job and moves into the Parsonage. Shortly after Sir Thomas goes away on business, Mrs. Grant's brother and sister, the Crawfords, come for an extended visit. Henry Crawford is a charming, shameless flirt who has no qualms about courting both the Miss Bertrams at once... despite Maria already being engaged to the rich but dim Mr. Rushworth (whom she doesn't even like — the marriage was all Mrs. Norris' idea, or so she claims). Mary Crawford is short on scruples but makes up for it in beauty, and Edmund very soon falls head over heels for her. Both Fanny and the reader can see she is not right for him, especially after the way she belittles his chosen profession of clergyman, but Edmund repeatedly excuses all her distasteful behaviour as due to poor upbringing or the influence of the wrong friends.Things start to get out of control within the two Love Triangles when Tom and his friend Mr. Yates get the crazy idea to throw a play at Mansfield and the worst possible couples get cast as lovers or partners. Sir Thomas arrives home in time to put a stop to any performance (and undo the construction done to the billiard room and his own room), and Henry Crawford conspicuously leaves town, just in time for Maria to grow to hate him for trifling with her and marry Mr. Rushworth out of spite. She takes Julia with her as a companion for the time being when she removes to her husband's estate of Sotherton, and the absence of the two young ladies suddenly elevates Fanny in importance in everyone's eyes. Despite all Mrs. Norris' attempts to stop it, she is allowed new pleasures she has never known before — dining with the Grants and Crawfords at the Parsonage, attending her first ball, which doubles as her coming out party, and receiving a visit from her beloved older brother William.Of course, none of these novelties can make up for the fact that Edmund grows more devoted to Miss Crawford, who likes him well enough but wishes he was richer and had a different career in mind. Aware of this, a discouraged Edmund goes to London to take orders, while Fanny, to her shock and horror, receives a marriage proposal from Henry Crawford! Fully remembering his mistreatment of her cousins, Fanny can neither trust nor esteem him and adamantly refuses to marry him, in spite of all of Edmund's and her uncle's persuasion, in spite of all the accusations of being ungrateful and selfish and everything that has always made her relent in the past, in spite of all of Mr. Crawford's charms. Will a visit to her childhood home make her relent? Sir Thomas hopes so... until a long period of guilt and misery due to two critical events make everyone straighten out their priorities...All the trademark Austen themes of marriage for love, prejudice against women who dare to demonstrate any independence, loyalty and duty, class differences, pride, greed, and lust, with some new emphasis on the importance of good education and good parenting, are presented via her signature sarcasm and ironic wit. Unfortunate Implications regarding the slave trade, however, have not helped the novel's reputation. References to Sir Thomas' business in Antigua and Fanny once nonchalantly mentioning the slave trade may imply the Bertram estate was founded on slave labour; the British slave trade was abolished in 1807. Austen was no supporter of slavery, however, and the references are completely tangential to the story, having no effect on the plot. Instead of ignoring them, however, at least one film adaptation in 1999 makes slavery a significant theme.Well, it was popular enough to be remade as Mansfield Park and Mummies, and J.K. Rowling liked it enough to name one of her characters after the villainess.P.S. Reading Elizabeth Inchbald's Lovers' Vows — the play Tom, his sisters, and friends form a Zany Scheme of performing — makes Austen's wit, sarcasm, irony, and commentary twice as clear (and enjoyable).
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Maria and Julia both fall too hard for Henry Crawford to hate him for manipulating them both and instead just become jealous of each other. Fanny Price Snr. seems to have fallen prey to this when she married Lt Price, which could be why Fanny doesn't want to repeat the mistake with Crawford, even if the financial difficulties don't apply.
All Love Is Unrequited/Love Dodecahedron: Mr. Rushworth is in love with Maria, and Mr. Yates is in love with Julia, but both Bertram sisters are in love with Henry Crawford, who claims to be in love with Fanny, who is in love with Edmund, who is in love with Mary Crawford, who is in love with money. Who wrote this — Jane Austen or Charles Schulz?
Becoming the Mask: Henry Crawford decides to make Fanny fall in love with him as a game to himself, unable to accept that there is one woman on Earth who is immune to his charms. He never counted on falling for her in the process.
Edmund (Archie), Fanny (Betty), Mary Crawford (Veronica);
Fanny (Archie), Edmund (Betty), Henry Crawford (Veronica);
Henry (Archie), Fanny (Betty) and Maria Bertram (Veronica);
Maria (Archie), Mr. Rushworth (Betty), Henry (Veronica).
Or Fanny is the Veronica. Yes, you read this well. She refuses to advantage her family with a marriage of convenience, throws a proto-feminist speech to the head of her love interest, and is perfectly sure that she can be right over men. Mary complies to most of society's standards, and ends up thinking of compromising herself and wangsting a lot. This is can be argued to be a case of Betty And Veronica Switch, as they were't like this at the beginning of the novel.
BookDumb: Fanny, when she first arrives at Mansfield Park, she knows very little about the arts or humanities. All she knows about are dumb things like how to help keep a house, how to look after babies, how to manage and educate younger kids, &c... Sadly for her, her two cousins (and the governess) are exactly the opposite. They're terribly accomplished, but so Life Dumb they don't know the difference between 'uneducated' and 'stupid', and, despite not being naturally mean, are spectacularly emotionally illiterate. Fanny makes up for lost time later, at least in theology and philosophy, with Edmund's help; but, because their confidence was built up too high, Maria and Julia never gain any wisdom until it's far too late.
Character Development: Fanny starts to stand up for herself and take the initiative (such as when she helps her sister Susan with her problem with Betsy), Edmund's eyes are opened to the real Mary Crawford, and Sir Thomas experiences the typical Jane Austen Rude-Awakening-and-Painful-Disillusionment.
Dances and Balls: Many of them. Maria and Julia frequent assembly balls and Mrs. Norris chaperones them, and Maria and Mr. Rushworth meet at one of them and they continue their courtship phase there as well. One impromptu small ball happens on Mansfield, and finally, Sir Thomas organizes a splendid ball in Fanny's honour - as her introduction into society, to please her and her brother and perhaps even to help Mr. Crawford to court Fanny.
Derailing Love Interests: Edmund is generally a better person than Henry Crawford throughout the novel, but when Henry runs off with Maria, this seems substantially worse than anything we've seen from him so far. Some readers see it as Austen's attempt to justify Fanny's decision, while others see consistent moral development of character. A lot of scholars see his escape with Maria Bertram in the Rushworths's garden as a premise of elopement, or a sexual intercourse. It symbolizes, at least, his willingness to almost help cheating on Maria's fiance.
Mr. Rushworth is lucky that he's insanely rich, otherwise he wouldn't get any respect.
Do Wrong, Right: Mary Crawford can't believe her brother was stupid enough to get caught having an affair with a married woman!
Double In Law Marriage: Falls apart between the Crawford siblings and the Bertram siblings. Leave the shipping to us, Mrs. Grant.
Double Standard: The narrator makes no secret of how society won't punish Henry Crawford nearly as much as Maria after their affair. Fanny also expresses her disdain for how women seem to be obligated to approve of any man who offers her his affection.
Emotionless Girl: Fanny as a survival mechanism. Compare Elinor in Sense and Sensibility, Anne in Persuasion, and Georgiana Darcy in Pride and Prejudice — all mortifyingly shy, very affectionate to all, always trying to accommodate everyone's demands as much as they can, all looking up to an older kind male figure to whom they are related by blood (with said male having been their only friend for many years and having taught them all they know), and, to top it off, all having lonely childhoods with no friends of their own ages and used to using silence and emotionlessness to cope with difficult situations.
Good Is Not Nice: Sir Thomas may not always know how to show it, but he genuinely cares about his children (including his niece), enough to be depressed by their sadness and try to right any wrongs as soon as he discovers them, such as Mrs. Norris forbidding Fanny's room from having a fire.
Poor Fanny sure gets "knocked up" a lot, not to mention all the "intercourse" and Henry Crawford "making love" to her. Also, when Henry Crawford is discussing with his sister the possibility of seducing Fanny, one of his questions about her is "Is she queer?"
In Austen's time, "coming out" meant when a girl "entered society" - i.e., became eligible for marriage - by attending her first ball, as Fanny does in the middle of the novel. The modern-day meaning of it being when a gay or bisexual person announces their orientation is a twist on the old meaning, since it usually marks their entrance into the dating scene, too.
Hidden Depths: Fanny, Mary Crawford, Henry Crawford, Sir Thomas. Even Lady Bertram gets this to some extent, in that it's only when Fanny is away, in Portsmouth, that she realizes how important she is to her and begins to really appreciate her.
Ignored Epiphany: Ignored Character Development, to be more accurate — Mary Crawford falls in love with Edmund despite him being a second son but, unlike Mr. Darcy or Emma Woodhouse, she refuses to put what she learns about herself and love into practice and passes up the opportunity to learn to Marry for Love and accept Edmund even if he is a clergyman without an income equal to his brother's.
Henry Crawford: I never was so long in company with a girl in my life, trying to entertain her, and succeed so ill! Never met with a girl who looked so grave on me! I must try to get the better of this. Her looks say, "I will not like you, I am determined not to like you"; and I say she shall.
Mary Crawford: Foolish fellow! And so this is her attraction after all! This it is, her not caring about you...
The "I Love You" Stigma: Edmund is away to visit a friend's family, and Mary Crawford asks Fanny to send him "compliments". Then she comments there should be a word between compliments and love to describe the sort of relationship they had. However, she is reluctant to actually use the word "love" because it would be premature.
I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Tom (rudely) sits down near Fanny at a dance with no intention of asking her, until his mother and aunt ask him to play cards with them, and he sadly must decline, as he was just about to dance with Fanny...
It's All About Me: Fanny doesn't see how Henry Crawford can claim to love her while persisting in a course of action that so obviously makes her so miserable.
His sister is no better. Edmund minimizes this fault until her defective brain-to-mouth filter eventually reveals just how deep it goes.
It's All My Fault: Tom feels he helped cause Maria's running off with Henry Crawford because of the antics during that stupid play.
Played straight in Fanny's case — her objection to Edmund choosing Mary Crawford is less because she won't get him (though that's not nothing) and more because of who Mary is. When it gets closer to Edmund's anticipated proposal, Fanny's fretting is over the fact that Edmund would be unhappy when he discovers Mary's true character.
Kick the Dog: Edmund's blindness to Miss Crawford's true nature can no longer hold up when Fanny tells him of the letter she received when his brother was ill, featuring a stealth hope that he would die and make Edmund the heir of Mansfield Park, and therefore rich enough for her.
Julia:(to Fanny) Why, I have but this moment escaped from [Rushworth's] horrible mother. Such a penance as I have been enduring, while you were sitting here so composed and so happy! It might have been as well, perhaps, if you had been in my place, but you always contrive to keep out of these scrapes.
Kissing Cousins: Mrs. Norris worries about this when she first brings Fanny to Mansfield Park, although not because it was wrong to marry your cousin, but because she didn't want Tom or Edmund marrying "below their station." It turns out her worries were well-founded, since Edmund and Fanny end up together.
Ladykiller In Love: Henry Crawford — unfortunately, as in every Austen novel, the "love" isn't strong enough to give up his lady-killing ways.
Lazy Bum: Lady Bertram. Fanny's mother has the same temperament.
The Messiah: Fanny consistently cares and worries about everyone's wellbeing, no matter if they have been horrible towards her or not. Despite how she feels about Edmund, she constantly does whatever she can to help both him and Mary Crawford, even if it leads to her own unhappiness, and she even feels bad about being afraid of Sir Thomas. In fact, when the play is being rehearsed and Julia is excluded, Fanny is the only one who worries about her at all, constantly concerned for her, and the only reason why she doesn't go to help her is because she thinks that she would be presuming too much importance in her own actions. Of course, the fact that everyone has become so adjusted to her acting this way is why it is such a huge shock when she rejects Henry's proposal - it turns out that Fanny is actually quite capable of holding negative opinions of people, even if she doesn't show them.
Morton's Fork: When Fanny's out in Portsmouth with Henry Crawford, they run into her father. Fanny doesn't know which would be worse: for her father to be his usual loud-mouthed self and scare Henry off, or for him to be on his best behaviour, in which case she's still stuck with Henry's company.
My God, What Have I Done?: Sir Thomas regrets the way he raised (or neglected to raise) his children when all goes to proverbial Hell towards the end.
My God, You Are Serious: Fanny can't realize Henry Crawford's proposal is not an insulting joke until the next day.
Obliviously Evil: Invoked in Mary Crawford. Edmund finally realizes it based on two things: her expressed hope (to Fanny) that Tom would die so Edmund could inherit the estate and her reaction to Maria and Henry Crawford having an affair - she regards getting caught as extremely stupid and imprudent, but the fact that it's immoral doesn't register with her.
Ojou: Maria and Julia, thanks chiefly to their Aunt Norris
In the Bertram household, Mrs Norris indulges all the Bertram siblings, but she greatly prefers Maria and Tom. Maria is her particular darling. She doesn't care about Edmund much and openly abuses Fanny to elevate Maria and Julia. Sir Thomas is strict with everybody and Lady Bertram can't be bothered to care about her children.
In the Price household, we see that Mrs Price values her sons over her daughters. Her eldest William is her favourite, yet luckily it didn't spoil him. Little Betsy is her only daughter that Mrs Price likes and she spoils her horribly. Poor Susan is The Unfavourite for being a girl and not the youngest cutest child. She's a brave girl and takes it fairly well
Pet the Dog: Sir Thomas reveals himself as an admirable character when he offers to break off Maria's engagement to Mr. Rushworth simply because he can see she does not love him.
Rejection Affection: When Fanny Price refuses Henry Crawford's marriage proposal, he and her uncle both assume her rejection is not serious and just a sign of her female modesty. He continues pursuing her against her wishes, but with the full support of her family.
Right in Front of Me: Miss Crawford mocking the clergy to Edmund right before Julia reveals that as his chosen profession.
Rich Bitch: Mary Crawford, but Maria Bertram even moreso. Although Julia can still give both of them a run for their money when she decides to really dig deep and pull out the claws.
Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Fanny's refusal to marry a rich man she doesn't love; Edmund pursuing his chosen profession as clergyman over the wealthier prospects for gentlemen.
She's All Grown Up: Fanny gets this from all the nice members of her family, and Henry Crawford, who all eventually notice that while Maria and Julia were taking centre-stage, particularly with their jealous fighting over Henry Crawford, Fanny grew up, and she only needed a little more confidence and a new dress to bring this to their attention. Of course Mrs. Norris tries even harder to tear her down after she realises this.
Sibling Rivalry: prominent with Maria and Julia, but noticeably averted (with the aversion lampshaded) with Fanny and William, who are best friends their entire lives and have nothing but good things to say about each other.
Sir Swears-a-Lot Lt. Price. D__ surprising for some Austen readers, but he d___ well comes as close as she would have been allowed to. (It's alleged that religious swears in this period were more offensive than sexual swears, although obviously these things are hard to quantify.)
Edmund: I had gone a few steps, Fanny, when I heard the door open behind me. "Mr. Bertram," said she. I looked back. "Mr. Bertram," said she, with a smile; but it was a smile ill-suited to the conversation that had passed, a saucy playful smile, seeming to invite in order to subdue me; at least it appeared so to me.
Wicked Stepmother: Mrs. Norris is Fanny's aunt but otherwise fits the trope dead on. Considering that it was her idea in the first place to "adopt" Fanny, this comes very close to actually happening. Fanny's only saved by it because Mrs. Norris was too selfish to want to take even rudimentary care of her niece.
You Go Girl: Fanny calls society out on the Double Standard of women being forced to cater to the whim of any suitor no matter how he's acted before and criticizes the fact that if she had actually taken his former behaviour to her and extrapolated that he had an interest in her from it, she would be maligned by her very own gender for it, but his decision to want to marry her is received by everyone as something extremely lucky for her. It shows up the Double Standard that women were forced to play to back in Regency days, condemning the act of any woman putting up with abuse just because her partner is male, and condemning a society that could possibly favour such inequality. For the 1800s, her speech pretty Fair for Its Day, and you're not going to find anything closer to feminism until Anne Brontė's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall came on the scene. Not in respectable fiction, anyway (nothing written by Lady Woolstonecroft or Aphra Benn really goes into that genre.) Well, apart from Richardson's 'Pamela'. And then some of Shakespeare's characters...
Your Cheating Heart: Maria cheats on her husband with Henry Crawford. The affair is exposed publicly and ends up in divorce and social disgrace. None of the characters involved in this Love Triangle get much sympathy from the narrator.