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In Jane Austen's novel, Mansfield Park, the characterization of the four illustrated families, the Prices, the Crawfords, the Bertrams, and the Rushworths, is used to depict the wide differences which evolved between social classes in nineteenth century England. Jane Austen introduces the main character, Fanny Price, as a reserved and modest young girl, who is settled upon observing the world. This attitude reflects the other members of the Price family, who do not worry about trivial things, but concern themselves with survival. The Crawfords, on the contrary, are concerned with frivolity more than necessity. They are bold and extravagant, and find themselves more interested in wealth than in character. The Bertrams, striving to maintain a life of luxury, struggle daily with their commitments to work, engagement, and reputation. Their lives are restless and stressful, and their concerns are numerous. Finally, the Rushworths are comfortable in their wealth and fortune. !
They take the strictest pleasure in displaying their accumulations, and have no concern except for their social activities. All of these families differ in their backgrounds and, consequently, their attitudes. Jane Austen uses a variety of details throughout her novel to stress these disparities.
Fanny's life with the Prices varies greatly from her life at Mansfield Park. The Price family worries primarily about their survival. Their love for each other is limited to the amount of time that they have in the day. The clearest example of this is Fanny's mutual love for her brother William. Fanny has always had a strong devotion to William, because her life permits her to adore him freely. The need for survival is demonstrated by Mrs. Price in her attitudes towards Henry Crawford. This attitude towards survival can also be seen by Fanny, who acts as an observer throughout the novel, rarely indulging in extravagance (Lewis 62). Finally, the atmosphere of the Price household is enshrouded by work and patience, which Fanny did not require at Mansfield Park. All of these examples lead to the conclusion that the life of the Prices, when compared to the lives of families in higher classes, is much more challenging and survival based.
Towards the beginning of the novel, Austen writes:
It was William whom she [Fanny] talked of most and wanted most to see. William, the eldest, a year older than herself, her constant companion and friend; her advocate with her mother (of whom he was the darling) in every distress. (Austen 18)
Fanny's removal from her home as a child makes her need for a family connection imperative. Therefore, she corresponds to William, her best friend and brother. William serves as a hero in the novel, as he is the only character who can make Fanny truly happy (Ryle 64). Their relationship is a product of their understanding of each other, through their sharing of similar social experiences, resulting from their low class.
The social class of the Prices is also defined by Mrs. Price's reaction to the visit of Henry Crawford. Upon his arrival at their house, Mrs. Price makes continuous apologies for the state of her home. She recognizes that Mr. Crawford belongs to a higher class, and she tries to impress him with the best possible manners and efforts that she can provide. The respect that Mrs. Price pays Henry Crawford is endemic to her social class. Because he is helping both her son and her daughter, Mrs. Price feels that she is indebted to Mr. Crawford. These events show the humility and lowered self-respect that the Price's suffer because of their status.
Fanny's character is also representative of the social class she belongs to. Fanny acts as a passive character rather than an active one (Lewis 62). Her life at Mansfield Park consists of her duties to her aunts and she rarely partakes in events or conversations (Lascelles 47). These aspects of Fanny's character partly result from her position as an adopted ward of her family and partly from her lack of desire for indulgence. Fanny's background causes her to demonstrate little desire for the extravagance that her cousins value because she has become accustomed to a need for survival rather than a need for lavishness.
Fanny's experiences in the Price household allow the reader to directly compare the Prices' lifestyle with that of the more wealthy families. The Price home is described through the narrator's statement, "It was the abode of noise, disorder, and impropriety. Nobody was in their right place, nothing was done as it ought to be" (Austen 356). Jane Austen reflects each social class in great detail, varying with each character their dialect and surroundings (Pollock 33). This approach is taken clearly with the Prices, as Austen depicts their home as a place of confusion and disorder, in comparison to Mansfield Park where every action is done with precision and care. The Price's concern for subsistence is directly contrasted with the w
Names mentioned in this term paper
Jane, Henry Crawford, Fanny, Mrs. Rushworth, Mary, Mariah, Edmund, Fanny Price, Bertram, Bowen, William, Crawford, Laurie Lanzen Harris, Sir Thomas, Sir Thomas Bertram, Gale Publishing, Thomas,
Locations referenced in this paper
England, Detroit, Southerton,
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Keywords talked about in this research material
Jane Austen, Henry Crawford, Mansfield Park, social class, nineteenth century, Sir Thomas, Mary Crawford, Literary Criticism, show, social classes, Bertrams, Fanny Price, characterization, Thomas Bertram, hard work, Prices, society, her brother, ulterior motive, Detroit, a life, University Press, Tom Bertram, his or her, experience, endures, low class, Oxford University Press, social standing, an affair, Novelists, drinking problem, future generations, Back Again, Princton University, Kate Croy, A Survey, other people, Lewis, long line, lifestyle, good standing, illness, meddle, English Association, insincere, disrespect, England, fools, clergyman,