When the Crawfords, the Bertrams, and Fanny go to visit Mr. Rushworth at Sotherton, they go for a walk in the woods on the property. Maria, Mr. Rushworth, Henry, and Fanny, who have been walking together, stumble upon a locked gate. They want to go through and walk up to a knoll that they have spotted, but Mr. Rushworth has forgotten the key, so he walks back to the house and get it. While he is gone, Maria and Henry climb over the gate and head to the knoll without him. Fanny, thinking it improper, stays behind, while Julia follows Maria and jumps over the fence as well.
The crossing gate, which seems to represent moral transgression, foreshadows Henry and Maria’s later scandalous behavior when they run away together after Maria marries Mr. Rushworth, once again leaving Mr. Rushworth behind. Likewise, at the end of the book Julia ends up eloping with Mr. Yates. The narrator implies that Julia follows Maria’s led in her elopement, just as she does in jumping over the gate. Fanny, who is consistently on the side of moral rectitude throughout the book, does not cross, symbolizing her moral uprightness.
The Gate at Sotherton Quotes in Mansfield Park
“Your prospects…are too fair to justify want of spirits. You have a very smiling scene before you.”
“Do you mean literally or figuratively? Literally, I conclude. Yes, certainly, the sun shines, and the park looks very cheerful. But unluckily that iron gate, that ha-ha, give me a feeling of restraint and hardship. ‘I cannot get out,’ as the starling said.”