PERSUASIONS ON-LINE V.27, NO.1 (Winter 2006)
Once More with Feeling: The Structure of Mansfield Park



Bruce Stovel was Professor of English at the University of Alberta.  He published essays on Austen and on many other novelists, including Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Evelyn Waugh, Kingsley Amis, and Margaret Laurence.  He co-edited Jane Austen’s Business: Her World and Her Profession (1996) and The Talk in Jane Austen (2003). 


             This essay attempts to outline the structure or design of Mansfield Park:  the large arc that unifies the novel and provides its spine.  What might be the equivalent in this novel of alternating between the courtships of two sisters by enigmatic suitors in Sense and Sensibility, or the love-hate relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy that unifies Pride and Prejudice?  My view is that Mansfield Park, the first novel of the three that Austen would compose in her final years, develops in its first volume a rising action and climax that are mirrored exactly in the main events of Volumes Two and Three of the novel.  In the theatricals episode that occupies the last six chapters of Volume One, the heroine Fanny Price finds herself isolated and on the defensive, pressured to join the play and accused of ingratitude when she resists the wishes of the entire family, including her one friend and mentor, Edmund.  Volume One climaxes when Sir Thomas Bertram unexpectedly returns; the play is never acted, and order is restored to the house.  In the main events of Volumes Two and Three, Fanny faces a second and much more intense ordeal:   she once again opposes the wishes of the household, including Edmund, when she refuses Henry Crawford’s marriage proposal, and once again she is pressured and accused of ingratitude.  Order is finally restored to Mansfield Park, but only after a terrible sequence of events triggered by Fanny’s steadfast resistance to Henry Crawford.  This use of Volume One as a self-contained prologue to the main action is a structure that Austen would elaborate in her next novel, Emma, in which Volume One presents the heroine’s fiasco as a matchmaker for Mr. Elton and Harriet, and Volumes Two and Three a strikingly similar, but much more devious and hard to detect, imaginary courtship created, not by Emma, but by Frank Churchill.


            I confess that critics and readers of Mansfield Park have not seen the structure of the novel in this way—but I have some consolation:  as the narrator remarks cheerfully in the final pages of Northanger Abbey, “the credit of a wild imagination will at least be all my own” (243).


            When the young people at Mansfield Park decide to act out a play in Sir Thomas’s absence, Fanny is at first left out of consideration, as befits her status as a dependent, in fact a semi-servant, in the household.  However, once the actors have decided on a play, Lovers’ Vows, and parceled out the parts, Tom Bertram, master of the house in his father’s absence, decides that Fanny must play the part of Cottager’s Wife.  Fanny politely refuses, saying repeatedly, “‘I cannot act’” (145).  The scene escalates as Maria, Henry Crawford, and Mr. Yates join Tom in urging Fanny to act—while Edmund, “kindly observing her, but unwilling to exasperate his brother by interference, gave her only an encouraging smile” (146).  At this point Mrs. Norris angrily says to Fanny, “‘What a piece of work is here about nothing,—I am quite ashamed of you, Fanny, to make such a difficulty of obliging your cousins in a trifle of this sort,—So kind as they are to you!’”  Edmund finally speaks up in Fanny’s defense:  “‘It is not fair to urge her in this manner.—You see she does not like to act.—Let her choose for herself as well as the rest of us.’”  Mrs. Norris then states, “‘I am not going to urge her, . . . but I shall think her a very obstinate, ungrateful girl, if she does not do what her aunt and cousins wish her—very ungrateful indeed, considering who and what she is’” (146-47).


            Mrs. Norris’s words spell out uncomfortably what everyone in the novel thinks of as Fanny’s identity:  a grateful dependent, lifted out of squalor by the generosity of the Bertram family.  Edmund’s claim that Fanny is capable of choosing for herself and cannot be called on for obedience by rote underlines an important irony:  Fanny disapproves deeply of the whole theatrical project, and so her statement that she cannot act hides a condemnation of her betters that she feels but also feels unable to state openly.  Fanny plans to lay her dilemma before Edmund the next morning in her sitting room, the East room, but is devastated when Edmund appears and tells her that he has decided to join the cast himself in order—he says—to spare Mary Crawford the pain of acting with a stranger (154).


            This same sequence of events, but writ much larger, occurs at the start of Volume Three when Sir Thomas, incredulous that Fanny has rejected the match with Henry Crawford that he has been promoting, browbeats Fanny in words that are loftier but every bit as cruel, as patronizing, and as mistaken as Mrs. Norris’s in Volume One:


“I had thought you peculiarly free from wilfulness of temper, self-conceit, and every tendency to that independence of spirit, which prevails so much in modern days, and which in young women is offensive and disgusting beyond all common offence.  But you have now shewn me that you can be wilful and perverse, that you can and will decide for yourself, without any consideration or deference for those who have surely some right to guide you—without even asking their advice. . . . You do not owe me the duty of a child. But, Fanny, if your heart can acquit you of ingratitude— . . .”  (318-19)


Sir Thomas speaks these words in the East room, one of many ways in which this scene reprises Fanny’s ordeal in Volume One.  As the ensuing chapters make clear, Sir Thomas speaks for the whole household: even Lady Bertram, even Edmund, urge Fanny to, in Edmund’s words, “‘prove yourself grateful and tender-hearted’” and to accept Henry Crawford (347).  Once again, Fanny is utterly alone, deserted by the one person she has relied on as a guide, Edmund.  And, as in the theatricals episode, Fanny simply has to say no and continue saying no.


Another similarity is that in Volume One Sir Thomas is absent and his authority rests with his scapegrace elder son, Tom, while in Volumes Two and Three Sir Thomas is physically present, but the control of events lies in the hands of Mr. Crawford—a loss of authority symbolized neatly by Sir Thomas’s arrangement to have Fanny meet with Crawford and explain her refusal in his own study.  Further, she is once again not free to explain her decision.  She cannot tell Sir Thomas the whole truth about her response to Crawford’s proposal: she does say to Sir Thomas that it is “‘quite out of my power to return [Mr. Crawford’s] good opinion’” (314), but she feels she would be betraying her cousin Maria if she were to tell him what she knows about Crawford’s character as a result of observing the flirtation between him and Maria during the theatricals (318); she does tell Sir Thomas that “‘I cannot like [Mr. Crawford] . . . well enough to marry him’” (315), but she does not tell him that she has the right to marry for love and not to be overwhelmed, as Sir Thomas himself is, by the appeal of Mr. Crawford’s wealth and status.  And, of course, she does not tell Sir Thomas that her love for Edmund is a primary obstacle.


            The narrator’s language in each case underlines these similarities.  The morning following Tom’s pronouncement and Mrs. Norris’s attack, alone in the East room Fanny reflects, “To be called into notice in such a manner, to hear that it was but the prelude to something so infinitely worse, to be told that she must do what was so impossible as to act; and then to have the charge of obstinacy and ingratitude follow it, enforced with such a hint at the dependence of her situation, had been too distressing at the time, to make the remembrance when she was alone much less so” (150).  This is a periodic sentence rising in gradations to the climactic words “obstinacy . . . ingratitude . . . dependence.”  Compare Fanny’s thoughts right after Sir Thomas’s speech:  “Her heart was almost broke by such a picture of what she appeared to him; by such accusations, so heavy, so multiplied, so rising in dreadful gradation!  Self-willed, obstinate, selfish, and ungrateful” (319).


            In both cases, external events unexpectedly end the stalemate between Fanny and the Bertram household:  Sir Thomas returns in the very final lines of Volume One and prevents Lovers’ Vows from being enacted or even formally rehearsed; Fanny’s second ordeal ends abruptly when Maria leaves her husband and runs away with Henry Crawford near the end of the novel.  And in both cases Fanny is vindicated.  Edmund explains to his father at the start of Volume Two:  “‘We have all been more or less to blame, . . . every one of us, excepting Fanny. Fanny is the only one who has judged rightly throughout, who has been consistent.  Her feelings have been steadily against it from first to last.  She never ceased to think of what was due to you’” (187).  And as soon as Fanny has a chance to reflect on the news of Maria’s adulterous elopement with Henry, she realizes, “She should be justified. Mr. Crawford would have fully acquitted her conduct in refusing him, but this, though most material to herself, would be poor consolation to Sir Thomas” (452).


            In short, the theatricals episode in Volume One serves as a rehearsal for the main sequence of events in Volumes Two and Three.  This similarity draws attention to some striking aspects of the novel—just as in Emma the heroine’s delusion in Volume One highlights her more complex misunderstandings and her more complete humiliation in Volumes Two and Three.  I would now like to outline five consequences that follow from seeing the structure of the novel in this way.


To start with, we can note an interesting parallel with Emma.  The first two chapters of Volume Two of Mansfield Park depict Sir Thomas’s indignant response to the theatricals project:  he puts an end to the rehearsals, has the carpenter restore the billiard room to its original function, has the scene painter hired by Tom sent back to London, sees Mr. Yates off the property, and even “burn[s] all [the copies of Lovers’ Vows] that met his eye” (191).  He is entirely concerned with outward behavior and not the motives for it:  “he . . . meant to try to lose the disagreeable impression, and forget how much he had been forgotten himself as soon as he could. . . . He did not enter into any remonstrance with his . . . children:   he was more willing to believe they felt their error, than to run the risk of investigation.  The reproof of an immediate conclusion of every thing, the sweep of every preparation should be sufficient” (187).  His attitude seems to me remarkably similar to Emma’s speech to herself at the end of the Harriet-Elton fiasco:  “The first error and the worst lay at her door.  It was foolish, it was wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two people together.  It was adventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what ought to be serious, a trick of what ought to be simple.  She was quite concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more” (136-37).  Emma is, like Sir Thomas, regretting behavior and not its inner causes; what is lacking in her Volume One repentance is evident when she castigates herself at the novel’s climax:  “With insufferable vanity had she believed herself in the secret of everybody’s feelings; with unpardonable arrogance proposed to arrange everybody’s destiny” (412-13).  Since Sir Thomas and Emma ignore the causes of their first humiliation, each is destined to be humiliated again and even more completely.    


A second aspect of the novel highlighted by this parallel structure is how different Fanny’s position is—in the house and in the novel—in her second dilemma.  Fanny is now opposing Sir Thomas himself and not the spiteful but inconsequential Mrs. Norris; her decision to refuse Henry Crawford is not a symbolic moral one, but the central choice of her life; her dilemma lasts not three or four days, but instead four months, most of which is spent in exile in Portsmouth; Fanny is no longer an onlooker in the family, but its central figure.  The novel devotes eight chapters to the theatricals project (the final six chapters of Volume One and the first two of Volume Two); by contrast, early in Volume Two, Henry Crawford confesses to his sister that he plans to “‘mak[e] a small hole in Fanny Price’s heart’” (229) on the days when he is not hunting, and this courtship continues until the final pages of Volume Three.  Fanny’s second ordeal is much more intense in every way than the first.  The novel plays the same melody once more, with feeling. 


A third and even more striking difference between the two parallel sequences of events is how much more alone Fanny is the second time.  She knows she no longer can rely on Edmund’s support.  During the theatricals, as we have seen, Edmund defends Fanny’s right to refuse; even after he announces to the others his own capitulation, when Tom suggests, “‘Perhaps . . . Fanny may be more disposed to oblige us now. Perhaps you may persuade her’” (158), Edmund firmly rejects the idea.  On the other hand, when Crawford proposes to Fanny, Edmund is away being ordained, and Fanny’s response to Sir Thomas’s harangue in the East room suggests that Edmund’s absence is not simply geographical:  “She had no one to take her part, to counsel, or speak for her.  Her only friend was absent.  He might have softened his father; but all, perhaps all, would think her selfish and ungrateful” (321).  When Edmund does return several days later, he is struck by the fact that, strangely, Fanny does not find an opportunity to discuss Crawford’s proposal with him, and so he decides to “try what his influence might do for his friend” (345):  “Fanny estranged from him, silent and reserved, was an unnatural state of things; a state which he must break through, and which he could easily learn to think she was wanting him to break through” (345).  And so they do discuss the proposal, and in this discussion Edmund not only urges Fanny to accept Crawford, as we have seen, but also concludes his appeal to Fanny with a bizarre piece of emotional blackmail; he tells her that his own happiness with Mary Crawford depends on Fanny’s accepting her brother:  “‘I confess myself sincerely anxious that you may [accept].  I have no common interest in Crawford’s well doing.  Next to your happiness, Fanny, his has the first claim on me.  You are aware of my having no common interest in Crawford’” (351).  Edmund’s next words—“‘I was very much pleased by her manner of speaking of it yesterday . . . ’”—make it clear that he is referring to Mary.


A fourth point is that the more alone Fanny is, the stronger she must be.  In her first dilemma, Fanny finds herself unsure about what she ought to do; her very virtues—her humility, her knowledge of her own horror of acting, her capacity for self-doubt, her deep gratitude—make her question her own moral rigor.  Just before Edmund enters the East room to announce his decision to join the cast, Fanny thinks,


Was she right in refusing what was so warmly asked, so strongly wished for?  what might be so essential to a scheme on which some of those to whom she owed the greatest complaisance, had set their hearts?  Was it not ill nature—selfishness—and a fear of exposing herself?  And would Edmund’s judgment, would his persuasion of Sir Thomas’s disapprobation of the whole, be enough to justify her in a determined denial in spite of all the rest?  (153)


Edmund’s defection, however, means she must undergo her first ordeal alone, and by the time she confronts her second dilemma, she no longer doubts her moral allegiance; when Sir Thomas finishes his long speech to her in the East room, she thinks, “Selfish and ungrateful! to have appeared so to him!” (321).  The word “appeared” says it all. In the next chapter, her thoughts exhibit, not self-doubt, but condemnation of Sir Thomas’s venal “line of conduct”:  “He who had married a daughter to Mr. Rushworth.  Romantic delicacy was certainly not to be expected from him.  She must do her duty, and trust that time might make her duty easier than it now was” (331). 


A fifth point arises once we grasp the existence of these two parallel sequences.  Though I have not mentioned it yet in this essay, Fanny wavers and finally collapses in her first trial, the theatricals, and this collapse raises the possibility that she might again acquiesce in the wishes of all whom she holds dear.  Surprisingly, puzzlingly, Fanny actually does succumb to pressure from the family on the night of the first formal rehearsal of Lovers’ Vows; she agrees to act. Edmund tells his father, in words I have quoted, that Fanny throughout consistently rejected the idea of acting, and readers no doubt expect the very same thing.  In fact, one of the best critics of the novel, Joseph Wiesenfarth, says that “no amount of pressure can overcome [Fanny’s] resolution not to act” (99).  As it happens, Fanny’s lapse is largely nominal, since Sir Thomas’s return on the same evening prevents the rehearsal from taking place.  Still, Fanny’s reversal is strange and unexpected.  It occurs in the second-last paragraph of Volume One, after Mrs. Grant, who plays the role of Cottager’s Wife, is unable to come for that night’s rehearsal, and after everyone urges Fanny to take the part:  “even Edmund said, ‘Do Fanny, if it is not very disagreeable to you’” (171).  Edmund has now become an entreater rather than a protector, and Fanny’s response to this switch clearly triggers her acquiescence. In the second-last paragraph of Volume One, we read, “as they all persevered—as Edmund repeated his wish, with a look of even fond dependence on her good nature, she must yield.  She would do her best.  Every body was satisfied . . .” (172).  Fanny collapses out of hopelessness, as is evident in her response to Edmund’s own capitulation under Mary Crawford’s influence two chapters earlier:


The doubts and alarms as to her own conduct, which had previously distressed her, . . . were become of little consequence now.  This deeper anxiety swallowed them up.  Things should take their course; she cared not how it ended. Her cousins might attack, but could hardly tease her.  She was beyond their reach; and if at last obliged to yield—no matter—it was all misery now.  (156-57)


In Fanny’s second trial, with Edmund even more forcefully urging her, and with any hope that he might overcome his infatuation with Mary apparently lost, might not she collapse once again?  The novelist has planted this narrative possibility within the course of events, and in fact the novel’s narrator does suggest in the novel’s final chapter that Fanny might eventually have yielded to Crawford if he had persisted in his pursuit of her—once Edmund had married Mary (467).  And, of course, the 1999 film adaptation of the novel, written and directed by Patricia Rozema, presents Fanny reversing herself and accepting Henry—and then reversing herself again the next morning.


So far this essay has developed the parallels between two sequences in the action—and by defining the parallels has highlighted the differences between the two sequences.  However, we should remember that these two strands of action are bound together by causality as well as by analogy.  The theatricals episode and Henry Crawford’s pursuit of Fanny form the central causal chain in the novel.  Fanny will never accept Henry Crawford because she has seen him playing at lovers’ vows with Maria in the theatricals episode.  She explains this to Edmund in their interview, even if she has felt unable to tell Sir Thomas:  “‘I have not thought well of [Mr. Crawford] from the time of the play. I then saw him behaving . . . so very improperly and unfeelingly, . . . paying attentions to my cousin Maria, which—in short, at the time of the play, I received an impression which will never be got over’” (349).  In the same way, through standing alone during the theatricals against the entire family, without support even from her mainstay Edmund, Fanny develops the moral strength and the confidence in her own judgment that allow her to resist the prolonged assault upon her by all the other characters in the main action of the novel.  The theatricals project, then, serves as the novel’s pivot, just as Darcy’s first proposal, Elizabeth’s heated attack upon him in response, and Darcy’s long letter of explanation provide the point on which the plot of Pride and Prejudice turns.


The ideas I have been outlining seem clear, even self-evident, to me, yet they have not been developed in criticism of the novel, and so one would assume they have also not been apparent to ordinary readers of the novel.  This is especially strange when one considers that in Emma the same two-phase structure can hardly be missed by critics and ordinary readers.  Why would this be? One answer might be that the structure I find in Mansfield Park is simply not there.  However, I prefer a less radical solution, and I would like to suggest that this design and its resemblance to the structure of Emma have been overlooked for two reasons.  One lies in Mansfield Park itself, and the other in my approach to it.


Looking first at the novel itself:  the Volume One prelude to the main action in Mansfield Park is more fragmentary and less clearly separated from Volumes Two and Three than its counterpart in Emma.  Volume One of Emma is a self-contained drama focused almost entirely upon the three characters in the Emma-Elton-Harriet triangle, and this drama has come to a decisive end before Volume One ends; Volume Two of Emma begins with Emma’s visit to Miss Bates—hitherto only a name, but now a fully-developed character—and news that Jane Fairfax, previously unmentioned in the novel, is about to come to Highbury, and so we are clearly about to begin a new and much larger sequence of events.  By contrast, the Lovers’ Vows episode takes up the last one-third of Volume One of Mansfield Park—and, as we have seen, spills over into the first two chapters of Volume Two.  Furthermore, the theatricals episode, far from consisting of a constricted set of characters, includes the entire cast of the novel:  even the absent Sir Thomas is mentioned so frequently as to seem present.


However, I would argue that Volume One of Mansfield Park is a more coherent whole than it appears to be.  The volume consists mainly of two self-contained episodes:  the theatricals and, before that, the expedition to consider improvements to Mr. Rushworth’s estate, Sotherton. The Sotherton outing is discussed at length in Chapter Six, and then Chapters Eight, Nine, and Ten are devoted to it.  However, though the trip to Sotherton and the theatricals are two separate narrative segments, they are very similar in both content and form.  In content, the Sotherton outing is a template of the theatricals:  the young Bertrams and Crawfords are out exploring while Sir Thomas is away; Henry Crawford drops his attentions to Julia Bertram and pursues Maria, while Maria separates herself from her fiancé, Rushworth, and responds eagerly to Crawford’s advances; Julia is sidelined in both cases, and in each Rushworth is tricked into playing a comic and ignominious role; meanwhile, Mary Crawford lures Edmund away from Fanny’s side and into serpentine paths in the wilderness; Fanny is alone, abandoned by Edmund, but observing clearly all that passes.  


In form, the two episodes are highly theatrical.  This is hardly surprising in the theatricals episode.  Still, it is worth remembering that the novel shows us characters who are enacting a play within a play in their presentation of Lovers’ Vows:  each character—for instance, Edmund in the role of Anhalt, the idealistic clergyman, or Maria as Agatha, the fallen woman—plays a role that enacts his or her own situation at Mansfield Park.  Furthermore, as several critics of the novel have noted, the events at Sotherton are also theatrical.1  The young people wander through the artificial wilderness in shifting groups of two or three like Shakespearean lovers in the woods.  Furthermore, the key moments at Sotherton contain the stark symbolism found in an Elizabethan dumb-show or the play-within-the-play in Hamlet.  Think of Maria and Henry Crawford finding their way together around the locked iron gates and out into the larger park.  An even more striking instance occurs early in the Sotherton episode as the party tours the house’s disused chapel:


Julia called Mr. Crawford’s attention to her sister, by saying, “Do look at Mr. Rushworth and Maria, standing side by side, exactly as if the ceremony were going to be performed.  Have they not completely the air of it?”

Mr. Crawford smiled his acquiescence, and stepping forward to Maria, said, in a voice which only she could hear, “I do not like to see Miss Bertram so near the altar.”

Starting, the lady instinctively moved a step or two, but recovering herself in a moment, affected to laugh, and asked him, in a tone not much louder, “if he would give her away?”

“I’m afraid I should do it very awkwardly,” was his reply, with a look of meaning.  (88)


This little inset drama might well be titled Lovers’ Vows.  Note that Henry Crawford both aggressively steps forward and yet, far from stating a vow, speaks in veiled ambiguities—just as he remains pressing Maria’s hand to his heart in an ambiguous tableau as the rehearsal of Lovers’ Vows comes to a sudden end in the opening lines of Volume Two.  So we might consider the Sotherton chapters as a rehearsal for the theatricals, just as the latter is a rehearsal for the main action of the novel.2


A second reason for the general failure to see this design in the novel lies in the approach I have been taking to the novel.  This paper has focused on the moral issues in the novel, as key words in my argument such as “conduct,” “duty,” “selfish,” “grateful,” and “justify” suggest.  I suspect that most readers today grasp these moral issues, and the patterns underlying them, but see them as obvious and dated:  what is fascinating is the social context or psychological or political analysis that might explain these issues.  By contrast, I have been considering Mansfield Park much as one might discuss a Henry James novel, and in fact this novel seems much more like a James novel than any of Austen’s other novels.  At the very least, Fanny Price’s rich moral life can remind us that the protagonists in Austen’s other novels share Fanny’s complex moral universe.


Mansfield Park is in many ways a strange and puzzling novel; some critics consider it a problem-novel, just as Shakespeare’s last formal comedies—such as Measure for Measure or All’s Well That Ends Well—are problem-plays.  The novel’s strangeness becomes especially apparent if we consider the novel’s heroine. Fanny Price is the youngest of Austen’s heroines—if we disregard the everygirl, Catherine Morland, who is the protagonist of Northanger Abbey, and if we consider Elinor Dashwood, the point of view character, to be the heroine of Sense and Sensibility.  Fanny is much lower on the social scale than the other heroines, and is the only one who lacks “accomplishments”:  we do not see her drawing or playing or singing.  She has no wit at all, unlike the other heroines (and unlike her author); she is also, unlike the other heroines, timid and physically frail.  She is the only one whose childhood is presented at any length, and this fact is very important, since Fanny is the heroine of memory and gratitude, and since her love for Edmund is based in his kindness to her that we glimpse in the novel’s opening chapters.  Fanny is the only heroine who has to endure seeing the man she loves doting on her rival throughout the novel—and, unlike Elinor vis-à-vis Lucy Steele, or Elizabeth Bennet vis-à-vis Miss Bingley or Miss de Bourgh, or Anne vis-à-vis Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove, Fanny has every reason to believe that the man she loves loves her rival and that this rival will in the end prevail. Edmund finally is undeceived at end of the novel, but we do not see him returning her love or proposing to her.  Even more, Fanny is the only heroine who has to endure being the confidante of her beloved—the very prospect is a nightmare for Emma, but one that is no sooner raised than it is revealed to be a grotesque misunderstanding.  Fanny is thus the only heroine who has to fight off the ugly emotions of envy and jealousy throughout, from the episode of Edmund’s horse early in the novel until his final, infatuated letter from London in the novel’s final section.  Readers do not warm to Fanny as they do to Austen’s other heroines.  And yet, for these very reasons, Fanny emerges as the strongest and most heroic of Austen’s heroines, and I hope to have thrown some light on the design of a novel which, like its heroine, it is all too easy to underestimate.





1.  David Selwyn remarks, “Quite apart from the use of Lovers’ Vows, and the readings of Shakespeare, Mansfield Park is permeated by a sense of the theatrical, and indeed many of the scenes convey a visual impression that almost suggest the stage:  [for instance,] Fanny waiting on the seat in the wilderness at Sotherton while other characters make exits and entrances in various groupings . . .” (259).   See also Armstrong 62-66; Byrne 178-83. 


2.  Isobel Armstrong sees the Sotherton chapters, the theatricals, and the main plot of the novel in quite similar terms:  e.g., “The Sotherton episode is a prelude, a curtain raiser, to the ‘real’ play, Lovers’ Vows” (62).




Armstrong, Isobel.  Jane Austen: Mansfield Park.  Penguin Critical Studies.  London: Penguin, 1988.

Austen, Jane.  The Novels of Jane Austen.  Ed. R. W. Chapman.  5 vols.  3rd edition.  London: Oxford UP, 1969.

Byrne, Paula.  Jane Austen and the Theatre.  London: Hambledon, 2002.

Selwyn, David.  Jane Austen and Leisure. London: Hambledon, 1999.

Wiesenfarth, Joseph.  The Errand of Form: An Assay of Jane Austen’s Art.  New York: Fordham UP, 1967.

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