Mansfield Park

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The Gate at Sotherton Symbol Analysis

The Gate at Sotherton Symbol Icon

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

The Mansfield Park quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Gate at Sotherton. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Mansfield Park published in 2001.
Chapter 10 Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: Maria Bertram (speaker), Henry Crawford (speaker), Fanny Price, Mr. Rushworth
Related Symbols: The Gate at Sotherton
Page Number: 67-68
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Henry and Maria are lingering near the locked iron gate in the woods, waiting for Mr. Rushworth to return and bring them the key while Fanny looks on. Henry and Mary are discussing Henry’s ride to Sotherton with Julia, and Julia’s light-heartedness. The first speaker of the quote is Henry, telling Maria that she should be smiling like Julia, since a “smiling scene” surrounds her.

When Maria responds to Henry, she first asks him if his comment about the “smiling scene” is literal or figurative, and the idea of taking a “smiling scene” figuratively evokes Maria’s impending marriage to Mr. Rushworth, which is socially and financially advantageous, and should ostensibly make her happy. Maria replies that the “sun shines,” and the “park looks cheerful,” but that the iron gate gives her a feeling of “restraint and hardship.”

Maria is describing her actual surroundings—but her words, if read metaphorically, also suggest that, though the marriage Maria is about to enter into is a good match on paper, and though it would provide her with a financially secure and luxurious life, Maria feels stifled by the institution of marriage, and particularly the idea of her marriage to Mr. Rushworth. The gate represents the constraints and strictness of life in a loveless marriage, and so when Maria and Henry later jump over the fence together, they foreshadow their escape from marriage in the form of their adulterous, ruinous affair.


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The Gate at Sotherton Symbol Timeline in Mansfield Park

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Gate at Sotherton appears in Mansfield Park. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Money and Marriage Theme Icon move, saying that resting tires her. She decides to go look at an iron gate she spies a ways away. Edmund and Mary playfully banter about how far away the... (full context)
Chapter 10
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Maria says she would like to go through the iron gate into the park. Everyone agrees, and they decide to go to a knoll that they... (full context)
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
...since she has a lot to smile about. Maria agrees, but mentions that the iron gate is making her feel trapped. (full context)
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Henry proposes that they jump the fence instead of waiting for the key. Maria agrees. Henry says that even if they are... (full context)
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
...and that he was in a rush to get the key. Julia then jumps the fence and walks away. (full context)
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
...that the others have not waited for him, he is upset. He stands before the gate, unsure of whether to cross. He says that by the time he would get to... (full context)
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
...Maria, Julia, and Henry. At last Mr. Rushworth agrees and sets off, going through the gate with his key and walking away. (full context)