Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park

Themes and Colors
Money and Marriage Theme Icon
Manners vs. Morality Theme Icon
Letters and Character Theme Icon
The Country vs. the City Theme Icon
Inheritance and Meritocracy Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Mansfield Park, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Like other Jane Austen novels, Mansfield Parks observes—and scathingly satirizes—the fickle hearts and courtship rituals of members of England’s genteel class as they fall in and out of love. Like so many other novels of its day, Mansfield Park organizes itself around a marriage plot, meaning that the action of the story drives toward a wedding as the plot’s culmination and fulfillment. The book’s characters talk about marriage obsessively, and as they do, they repeatedly…

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Throughout Mansfield Park, Austen explores the complex relationship between manners and morality. Austen’s view of manners is difficult to identify, in part because Austen’s characters do not clearly define what they mean when they refer to “manners.” The meaning of manners in the book seems to be somewhat fluid, sometimes referring to knowledge of etiquette, sometimes to general politeness, sometimes to modesty, or gratitude, or pleasantness of personality, or social grace. Looked at more…

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As the plot of Mansfield Park unfolds, Austen draws attention to what her characters say and how they say it. Mansfield Park is bursting with commentary on language, and Austen repeatedly highlights how characters express themselves verbally— particularly through letters. Letters hold a place of supreme importance in the story, often serving as plot catalysts or revealing essential information. For example, Mrs. Norris’s letter to Mrs. Price, in which she asks her to…

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Throughout the book, characters in Mansfield Park move between their country homes at Mansfield and the surrounding property and cities like London and Portsmouth for business and for pleasure. Over the course of these travels, and through the characters’ discussions of these two different kinds of environments, Austen expresses a difference in how she and her characters view rural spaces versus how they see urban spaces, and how, although city-spaces are viewed as more sociable…

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Throughout Mansfield Park, issues of inheritance and meritocracy recur as Austen explores how characters’ different positions in families and society affect their incomes. Austen models the inheritance system in the novel on that of real-world England in the early 1800s, when inheritance worked through the system of male primogeniture, meaning that a father’s entire fortune goes to his first born son. Often, childless uncles’ would set aside money for younger male children. Otherwise, younger sons…

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