Who Paid the Bills at Mansfield Park? (2023)

February 28, 1993
Who Paid the Bills at Mansfield Park?
By MICHAEL GORRA
CULTURE AND IMPERIALISM
By Edward W. Said.

Who Paid the Bills at Mansfield Park? (1)he title of Edward W. Said's grandly conceived and long-awaited new book, "Culture and Imperialism," deliberately echoes the titles of two great works of criticism -- Matthew Arnold's "Culture and Anarchy" (1869) and Raymond Williams's "Culture and Society" (1958). Arnold saw culture ("the best which has been thought and said") as a safeguard against anarchy; the "and" in his title really means "or." That sense of opposing terms shapes Williams's work as well, a study of the way 19th-century social critics, Arnold included, came to view culture as a critique of "the bourgeois ideal of society."

The "and" in Mr. Said's own title seems more accurately chosen, since he argues that the terms it links are best seen not in opposition but in conjunction. Yet even so, I can imagine replacing it, not with "or," but with "of" or "as"; culture as imperialism, imperialism as a culture. For Mr. Said uses the word "culture" in both its Arnoldian meaning, to denote the realm of art and learning, and in the more inclusive sense employed by anthropologists. The two definitions fall into one. Or, rather, what the book shows is the involvement of culture in the first sense of the word -- the novels, poems, operas of high art -- with imperialism, itself a central fact of Western culture in the second sense.

"We assume," Mr. Said writes, "that the better part of history in colonial territories was a function of the imperial intervention." Yet in doing so, Mr. Said believes, we also assume "that colonial undertakings were marginal and perhaps even eccentric to the central activities of the great metropolitan cultures." And that assumption, he argues, is inextricable from our desire to excuse the cultural monuments through which we know the past for their participation in empire. (In consequence, a writer like Rudyard Kipling, who is inescapably linked with imperialism, has been pushed to the margins of the canon.) Charles Dickens provides an example for Mr. Said's argument, one that paradoxically enables him to demonstrate imperialism's centrality by detailing its peripheral status in the world of Dickens's novels.

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Critics have traditionally considered the empire irrelevant to Dickens, for the simple reason that he set his books in England. Yet Mr. Said points out that his characters enact a steady commerce between the metropolis and its colonial margins, and that the empire's role on the outer borders of the novels' geography belies the degree to which it underwrites -- in both a financial and a literary sense -- Victorian society as a whole. It is the place in which fortunes are made and to which social misfits, like Mr. Micawber, are consigned. Yet everything connected with the colonies happens offstage, Mr. Said continues, as if the culture's participation in imperialism is not only to be excused, but excised.

One of the best chapters in "Culture and Imperialism" describes Jane Austen's assumption, in "Mansfield Park," of "the importance of an empire to the situation at home." But when her character Sir Thomas Bertram has to visit the Caribbean sugar plantation that supports his country house, Mr. Said says, Austen falls into "esthetic silence." We never get to see him walk across that other, slave-run estate.

That Mr. Said's accounts of Dickens and Austen -- or of figures like Verdi, Camus, Gide and Yeats -- no longer sound so startling is attributable in large measure to his own earlier work. He has argued elsewhere that what is most interesting about art is its "worldliness," the way it both reflects and helps constitute the political realities of its society; this emphasis calls into question any belief in an autonomous or "pure" realm of art and learning.

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Mr. Said, now University Professor at Columbia, has long had a particular worldliness of his own, a double fame -- in the news media as a spokesman for Palestinian causes and a fierce critic of American policy in the Persian Gulf, and in the academy as the author of "Orientalism" (1978). There he described the ways the "Orientalist discourse" -- through which European scholarship came to define the Middle East as Europe's stereotypically exotic Other -- both legitimized and served French and British colonialism.

For Mr. Said the inescapability of that discourse kept -- and keeps -- the West from engaging with the actuality of the lands it sought to dominate, and his pioneering attempt to chart what one might call the textual manifestations of colonialism has had an enormous impact. He was among the first critics to show how one might mount the kind of sophisticated analysis of the close relations between literature and politics, knowledge and power, that now prevails in literary studies. No one examining the relations between the metropolitan West and the decolonizing world can ignore his work. If very little of what "Culture and Imperialism" has to say seems absolutely fresh, that is because other critics, working within the lines that "Orientalism" suggested, have already begun to explore the issues this new book raises (some examples: Gauri Viswanathan's "Masks of Conquest," Christopher L. Miller's "Blank Darkness" and Kwame Anthony Appiah's "In My Father's House").

But the model of "Orientalism" did have problems. In mapping the ways in which Orientalist discourse works, it fell, inadvertently but perhaps inevitably, into the very type of binary thinking it sought to attack, suggesting that there is indeed some "real" Orient whose radical difference remains unrepresentable in or by the Occidental mind. Appropriately, some of Mr. Said's most interesting chapters in "Culture and Imperialism" stand as an implicit response to the limitations of his previous work. For after describing the culture of imperialism, he turns, in the book's second half, to the "culture of resistance," to the anticolonial vision of writers like the Trinidadian C. L. R. James. Those chapters amount to an attack on "nativism," the systematic turning away from the West and its products that is often a response to colonial oppression.

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The cultural "authenticity" that nativism demands -- the call for Afrocentric education is a good example -- is at best reactive; a phase through which most liberation movements must go, but one that Mr. Said echoes Frantz Fanon in seeing as a pitfall on the way to a more far-reaching liberation. For "to accept nativism is to accept the consequences of imperialism, the racial, religious and political divisions" that colonialism imposes on its subject peoples. Nativism, he says, believes that we each have one absolute and essential identity, as blacks or whites or Serbs or Croats. Its other name is nationalism, and in the name of the people it can as easily build an empire as oppose one.

Mr. Said's account of the dialectical relation between imperialism and resistance is the most persuasive one I know. And I admire as well the equipoise of his call for a similarly "contrapuntal" approach to the canon of Western literature; asking, for example, that we play off a full awareness of the history that shapes the world of "Mansfield Park" against our "enjoyment or appreciation" of Austen's "irony and taste," while losing sight of neither. Yet even for readers like myself, whose sympathies are already engaged by his project, reading "Culture and Imperialism" can at times seem frustrating.

Its great scope means that it must settle for being suggestive rather than exhaustive about any one issue, any one text. And despite the overall strength of its polemical frame, its separate chapters remain too heavily marked by their origins as lectures. The lecturer wants to send his audience away thinking, so he throws out a great many ideas. But on the page they too often read as digressions, as a repetition of the ideas Mr. Said has developed in other lectures -- other chapters -- or simply as a string of names, as if that in itself constituted an argument: thus, "To speak today of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Carlos Fuentes, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and many others like them is to speak of a fairly novel emergent culture unthinkable without the earlier work of partisans like C. L. R. James, George Antonius, Edward Wilmot Blyden, W. E. B. Du Bois, Jose Marti."

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Yet that telegraphic style does not finally mar either the usefulness of "Culture and Imperialism" or its importance. If it is not a conceptual breakthrough on the same order as "Orientalism," it nevertheless stands as an urgently written and urgently needed synthesis of the work in a field that, more than any other critic, Edward W. Said has himself defined.

Michael Gorra, who teaches English at Smith College, is the author of "The English Novel at Mid-Century." He is at work on a study of imperialism and the novel.

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FAQs

What happens at the end of Mansfield Park? ›

The book concludes quickly. Mansfield Park slowly returns to normal. Sir Thomas is hard on himself for having allowed Maria to marry Rushworth. Julia asks for forgiveness, and she and Yates, who have married, are accepted into the family and seem eager to reform.

Why is it called Mansfield Park? ›

Why do you read? The name Mansfield Park is pretty straightforward – it refers to the main house featured in the novel.

What does Mansfield Park stand for? ›

Mansfield Park is therefore a place of contradiction and of unease; on the one hand it is an elegant and impressive display of prosperity and comfort; on the other, a shallow status symbol built from the proceeds of human slavery by a man whose aspirations outstrip his means.

What is the main theme of Mansfield Park? ›

Education is a major theme in Mansfield Park. The errors and sins of Tom, Maria and Julia Bertram on one hand and Mary and Henry Crawford on the other are substantially the result of flawed upbringing and failed education.

What happens to Mary Crawford at the end of Mansfield Park? ›

Mary goes to live with Mrs Grant, now living in London. Her search for a suitable husband is made more difficult by the qualities she had seen in Edmund and now, hypocritically, considers more desirable. Austen's conclusion is somewhat open-ended.

What happens to Fanny Price? ›

So, Sir Thomas finally sends Fanny away to live with her poor birth family in Portsmouth, to effect a cure for her obstinacy: once she re-visits the poverty and ill-breeding she was born into, she's bound to change her mind and marry Henry Crawford! Fanny's health and well-being be damned.

Are Fanny and Edmund related? ›

But the most prominent incestuous relationship of Austen's fiction appears in Mansfield Park, where the first cousins, Fanny and Edmund, have been brought up as brother and sister.

What is the best Jane Austen book to read first? ›

Chronological Order of Publication

And so, the simplest answer to where to start with Jane Austen is to read her novels in this way: Sense and Sensibility (1811) Pride and Prejudice (1813) Mansfield Park (1814)

How old is Mansfield? ›

Mansfield is a market town with a 700-year-old market tradition; a Royal Charter was issued in 1227. The present market square was created after demolition under the Improvement Act of 1823.

What is the irony in Mansfield Park? ›

Mansfield Park applies structural irony because Fanny does not come to terms with the reality and even though the reader knows the reality of the heroine, Fanny remains in delusions.

What is the moral of Mansfield Park? ›

From the very first chapters of Mansfield Park, then, Austen betrays the discrepancy between good manners and genuine morality. As Fanny grows older, unlike the other characters, she does not deviate from her strong set of moral principles, even when it means that she appears ill mannered or contrarian.

Who owns Mansfield Park? ›

Mansfield Park is the ancestral home of the Bertram family, and Sir Thomas Bertram is the worthy, aristocratic, and high-bred, albeit somewhat pompous and formal, owner of the property, which is a very good one. He has two sons, Tom and Edmund, and two daughters, Maria and Julia.

What does Mansfield Park Symbolise to Fanny? ›

At the same time, Fanny is moving emotionally from the miserable girl who was completely alone at Mansfield Park to the heroine who is the moral center of the house and of the novel. She becomes closer to the members of the Bertram family and feels that Mansfield Park is her true home.

Why is Mansfield Park important? ›

Like Jane Austen's other novels, Mansfield Park is a love story in which the heroine's rejection of one man and love for another involve important moral decisions; it deals with the by now familiar opposition and confusion of material and moral values; and its plot structure — introduction, development to a crisis, and ...

Who is Fanny Price discuss her role in Mansfield Park? ›

Fanny is a physically delicate, uptight, morally righteous, and easily-upset girl and later young woman, the niece of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram and the cousin and later wife of Edmund. Fanny moves to Mansfield Park as a child in order to relieve her impoverished mother of a financial burden.

Do Fanny and Edmund marry? ›

He falls in love with Mary Crawford who constantly challenges his vocation. Edmund goes ahead with ordination. At the end of the novel he marries Fanny Price.

What happened to Maria Bertram? ›

Henry, predictably, refuses to marry Maria, and Mr. Rushworth divorces her for adultery. She moves to "another country" (another rural area of England) with her Aunt Norris and they live together financially supported by Sir Thomas.

What happens to Tom Bertram in Mansfield Park? ›

Later in the novel, Tom leaves again to take part in a horse racing meet at Newmarket but has a fall and is injured which, combined with his drinking, causes him to become very ill. His friends abandon him and Edmund has to fetch him home to be nursed back to health. His illness causes his family to fear for his life.

Is Fanny Price disabled? ›

Fanny's disability causes other characters to treat her thoughtlessly, even using her disability against her through an affectation of care, such as that exhibited by Edmund.

Why is Mansfield Park controversial? ›

Mansfield Park is Jane Austen's Vanity Fair. Almost everyone in it is selfish: self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and vain. This helps make it her most unpleasant novel — and her most controversial. For years critics have exercised themselves trying to explain, justify, expound, or attack its moral slant.

What personality type is Fanny Price? ›

Perhaps the best fictional depiction of the INFP is the protagonist of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Fanny Price. A shy, quiet girl from a poorer noble family, she's brought to Mansfield at age 10 to live with her wealthier and more “talented” cousins.

How old is Edmund in Mansfield Park? ›

Edmund Bertram: of Mansfield Park. Second son of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, age 24.

What gift of William's does Fanny want to wear to the ball at Mansfield? ›

It's a necklace: the amber cross that Fanny Price wears in Mansfield Park, a gift from her naval brother William.

How did friendship develop between Fanny and Edmund? ›

This praise shows Fanny's mettle as a friend to Edmund, since she expresses her faith in the strength of his character, though he is in love with and confused by her (unacknowledged) rival. In this way, Fanny also predicts the behavior of both Edmund and Mary Crawford.

What is the shortest Jane Austen book? ›

Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen's shortest novel, and though she first drafted it in her mid-twenties, this was her final completed work. The text was published posthumously.

What is considered the best Jane Austen novel? ›

1. Pride and Prejudice (1813) Oh of course Pride and Prejudice takes the top spot! Well received at the time of publication, the novel's popularity hasn't dwindled with time.

How old should you be to read Jane Austen? ›

Age 12 is a common answer for the right age to read Austen for the first time, but why not get started at age 1 or 2? Here's a list of books and resources for kids interested in learning more about Jane Austen, and/or for adults interested in sharing Austen's novels with the children in their lives.

What is Mansfield famous for? ›

Mansfield was the chief town of Sherwood Forest—the legendary base for the activities of Robin Hood, the medieval robber and popular hero—and the forest court was held in the town's Moot Hall (built 1752).

What was Mansfield originally called? ›

Mansfield, originally known as Mount Battery, became a township that was surveyed in 1851 and named after Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, England. Settlement came after the discovery of gold nearby and the Post Office opened on 1 January 1858.

What's Mansfield known for? ›

Mansfield is a city in Richland County. It is known as the Carousel Capital of Ohio, Danger City, The Fun Center of Ohio and Racing Capital of Ohio and also the filming location for Shawshank Redemption.

Is Mansfield Park a satire? ›

Star as Fanny Price, where this deserving heroine gets her man in the end after much trial and tribulation and even saves the day. The satire of Mansfield Park is of the highest order; and readers are in for a special treat with this personalized novel which is deliciously witty and sparkling with intelligent humour.

What is the Ha Ha in Mansfield Park? ›

Ha-ha is mentioned in chapters 9 and 10 of Mansfield Park. It is a ditch, or, rather, a sunken fence by which means the formal garden of a (usually) grand house is separated invisibly from the park where livestock (cattle, deer and sheep) graze.

What is irony by Jane Austen? ›

“the basic feature of every irony is a contrast between a reality and an appearance.” Irony is Jane Austen's forte, it is very soul of her novels. It has been pointed out that it never imposes itself, it is never absent from more than a paragraph.

What is a garden party by Mansfield about? ›

The story centres on Laura Sheridan's response to the accidental death of a neighbourhood workman; Laura suggests that, out of respect for the man's family, Laura's family cancel their lavish garden party. Dismissing Laura's feelings as inappropriate and overwrought, her family proceeds with the festivities.

How does Austen present the theme of marriage and social mobility in Mansfield Park? ›

In Mansfield Park, love and marriage are not exclusive. Austen does not conceal the existence of social mobility through marriage (advantageous marriages) nor does she deny the fact that it is exclusive to women, in the similar manner that social mobility through profession is exclusive to men.

What is the moral of Mansfield's a cup of tea? ›

Answer: In A Cup of Tea by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of jealousy, insecurity, materialism and class. ... It would have been uncommon (at the time the story was written) for those considered to be of a lower class (Miss Smith) to engage with those considered to be upper class (Rosemary).

Is there a real Mansfield Park? ›

The primary location of Mansfield Park is the Northamptonshire house and landed estate from which the novel takes its name. This is an imaginary place which used to be thought modelled on one or two estates to the north of Northampton where Jane Austen's brother Henry had clients of his bank.

What is the oldest building in Mansfield Ohio? ›

Martin Bushnell House
Location34 Sturges Ave., Mansfield, Ohio
Coordinates40°45′10″N 82°31′24″W
Area1 acre (0.40 ha)
Built1892
8 more rows

Who did Julia elope with in Mansfield Park? ›

Shortly after Henry leaves, Fanny learns of a scandal involving Henry and Maria. The two have met again in London and begun an affair that, when discovered, ends in scandalous elopement and divorce. To make matters worse, the dissolute Tom has taken ill, and Julia has eloped with Mr. Yates.

Where is Fanny Price from? ›

Her father is an impoverished retired marine lieutenant in Portsmouth. There are eight other children. Because of the Price family's poverty, Sir Thomas Bertram offers to take Fanny in and bring her up at Mansfield Park, his Northamptonshire estate.

Who is Mrs Grant in Mansfield Park? ›

Susan Edmonstone: Mrs. Grant.

What is the conclusion of Mansfield Park? ›

Since Henry has not declared his love, Maria is married to Rushworth. She and Julia leave Mansfield Park for London. Relationships between the Crawfords and the Bertrams intensify.

What did Jane Austen say about Mansfield Park? ›

Jane Austen herself admitted that Mansfield Park was “not half so entertaining” as Pride and Prejudice.

What did Jane Austen died from? ›

Whilst it is impossible now to conclusively establish the cause of her death, the existing medical evidence tends to exclude Addison's disease, and suggests there is a high possibility that Jane Austen's fatal illness was Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphoma.

Who is the antagonist in Mansfield Park? ›

Mrs.

Norris is pretty straightforward as an antagonist. She's always mean to our protagonist, Fanny. She causes a ton of problems for everyone in the book.

Who is the main protagonist in the Mansfield Park? ›

Fanny Price

The protagonist. The daughter of a drunken sailor and a woman who married beneath her, she comes to live with her wealthy uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram.

Who is William Price in Mansfield Park? ›

Joseph Morgan: William Price.

Does Mansfield Park have a happy ending? ›

Mansfield Park ends with Fanny and Edmund married, and their happiness “as secure as earthly happiness can be.” In Emma, the titular character and Mr. Knightley are wed with “no taste for finery or parade,” but with “perfect happiness” in their union.

What happens to Julia Bertram in Mansfield Park? ›

She's always second-best: she loses Henry to Maria; she loses a part in the play to Maria and then to Mary. And she even loses the chance to return home once news of Maria's scandal breaks. In a panic, Julia ends up eloping with the man who paid her attention when Henry did not: Mr. Yates.

What happens to Tom in Mansfield Park? ›

Yates, Julia's future husband, to the Bertrams. But after doing all of this, Tom disappears for hundreds of pages, only to turn up near the end of the book dying from a serious illness. However, Tom's disappearance and subsequent illness are definitely important, too.

Why does Julia elope with Yates? ›

She eloped with John Yates after the disaster involving her elder sister Maria and Henry Crawford.

Why did Maria marry Mr Rushworth? ›

Maria Bertram was beginning to think matrimony a duty; and as a marriage with Mr. Rushworth would give her the enjoyment of a larger income than her father's, as well as ensure her the house in town, which was now a prime object, it became, by the same rule of moral obligation, her evident duty to marry Mr.

What happened to Bertram Thomas? ›

Bertram used to work at the mines, near the Mid Sodor Railway. His fate was unknown to many after the mine's closure, and it was assumed he was left to rust. He remained at the mine until it was rediscovered years later.

What is the climax of Mansfield Park? ›

Fanny refuses Henry's proposal.

Fanny's refusal of Henry's sincere marriage proposal causes a series of climaxes as Fanny has to talk with nearly all the major characters about her choice. The major climactic scene occurs during her confrontation with Sir Thomas over her refusal of Henry.

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