At the age of ten, Fanny Price leaves the poverty of her Portsmouth home to be brought up among the family of her wealthy uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, in the chilly grandeur of Mansfield Park. She gradually falls in love with her cousin Edmund, but when the dazzling and sophisticated Crawfords arrive, and amateur theatricals unleash rivalry and sexual jealousy, Fanny has to fight to retain her independence. (From feedbooks.com)
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What is "disobliging" about Miss Frances's choice in husband?
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A young woman's education in the Georgian and Regency periods in England would have been pretty cursory, especially depending on the young woman's status. A girl, like Fanny, would probably have been educated to be a companion, wife, or even a governess. (This annotation contains an image)
How would you characterize the relationship between Sir Thomas and Mrs. Norris?
What can you glean from this conversation about the upper class' beliefs on goodness relative to one's station in life? What do they assume about Fanny based on her lower-class status?
How would you summarize the character of Fanny based on her description here?
To pass their time, women of this period would work on their "accomplishments," crafting, needlework, drawing/painting, playing an instrument, etc. (This annotation contains an image)
What did Edmund's kindness to Fanny ultimately give her?
The Bertram sisters are portrayed here as being unfeeling and even ignorant. (One of the sisters exclaims that she will be through with learning when she is seventeen!) Austen's satirical portrayal of characters can be quite biting. After reading this article, would you recommend Jane Austen as a "soothing" read in light of this? (This annotation contains a link)
Describe Fanny's relationship with her family in Portsmouth. How does it compare to the relationship with her family at Mansfield Park?
Mrs. Norris is pretty matter-of-fact about how she deals with the death of her husband. What does this reveal about the nature of their marriage?
Why is Fanny unhappy with the news that she will be moving in with her aunt, Mrs. Norris?
Do you think Edmund has a point? Is it true that little would change for Fanny, if she moved in with her aunt?
Which of the following is NOT one of the reasons Mrs. Norris claims she cannot take Fanny in?
Pay attention to the Antigua connection throughout the novel. Modern scholars point out that Mansfield Park is one of the few (if not the only) works of Jane Austen that refers to larger political issues of the time (in this case, slavery). (This annotation contains an image)
While the family and estate seem to function perfectly fine without him, how are the Bertrams still reliant on Sir Thomas?
Having a horse would allow Fanny more freedom, as well as exercise. In a few decades, the bicycle would allow women a similar kind of freedom and exercise for a lot less money! (This annotation contains an image)
What made Mr. Rushworth a "conquest" in Maria's estimation?
Jane Austen includes quite a few characters in the Navy (here, and in 'Persuasion' most notably.) This might be because two of her own brothers served in the British Navy. (Pictured: Francis Austen) (This annotation contains an image)
Summarize the differing opinions on marriage held by Henry, Mary, and Mrs. Grant. How do these opinions compare to more modern perceptions or expectations of marriage?
What would you say is the emerging theme in the book thus far in regard to the relationships between siblings? (This annotation contains a video)
How does Mrs. Grant view Henry's and Mary's aversion to matrimony?
What is the narrative style used in this novel? How does the narrator address the reader?
What does Miss Crawford mean when she says that Fanny is not "out"?
Humphrey Repton was a famous landscape designer in the early nineteenth century. Below is a picture of a Repton design. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Rushworth preoccupied with improving Sotherton?
What is your opinion of Miss Crawford? How does her manner of speaking influence your opinion?
What do Mary's attempts to get her harp reveal about her character?
What does Mary mean in saying this? How might this make Fanny feel?
Edmund remains silent possibly because he does not agree with which part of the plan?
It is very important to have a confidante - someone whose opinions are sought after and valued. Read this article on strong friendships and think about how Edmund fulfills these needs for Fanny. (This annotation contains a link)
In what ways is Fanny an outsider?
How are we slowly learning more and more about the Crawfords? Through what means of characterization? (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following terms best describes Fanny here?
Consider the male influences in Fanny's life thus far. Where does Edmund fit in?
Why is Edmund so angry with himself? Is this forgetfulness out of character for him?
Consider the similarities between Mrs. Norris and Mrs. Rushworth. How might this be a satirical portrayal of widows in the upper class?
Why might Edmund be so invested in what carriage(s) are used in the Sotherton outing?
A barouche was a very flashy and fashionable carriage -- the sports car of its day. (This annotation contains an image)
What do you think are Miss Bertram's feelings here? Why is she taking such pains to point out every feature on the way?
Consider how Mary's feigned interest and Fanny genuine interest in the house contributes to their characters being foils.
How would you characterize Miss Crawford's views on religion?
Sibling rivalry does not always end with adulthood. After reading this brief article, how do you think Maria and Julia's parents might have contributed to their rivalry? (This annotation contains a link)
The fact that the "wilderness" was actually planted with "too much regularity" is an example of
While Edmund is genuinely interested in being a clergyman, it was normal for second sons (or third and fourth and so on) of the aristocracy to join the church. The army was another popular option.
When Miss Crawford says that she will not be dictated to by a watch, what she really means is that she will not be dictated to by
What is perhaps also shocking to Fanny is the fact that Edmund and Miss Crawford have been gone for so long while unchaperoned. (This annotation contains an image)
What is scandalous about Maria's behavior with Mr. Crawford?
Why does Fanny stay there? Why not follow everyone else?
In order to feel better about being left behind and seemingly forgotten, what does Fanny think?
This is either a British spelling, or a more earlier spelling of "sponge." In this case, it means to accept money or food without the intent to reciprocate. Do people still use this word in this context today?
Why do the Bertrams all dread the day Sir Thomas comes back? Do all of the Bertrams feel this way?
Can you explain the heroic simile Miss Crawford makes here?
In what matter of taking up the cloth do Edmund and Miss Crawford disagree?
Would you say that Miss Crawford has a distinct style of conversation? How does she offer controversial opinions? How does she respond to censure?
What is one possible reason for Edmund's rise in opinion of Miss Crawford here?
Thomas seems to fit in with the stereotypical playboy/gambling/ carousing young aristocrat who is "to the manor born." (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Fanny reluctant to share her reservations openly with Edmund? Map out the events that have led Fanny to believe that such criticism of the Crawfords would be unwelcome to Edmund.
We actually know that this is not entirely true of Maria. When did she act without propriety?
This oblique reference to the War of 1812 (most likely considering the time in which the novel was written) is an example of what literary device?
"Lovers' Vows" was written by Mrs. Inchbald around 1798. Skim the first few pages here. Austen would have presumed that the reading audience would be somewhat familiar with this play. As readers in the 21st century, not so much. The next several chapters are devoted to putting on this play. (This annotation contains a link)
What is Mr. Yates's motivation for putting on the play?
Even though the performance is promised to be kept only among family, Edmund is determined to be the voice of reason and put a stop to it. He is concerned about the propriety of it all, and how it could affect the reputation of the family to be known to have done such theatricals.
This heated exchange between the Bertram brothers also has an element of
Edmund hopes that he will not have to do anything to end this theatrical scheme. Knowing his family, what does he think will happen?
What can you infer from the fact that so much time, effort, and money is going into this scheme? Will anyone even see their performance?
There has been a resurgence in the popularity of Jane Austen's novels in the last 20 years or so, not in the least because of several successful film and television adaptations of her works. The lifestyle portrayed in her novels (such as devoting all of one's time and effort in producing a play purely for enjoyment and intrigue) has been romanticized by many readers. This is parodied in the recent movie 'Austenland.' (This annotation contains a video)
Mr. Yates's passionate response here, in regard to Julia, is an example of
Why would Fanny view Julia's jealousy with great pity?
Mr. Rushworth's preoccupation with his costuming makes him seem quite
Who do you agree with in this argument? Do Edmund's and Maria's different motivations regarding their views of the play impact your opinion?
What could be the "dangers" of play acting, especially in these circumstances?
Again, many modern lovers of Jane Austen (Austenites) like to role play characters, or just role play the time period (as in the movie "Austenland"). In 2013, a Kickstarter was funded to create a Jane Austen online role playing game (RPG). Take a look at the website here. Would you pay $10,000 role play as an earl? (This annotation contains a link)
As evidenced here, how do the other members of the family (excluding Edmund) tend to treat Fanny?
Fanny Price is probably the least loved Austen heroine. Read this brief article written in her defense. Do you agree with its author? Should we cut Fanny some slack for her weaknesses? (This annotation contains a link)
Is it a coincidence that Edmund and Fanny are the only holdouts? Do you think either of them will relent? Why?
In what other books or stories have you seen this similar trope of the poor relation or orphan, who is of a higher moral caliber than other characters, make the most of their situation with little to no complaint? What usually happens to such a character? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is an example of a metaphor?
Fanny is happy that once again Edmund is confiding in her. However, how might what he confides be disheartening?
Her personal feelings aside, why does Fanny disapprove of Edmund's plan?
What is Fanny most upset about here? How is she "beyond their reach" now?
What does this mean? Also, what is still holding Fanny back from accepting the small role?
In most of Jane Austen's novels, there usually is a male character who "trifles" with the emotions of one the female characters: Mr. Willoughby, Mr. Wickham, Mr. Churchill, Captain Tilney, Mr. Elliot, etc.
How do Mrs. Grant's statements about Sir Thomas and his family contradict what has been stated before about how the family views his homecoming?
Define "eclat." What is Edmund's quibble with the scene painter?
Why is the vain Mr. Rushworth jealous of Mr. Crawford?
In a society that encouraged the repression of such emotions, the ability to talk of such matters, under the guise of dramatics, is one of the reasons why playacting, even in private, was not acceptable by some people at the time. Too many rules were relaxed. (This annotation contains an image)
What does this reveal about Mary's views on her brother's and Maria's open flirtation?
Can you make any comparisons to this play and its role in the novel, with perhaps the most famous play-within-a-play in "Hamlet"? (This annotation contains an image)
How does all of this rehearsing for the play contribute to the larger theme of acting? How are these characters also "actors" in their daily lives?
Out of all of these characters, who has the most reason to dread Sir Thomas's homecoming?
What is odd about Sir Thomas's behavior here?
What is Mrs. Norris upset about in regards to Sir Thomas's return?
Why is Tom rambling about such things? What is he trying to do?
Why is Sir Thomas not particularly happy in making Mr. Yates's acquaintance?
Review the definition of the literary devices similes and metaphors in the video below. What does Tom compare their desire to perform to? (This annotation contains a video)
What is your opinion of this as a character motto? How does this also apply to other parts of Mr. Rushworth's life?
Edmund is being very gallant here in praising Fanny, but he remains a pretty divisive character among Austenites (much like Fanny is). Take a look at this (unscientific) ranking of Austen's male characters. Do you agree with its author's harsh words for Edmund? (This annotation contains a link)
Which of the following can be said of Mrs. Norris?
All of these duties Sir Thomas must see to somewhat belie the earlier claims that all things would run smoothly at Mansfield without him.
What literary element is utilized here?
What was Maria hoping Henry had come to do? How would you characterize the tone of this conversation? (This annotation contains an image)
Why was Mr. Yates so odious to Sir Thomas? What does he represent?
Does Fanny really mean that they look up to Sir Thomas? Is that the impression you have of everyone's attitude toward Sir Thomas? (This annotation contains an image)
Why do you think Fanny's question was met with dead silence? Was Fanny trying to be provocative?
This kindness is seemingly uncharacteristic. Sir Thomas is willing to accept the blowback of a broken engagement for the sake of his daughter's happiness. Why doesn't Maria take the out? (Pictured: Regency wedding gown) (This annotation contains an image)
What does "credit" most likely mean in this context?
Are these wedding customs still in practice today? (This annotation contains an image)
How has Fanny's situation changed since her cousins left?
Consider the pacing of this book. Does the plot advance quickly or leisurely? (This annotation contains a video)
In what way has Fanny changed now that she is getting more positive attention?
The Doge was the ruler of Genoa, not to be confused with the Doge of the Internet. (This annotation contains an image)
What are Miss Crawford's priorities and intentions here? Does she have any grand designs for Edmund?
How is this an example of verbal irony? Watch the video below to review the literary device of verbal irony. (This annotation contains a video)
What type of poverty does Miss Crawford look down upon?
In most film depictions of Austen's novels, we see grand dinners hosted by the wealthy characters. This invitation to dinner seems quite modest in comparison to the noteworthy feasts written about at the time. (This annotation contains an image)
What has flummoxed Lady Bertram about this situation?
How is Mrs. Norris a comical character?
What do you think happened in Antigua to facilitate such a change in Sir Thomas's attitude toward Fanny?
This is not an exclamation that you hear often. Can you think of any other exclamations to signify joy that are not in common use anymore? (This annotation contains an image)
What is the main reason for Fanny's dislike of Mr. Crawford?
Is there a detectable change in how the character of Fanny is portrayed since the beginning of the novel? In what ways has she not changed (or remained static)?
What seems to be the real purpose of Henry's plan to win the heart of Fanny Price?
While not entirely harmful, what is disingenuous and somewhat manipulative about Henry's plan to tell Fanny about her brother's imminent arrival?
What makes the "fraternal love" William has for Fanny so strong? What weakens it in the case of Tom and Edmund with their own sisters?
Henry's desire to be more productive and useful to society is quite fleeting. The idleness that his class and position affords him is much more alluring. (This annotation contains an image)
In this uncertainty of herself, which character does Lady Bertram most resemble here?
Thornton Lacey is where Edmund will be placed once he becomes an ordained clergyman -- his "living."
How would you characterize the tone of this speech?
This is a picture of Beachey Head, located on the south east coast of England. (This annotation contains an image)
Many people find Jane Austen's writing style difficult to follow. What has been your experience with the language and structure of the novel so far?
Dancing and balls were very important aspects of social life in Austen's novels. By today's standards, these activities seem pretty sedate. However, it is surprising to see how well dances of the period sync to modern music. (This annotation contains a video)
How is Sir Thomas's desire to hold a private dance somewhat out of character?
Austen's brother Charles gives her and her sister amber crosses as a gift. (This annotation contains an image)
Create a pro/con list from the point of view of Mary Crawford. Should she marry Edmund?
How is being a gracious receiver of gifts part of being a confident person? Is Fanny growing in this area?
What is an unexpected aspect of this change in the way that Fanny is treated?
Austen spends a lot of time writing about this necklace and how it affects Fanny. What does the necklace symbolize? (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Edmund want Fanny and Mary to be good friends? What are Fanny's feelings on the matter?
For a price, people could travel between towns and cities on/in carriages that delivered mail. This was called traveling by post. (This annotation contains an image)
What did Fanny think Edmund went to the parsonage for?
Balls were extravagant affairs that could last into the wee hours of the morning. (This annotation contains an image)
How is this an apt metaphor for Mrs. Norris and her treatment of Fanny?
Why is Fanny disappointed here?
How does this show that Miss Crawford does not actually know Fanny very well?
Three o'clock in the morning! Why do you think these balls would last so long? (This annotation contains an image)
What are Sir Thomas's hopes in regards to Fanny?
Why would Julia and Maria benefit from each other's company? Or is it simply being away in London that is best for them?
In addition to jealousy, what is Mary feeling that is out of the norm for her?
Linguistic side note: Is there a difference between the saying "I could care less" and "I couldn't care less"? (This annotation contains a link)
Think about the narration in this novel. Does the narrator spend more time on some characters than others?
Jane Austen novels are widely known for elements of romance, including marriage proposals. These proposals do not always go so well, as evidenced in this T.V. adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice." Do you think Henry's proposal will go smoothly? (This annotation contains a video)
While his initial interest in Fanny was dubious, what does he hope to gain in having Fanny as a wife?
Do you trust Henry? Are his declarations of love sincere?
What is manipulative about Henry delivering this happy news to Fanny?
Is there a correct (or incorrect) way to propose marriage? Read the first entry in this Miss Manners column and consider how expectations might have changed in this area of social convention. (This annotation contains a link)
What do you think is the purpose of having Mary write a note to Fanny? Why is this whole situation so distressing to Fanny?
A lieutenant was the lowest rank of commissioned officers, but they still commanded a lot of respect, as well as a respectable salary. There is no way William would have been able to purchase this commission on his own, so it is understandable how Fanny would feel indebted to Henry. (This annotation contains an image)
What did Mary Crawford assume in her letter to Fanny?
Essentially, how did Fanny answer Henry's proposal of marriage? Is this odd or pretty characteristic of Fanny?
What is Sir Thomas's excuse for Mrs. Norris's harsh treatment of Fanny?
If it were true that Fanny had been leading Henry on "a merry chase" as they say, she would be duty bound to accept his proposal or her reputation could be ruined.
What is Sir Thomas's stipulation about what a young man should have in order to marry young?
Is it sound advice to marry the first person who asks you because no other offer may come? Is it sound advice in Fanny's situation? What might happen to her if she never marries? (This annotation contains an image)
Who does Fanny long to talk to about this situation?
How is Fanny being hyperbolic or melodramatic here? (This annotation contains a video)
How is Mrs. Norris acting here? Why is she almost frantic in her refusal to believe that Sir Thomas is asking to see Fanny?
Does this influence your opinion of Henry Crawford? Do you think that he really loves Fanny, or is this a game to him a la Valmont in "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"? (This annotation contains an image)
How do Henry and Sir Thomas settle the situation of Fanny's refusal?
Compare Fanny's realistic view of love with another of Austen's heroines, Catherine Morland. (This annotation contains an image)
How is Lady Bertram a caricature of a woman of her class and position?
The Austen Project has current authors writing modernizations of each Austen novel. The 'Mansfield Park' modernization has not been written yet. Read this opinion piece on the project. Who do you think should be chosen to write it? (This annotation contains a link)
Henry's skill at reading aloud reinforces the concept that he is an all-around good
Entertainment during the late Georgian/early Regency period was pretty limited by today's standards. Dances, cards, putting on theatricals, and reading aloud have all been mentioned in this book as light entertainment performed in the home. Here are some more examples of what was considered entertainment at the time this book is set. (This annotation contains a link)
It seems that Fanny cannot escape the attentions of Henry Crawford. What do you think she will have to do in order to make him ultimately accept her refusal?
Henry sure talks pretty, but is there any substance to what he says here? What is the gist of his suit?
What is Edmund's motivation in asking Fanny about her feelings toward Henry?
Is Fanny always rational when having her "talks" with Edmund? Also, why might she be so adamant in letting Edmund know that she will never accept Henry?
What characteristic does Fanny find most troubling in Henry?
Notice that Henry's appearance is not really mentioned as one of the reasons Fanny should reconsider Henry's suit. Remember that the characters only thought him good looking after knowing him better. So why do film and TV adaptations of the novel cast conventionally handsome men in the role? (This annotation contains an image)
How are Fanny's sentiments here quite progressive for her time?
This is a very long and complicated sentence. What does it mean?
This scene highlights what similarity between siblings Mary and Henry?
One can almost picture the melodramatic way in which Mary delivers her impassioned speeches in this section. (This annotation contains an image)
How did Fanny's background ill prepare her for the romantic attentions of a suitor? Had anyone even brought up the prospect of her marrying before Henry proposed?
Correspondence and writing letters was not only just a way of communication (no telegraphs or telephones yet,) but it was another way for young women of leisure to occupy their time.
From whose point of view is this description of Mary most likely told (though technically it is part of the narration)?
Portsmouth was a bustling harbor town in the 19th century. Fanny has not been back there in a very long time. Do you think that Fanny is at risk here of over-romanticizing her childhood home? Why did she leave in the first place? (This annotation contains an image)
What is William's hope for Fanny's visit home? How can she be useful to her sister Susan?
What does this mean? What does this show about how the family at Mansfield really views Fanny? (This annotation contains an image)
Why does the narrator include such a detail about the maidservant?
How does this situation compare to how Fanny has been living at Mansfield for the past several years?
How is the Price house different from the Bertram house?
How does Fanny differ from her siblings? How might she be a different person if she had stayed in Portsmouth?
Why does this change the way Fanny feels about her family? Is Fanny a snob?
There was an HMS Thrush, but it wasn't launched until 1889. It was wrecked in 1917. (This annotation contains an image)
How would you characterize Fanny's estimation of her mother?
Samuel Johnson's quote adapted by Fanny: "Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures." What impression of marriage has Fanny formed by observing her parents? How is it different from what she has observed at Mansfield? (Pictured: Samuel Johnson) (This annotation contains an image)
What literary element is this an example of?
Consider how Fanny now views her family and her own position within her family. Do you think she now has a better understanding of how her Mansfield relations view her as a poor relation?
What is the "promised notification" alluded to here? How does Fanny attempt to escape her terrors and disappointments?
Do you think if Henry asked Fanny to marry him again at this point that her answer might be different? Why or why not?
What does an "oath" mean in this context?
The 2007 TV adaptation skips over Fanny's return to Portsmouth altogether. How does this change the arc of this part of Henry and Fanny's story? Watch the scene in this adaptation where Henry attempts to persuade Fanny one final time in this video. (This annotation contains a video)
What is so horrifying about inviting Henry to dine with the Prices?
Jane Austen heroines do love to take a good walk. Elizabeth Bennett in "Pride and Prejudice" prides herself as being an excellent walker. (This annotation contains an image)
This is not the first time that Fanny has been described as ill or sickly. How does this contribute to her overall characterization?
Even though Fanny was somewhat isolated at Mansfield Park, she is even more isolated in Portsmouth. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Mary's repetition of "but" indicate?
How does Susan stand out from Fanny's other siblings? Why do we learn more about her and her interests than the others?
Even though Edmund has been successful in his pursuit of Miss Crawford, why might the contents of this letter still make Fanny depressed?
This is a good place to note that a lot of Austen readers do not like Edmund Bertram as a character. Read this brief defense, and consider where you stand on the issue of Edmund. (This annotation contains a link)
What change do we see in Fanny's character after she reads Edmund's letter?
How are mothers portrayed in this novel?
What are the major conflicts in the book? Are the stakes particularly high in any of these conflicts?
What makes Mansfield a "home" to Fanny? What is the difference between a house and a home?
What is Mary referring to here?
Even though Mary has more personality and charm than Fanny, she is also far too fond of wealth to be the true heroine of the novel. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on this cryptic note, who is wrapped up in this scandalous rumor?
There were some newspapers/broadsides devoted entirely to exposing scandal for "moral purposes." Local newspapers were also not above printing the latest scandals. (This annotation contains an image)
Is either scandal a surprise to you? What has foreshadowed these events?
Read this article and consider wheter or not it is a compliment or an insult to be called "very Jane Austen." (This annotation contains a link)
What is the irony here?
Is this any different to how she viewed Fanny in the household?
How are the members of the Bertram family handling the scandal?
One Austen scholar, Sarah Muse, has this to say about Sir Thomas: "Austen’s depiction of Sir Thomas’s inner struggles illustrates the complexity and depth of her characters. Because Sir Thomas possesses multiple sets of values, Austen condemns him to a level of inner turmoil which he would never suffer externally in his own home. In his vain quest to pursue the goals of all his sets of values, Sir Thomas Bertram does little to credit 'the view and patronage of Mansfield Park' (473)." What do you think? (This annotation contains an image)
What offends Edmund most about Mary here?
What is Mary's plan to repair Maria's standing in society? Do you think it would work? (This annotation contains an image)
According to Fanny and Edmund, what is a shame about Mary?
What is the difference between Maria's and Julia's situations? Who is going to have an easier time earning the forgiveness of family and society as a whole?
Up to this point, would you have considered Henry to be a villain? Why do you think he won't marry Maria?
Did Mrs. Norris get her just desserts? (Which, of course, is an idiom meaning when someone is deservedly punished. It's not cake.) (This annotation contains an image)
In Jane Austen's time period, in a situation such as this who was punished more severely?
What is the purpose of this first-person narration paragraph?
What is one trait Fanny has that Susan does not?