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Literature / Mansfield Park

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"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest."
Chapter 48

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 (remember, there was no taboo against Kissing Cousins in this context).

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 character of hers after the villainess: "Mrs Norris, people will have recognised, comes from Jane Austen."From Mansfield With Love, a modern adaptation in the vein of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries aired on Youtube from December 2014 to November 2015.

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).

Mansfield Park provides examples of:

  • Accomplice by Inaction:
  • 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?
  • All-Loving Hero: Fanny consistently cares and worries about everyone's well-being, even if they have been horrible to her. 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 used 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.
  • Aloof Big Brother: While he's full of kindness and concern for Fanny, Edmund is much more distant and less involved with his own sisters. This could be the fruit of their own behavior, however, as they revel in his mistakes when he falls from his moral pedestal as a reason of his crush for Mary Crawford, don't really show any interest in his own feelings, and generally never seem to even want a good relationship.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Lt. and Mrs. Price. Mrs. Price can't manage her overstuffed household and blatantly favors her boys and youngest daughter over her older daughter Susan. Lieutenant Price, meanwhile, drinks and swears and is abominably rude. Fanny is mortified when she and Henry run into him while out walking in Portsmouth.
  • Arranged Marriage: Maria Bertram is set up with Mr. Rushworth because they're both high-class and wealthy, even though she has no feelings for him. She goes along with it.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis:
  • 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.
  • Betty and Veronica: With four different triangles:
    • Edmund (Archie), Fanny (Betty), Mary Crawford (Veronica)
      • Or Fanny is the Veronica. Yes, you read this right. 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 can be argued to be a case of Betty and Veronica Switch, as they weren't like this at the beginning of the novel.
    • Fanny (Archie), Edmund (Betty), Henry Crawford (Veronica)
    • Henry (Archie), Fanny (Betty) and Maria Bertram (Veronica)
    • Maria (Archie), Mr. Rushworth (Betty), Henry (Veronica)
  • Book Dumb: Fanny, when she first arrives at Mansfield Park, knows very little about the arts or humanities. All she knows 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.
  • Bookworm: Fanny and Edmund both love reading.
  • Brainless Beauty: Lady Bertram is very pretty, but doesn't have an original thought in her head.
  • Break the Cutie: Fanny... the entire book.
  • Break the Haughty: After a novel of being blind or in denial of their faults, all of the Bertrams are forced to confront how thoughtless their behavior, attitudes, and choice of friends have been when Maria and Henry bring public disgrace onto the family.
  • Broken Pedestal: Edmund starts off as Fanny's only real friend in the household, and because he's older (he seems "almost a man" to her) he shows her kindness, intervenes in her education and helps her choose books on poetry, theology, philosophy and other subjects, he inadvertently creates a Pygmalion Plot. She becomes an unintended Galatea, sharing many of his tastes and principles and almost worshiping him, while he only sees her as a little sister figure. However, when he starts misbehaving as a reason of his obsessive crush for Mary Crawford and of her inconsistent responses, Fanny is shown to become increasingly disappointed. This eventually becomes serious enough for her to vent her frustrations at his loved ones's (and, for all she knows, his) archaic view of the marriage market (she doesn't think Henry Crawford is entitled to have her, even if it's convenient for him and everyone else). When he completely misses her meaning and thinks she's just too shy to admit what he thinks is a blatant crush on Henry, all the while constantly complaining about the state of his love affair with Mary and being Oblivious to Love, Fanny ends up ranting at his long-awaited letters instead of rejoicing at reading them.
  • The Cassandra: Fanny is an interesting, partly self-inflicted example. She's been taught to constantly feel and express gratefulness since she was accepted into her richer relatives' home, and therefore has a huge inferiority complex. This means that while she's in a perfect position to observe and discover things first (watching from the sidelines, barely noticed yet at everybody's disposal) she can feel really guilty about spotting other's imperfections and misbehaviors (it feels "uncharitable" to judge them when she ought to be grateful), even more about reporting it. As a result, the one time she raises concern about the mistakes that might ruin her cousin Maria's life, she does it in such an indirect, contorted way that her interlocutor doesn't get it and shrugs it off. Her having No Social Skills doesn't help.
  • 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 Betsey), Edmund's eyes are opened to the real Mary Crawford, and Sir Thomas experiences the typical Jane Austen Rude-Awakening-and-Painful-Disillusionment.
  • The Charmer: Henry Crawford
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Fanny and Edmund
  • Cinderella Circumstances: No wonder Fanny's situation reminds people more of Charlotte Bronte than of Jane Austen.
  • City Mouse: Henry and Mary Crawford are both entirely unfamiliar with life in the country, shocked at how long it takes for things to get done (with no thought given to it being the harvest season), and were afraid that visiting their sister Mrs. Grant would offer little entertainment, though they find themselves well-pleased with the society of the Bertrams.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Mr. Price's constant use of the phrase "By God!" is treated like this, due to the period in which it was written. (It's studiously rendered as "By G—" in the text.) Fanny is very embarrassed by this, especially when her Stalker with a Crush comes to visit. She wants him to give up on her, not to think that she and her entire family are nineteenth century England's answer to white trash.
  • Creator's Apathy: invoked The cast of Lover's Vows, with the exception of Mr. Yates, is more concerned with the flirtations and betrayals which occur under cover of "rehearsals," rather than with any serious attempt to produce the play.
  • Dances and Balls: Many of them. Maria and Julia frequently attend 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 at 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.
  • Darker and Edgier: In comparison to Austen's other novels, with a heroine who comes from a much less-wealthy family than the others' and suffers from the painfully realistic effects of a lifetime of psychological abuse, a particularly cruel and malicious antagonist with genuine power over the heroine (Mrs. Norris) rather than a merely arrogant, pompous one like Lady Catherine, an actual case of adultery (and possibly off-screen sex during the Sotherton expedition), and its Bittersweet Ending.
  • 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 Maria cheat on her fiancé.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Fanny, after turning down Henry Crawford's proposal and being sent home as a result of it. Not only does she lack feelings for Henry, but she knows what kind of a man he is, and that marrying him would be a terrible idea.
  • The Ditz:
    • Lady Bertram is a stupid, vapid woman. Fanny tries to exploit it, hoping that she'll be as impulsive and inappropriate as ever, and will bluntly express her desire to keep Fanny waiting on her at home, thus helping her miss a wonderful marriage opportunity she actually doesn't want in the first place. Infuriatingly subverted when Lady Bertram proves that Everyone Has Standards, understanding the wider implications the match would have for Fanny and acting almost like a mature, responsible human being.
    • 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.
  • The Dutiful Son: Edmund, untill his love for Mary makes him waver about what he ought to do.
  • Emotionless Girl: Fanny as a survival mechanism. Compare Elinor in Sense and Sensibility, Anne in Persuasion, and Georgiana Darcy in Pride and Prejudice — all incredibly shy, very affectionate to those whom they love, always trying to accommodate everyone's demands as much as they can, and, to top it off, all having lonely childhoods with no friends of their own ages and used to using silence and an emotionless facade to cope with difficult situations.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Edmund gets one shortly after Fanny moves in and he finds her crying on a staircase.
  • Evil Matriarch: Mrs. Norris, which Sir Thomas doesn't realize until it's too late to repair the damage she's caused in how she raised his daughters.
  • Extreme Doormat: Fanny, before her Stalker with a Crush teaches her anger.
  • First-Name Basis: The Crawfords switching from "Miss Price" to "Fanny" after Henry proposes.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Tom Bertram considers his only responsibility to be enjoying himself as much as possible before he inherits, leaving to Edmund the management of the household and its behavior in their father's absence. Tom's profligacy also forces Edmund to delay entering the clergy, and he routinely exercises veto power as the eldest son whenever he thinks Edmund is being stuffy.
  • Foreshadowing: Maria's role as Agatha in Lovers' Vows.
  • Freudian Excuse: Constantly debated between Edmund and Fanny. He eventually has to accept that this excuse has its limits.
  • Genre Refugee: Many agree with CS Lewis that Fanny Price, in hindsight, comes across as "a Bronte sisters heroine lost in a Jane Austen novel."
  • Genre Savvy: Sir Thomas is at first reluctant to take in Fanny because he knows that's just asking for Kissing Cousins.
  • 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.
  • Handsome Lech: Henry Crawford. Though it seems to be more a matter of personality and style than just his appearance, as no one at Mansfield Park finds him handsome at first, but eventually everyone but Fanny does. The narration implies that even she changed her mind towards the end.
  • Happily Ever After: It's a Foregone Conclusion. Though it's not happy for everyone involved.
  • Harp of Femininity: Mary Crawford's instrument of choice.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • 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.
    • Tom, Maria, and Julia all complain that Edmund is being far too "nice," which used to mean precise and which they mean to say that he's being fussy over proper behavior. (The word was already shifting its meaning to the modern form, however; a character in Austen's first written novel complains about it at length.)
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the 1999 movie, Sir Thomas has one of these.
  • 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.
  • Homage: The sub-plot involving the play Lovers' Vows.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Henry Crawford; men who get the girl in Austen's world always know how to take "No" for an answer.
  • Hypocrite: Henry Crawford
  • 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.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved / I Just Want to Be Special: Fanny's main goal throughout the book "to be important" or "to be of consequence."
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Fanny suffers the typical "crippling insecurities" and "low-self esteem" of victims of child abuse.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You:
    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...
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: When Fanny is invited to dine at the Grants, Mrs. Norris is outraged and goes on a several-paragraph tirade to tell Fanny that she mustn't think it's because of her own merits, that it's a politeness to Lady Bertram, that she'd better not embarrass the family, and most of all she should not expect to take the carriage, just as Sir Thomas opens the door:
    "Fanny, at what time would you have the carriage come round?"
  • 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.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Lampshaded inversion in Mary's case - see It's All About Me.
    • Played straight in Fanny's case; her objection to Edmund choosing Mary Crawford is less because she won't get him herself (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.
  • Karma Houdini: Henry Crawford for disgracing Maria, though he Did Not Get the Girl.
  • 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 Tom would die and make Edmund the heir of Mansfield Park, and therefore rich enough for her.
    • More to the point, everyone takes a burning hot poker to Fanny's self-esteem and self-confidence on a regular basis (and yes, this includes Edmund when he literally forgets about her). And what's worse is that she thinks that she deserves it! Let us present exhibit A:
      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 - 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.
  • A Lady on Each Arm: Henry Crawford with Maria and Julia. Later, when he visits Portsmouth, he repeats it with Fanny and her sister Susan (though in that case, Susan's presence certainly wasn't his idea).
  • Ladykiller in Love: Henry Crawford — unfortunately, as in every Austen novel, the "love" isn't strong enough to give up his lady-killing ways.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: Mary Crawford follows her 'Rears and Vices' joke with "Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat."
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Mrs. Norris has spent a lifetime bullying Fanny, making her feel useless while spoiling her other nieces Maria and Julia rotten. Come the end, she's moved in with a disgraced Maria to take care of her for the rest of her life and has to live with her mistakes.
    • Fanny, being kind and virtuous, marries Edward at the end and finally receives the respect she deserves.
  • Lazy Bum: Lady Bertram. Fanny's mother has the same temperament, but it's harder for her to slack because she doesn't have as much hired help.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: In the 1999 film, when everything has gone wrong, Mary Crawford plays this trope in a speech that's couched in terms of being useful, realistic, worldly advice from a well-meaning friend. Subverted, in that it's actually her last and boldest attempt to undermine them and force them to accept her as the de facto boss of the house, and is therefore an example of Break Them by Talking. Fanny sees it for what it is, but has no hope that the others will recognise it; everyone else is so stunned that they don't know what to do. Fortunately, Edmund tells Mary, in the politest possible language, to go fuck herself.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Mrs. Norris thinks this will be their surest defense against Kissing Cousins... yeah, she's wrong about a lot of things.
  • Loving a Shadow: Edmund towards Miss Crawford. He's charmed by her lively speech and her beauty, but he constantly rationalizes away her selfishness and her making light of everything important as the result of "bad influences" which will of course soon be cured by life in the country.
  • Marry for Love: Fanny is the only young woman in the novel who believes in this, in typical Austen heroine tradition.
  • 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 Bertram after Maria elopes with Henry Crawford, proving Fanny was right to not accept his proposal and the family's reputation goes to hell. He immediately dives into Must Make Amends towards Fanny.
  • My God, You Are Serious: Fanny can't realize Henry Crawford's proposal is not an insulting joke until the next day.
  • Naļve Newcomer: Fanny in Chapter 2, when she first comes to Mansfield Park.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!:
    • The narrator states outright in the last few chapters that if Henry Crawford had not felt the need to conquer Maria's affections again, he would have ultimately won Fanny's heart and hand.
    • Also, Edmund was this close to proposing to Mary Crawford when she decided to write that letter expressing that she hoped Tom Bertram would die so Edmund would inherit the estate.
  • No Accounting for Taste: The Bertrams and the Rushworths; Sir Thomas' wife is lazy and unintelligent, and Mr. Rushworth is rather dim as well. Paradoxically, the Bertrams seem to be Happily Married at the same time, as it's made clear in a few scenes that they really care about each other.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • 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 Betsey is the only daughter that Mrs Price likes and she spoils her horribly. Poor Susan is The Un-Favourite for being a girl but not the youngest cutest child, and lashes out a lot as a result. Fanny helps her deal with it, and is eventually allowed to bring her back to Mansfield Park, which gets her away from it and makes her very happy.
  • Parents as People: Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram love their children, but are very ineffective as parental figures. Lady Bertram doesn't stir herself to raise them (she's more interested in her dog), so she and Sir Thomas delegate mothering to Mrs. Norris, who spoils them and sets them against each other. Sir Thomas tries to correct for the overindulgence, and ends up being so stern that they use his absence as an excuse to go wild, barring Edmund and Fanny.
  • The Place: The book is named after the marvelous estate where most of the story takes place.
  • Plucky Middie: William Price is a very plucky midshipman, and apparently very satisfied with his position. He gets promoted to a Lieutenant which makes him beyond happy.
  • Princess for a Day: Fanny at her coming out ball; to a lesser extent, this is basically how she is treated whenever Maria and Julia are not at Mansfield.
  • Promotion to Parent:
    • Fanny, as the eldest daughter, had to help her mother out a lot before she was adopted.
    • Edmund, while his father is away. Not that his sisters listen to him, and Tom promptly seizes the position once he gets back himself.
  • The Quiet One: Fanny. Nobody is really interested in her opinion except Edmund (unless Mary is involved, and in that case he's not) and she's been continually instructed that she's lesser and shouldn't put herself forward, so she doesn't even think of speaking up most of the time.
  • Reality Ensues: Unlike in the climax of Pride and Prejudice, no Big Damn Heroes can swoop in and save the family from shame and scandal this time.
  • 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 he still has the full support of her family.
  • Rich Bitch: Mary Crawford, but Maria Bertram even more so. Julia can still give both of them a run for their money when she decides to really dig deep and pull out the claws.
  • Right in Front of Me: Miss Crawford mocking the clergy to Edmund right before Julia reveals that it's his chosen profession.
  • Romantic False Lead:
    • Henry Crawford to Fanny.
    • Mary Crawford for Edmund.
  • 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.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: It's a very popular, very sincere scholarly interpretation that Maria Bertram and Henry Crawford had sex after they got away from the group during the trip to Sotherton.
  • Sheep in Sheep's Clothing: Fanny is this in-universe. Part of what makes Sir Thomas's Breaking Speech so heart-wrenching is that she even starts believing it herself, and many people start re-assessing their opinion on her, when, as she later states, refusing to accept Crawford's proposal is perfectly understandable no matter how charming and well-liked the Crawfords are in Mansfield, if only because it's her choice, not the Bertrams'.
  • 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 center 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.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • It seems everyone who knows about the proposal ships Fanny with Henry Crawford. The only exception (besides Fanny herself) is Mrs. Norris, who doesn't want to see Fanny rise above her station.
    • At first, Mrs. Grant ships Mary and Tom and Julia and Henry, even before they meet each other, as she would just love to have her half-siblings settled near her home.
    • Mrs. Norris boasts that it was she who made the match between her darling Maria and Mr. Rushworth. She also ships Julia and Henry.
    • Sir Thomas supports Mary and Edmund as their relationship is openly acknowledged, even though there was no formal proposal or engagement.
    • Toward the end of the book, Sir Thomas is an ardent shipper of Edmund and Fanny; not only does he observe that she's the one helping Edmund get past his broken heart, but also he has come to realize how much he himself loves and values her, and would like nothing better than to be able to call her his daughter.
  • Shrinking Violet: Fanny is a word-for-word description of the current trope page. Her entire character and the way her character evolves over the span of the book is your perfect textbook example of a Shrinking Violet, even right down to the "crush on a popular main character." She may not be the Ur-Example on this one, but she undoubtedly was either pivotal in the development of the Shrinking Violet character itself, or the Shrinking Violet codifier.
  • 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.
  • Sibling Triangle: Maria and Julia compete for the affection of Henry Crawford.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Tom and Edmund Bertram; Fanny and the more lively, confident Susan Price.
  • Silent Servile Snarker: Baddeley, when Mrs. Norris tries to insist that Sir Thomas must want her, not Fanny, to come speak to Mr. Crawford.
    "I do not think you would answer the purpose at all."
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Fanny, to everyone's surprise. She may be a child abuse victim and an Emotionless Girl, but she does have a level head on her shoulders, recognises that marriage to Henry would be terrible, and repeatedly refuses his suit.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Despite the shift in tone, the heart of this story is still Fanny's desire to marry her moral and kindhearted love interest, despite the temptations of the charming but loose Henry Crawford.
  • 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. (It's alleged that religious swears in this period were more offensive than sexual swears, although obviously these things are hard to quantify.)
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Farthest of Austen's novels from the Ideal end. Fanny gets her love, and 5/6ths of the Betrams are properly chastened and make a sincere effort to improve after the adultery crisis. But Henry gets away scot-free while Maria has to live in exile with Mrs. Norris, who continues to insist that it's Never My Fault.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Mary Crawford.
  • Spoiled Brat: The Crawfords and the younger generation of Bertrams, minus Edmund. Betsey Price counts as well, because Fanny Price Sr. pampers her so much and lets her get away with everything.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Henry Crawford does not take "No" for an answer from a woman.
  • Tempting Fate: Basically, any prediction any character ever makes is wrong.
  • Third Wheel: Fanny's younger sister Susan, to Henry Crawford when he visits Fanny in Portsmouth to continue his unwanted courtship of her.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: Fanny's mother didn't consider this when she married a naval lieutenant. The effect on her family life is not good.
  • The Unfavorite: Fanny. She was The Unfavorite for her mother before she got to Mansfield, and she's Mrs. Norris's least favorite niece at Mansfield.
  • The Vamp:
    • Henry Crawford is a male version.
    • Mary eventually reveals herself capable of this.
      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.
  • The Wicked Stage: Fanny's disapproval of private theatricals is a mark of her character.
  • 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.
  • Wild Teen Party: Lovers' Vows turns into the Regency equivalent of this.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Elements of this trope are present peripherally with descriptions of William Price's naval career, the life of the Prices in Portsmouth, and hints about Admiral Croft.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Henry Crawford; see Hypocrite. The entire cast of Lovers' Vows also show just how Wrong Genre Savvy they are with their ironic casting of parts.
  • Wrong Guy First: Edmund has to get burned by Mary Crawford before he recognises Fanny's worth and Fanny is almost tempted away from Edmund, her first love, by Mary's brother Henry.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Fanny's return to her parents' home in Portsmouth, to her dismay.
  • You Go, Girl!: Fanny calls out society (and by association everyone who's pressuring her to accept Henry Crawford's proposal) on the Double Standard of women being expected to cater to the whim of any suitor that comes along, no matter how he's treated her before. She rightly points out that, if she had actually taken Henry's previous flirtations as proof that he was interested in marrying her, she would have been maligned by her own gender for it and accused of getting ideas above her station. In stark contrast, his out-of-the-blue decision to propose is received by everyone as something extremely lucky for her, with no one taking her feelings into consideration. It shows up the sheer inequality that women were forced to abide by back in this era, condemning the act of any woman putting up with abuse just because her prospective partner is rich, and criticizing a society that could possibly favour said inequality. For the 1800s, her speech is 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 and Charlotte's Jane Eyre came on the scene. note 
  • 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.
  • Zany Scheme: Mr. Yates wants to redo a cancelled amateur play with his new pals at Mansfield. First they have to decide on a script; since they're a bunch of spoiled rich kids, they need one where every character is the "best part". Half the group insists on a tragedy, the other on a comedy. Their production plan goes from a family amusement in one room to grand schemes of building a fully-dressed set and appropriating the absent Sir Thomas' own bedchamber as their green room. And as for the play they finally settle on: it's Lover's Vows, which they use as an excuse to flirt inappropriately with each other.