Ideological Censorship of the Marriage Plot in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park
By Sergey Toymentsev
In my paper I will examine the theme of missed opportunities in Jane Austen’s novel
Mansfield Park by reformulating it as that of the opportunities necessarily dismissed,
repressed, or squeezed out by the ideological imperative of the novel’s plot. For this, I
will extensively consider the historical and ideological context of Austen’s work, upon
which the regulatory pattern of her marriage plot is thoroughly predicated.
Ideologically, Mansfield Park manifests itself as the conservative project of the
country house novel purported to improve the decaying state of aristocratic family in the
late 18th-early 19th century called the Regency Crisis (see Sales). Not only does Mansfield
Park historically capture the transitory moment of aristocratic England, it also promotes
the fortification of the domestic ideology as a programmatic cure of it, an ideology which
is to solidify and preserve family and home values with the emphasis on the paternal
authority and thereby reanimate the traditional (national, patriotic) tendencies of (middleclass)
aristocracy. Before we look at how this ideological improvement of the English
estate is accomplished throughout the novel’s plot, let us first consider what is exactly
wrong with Mansfield Park.
The Regency crisis of Mansfield Park is primarily represented through the
irresponsible and cheerfully selfish behavior of Sir Thomas’ son, Tom, who is supposed
to be in charge of the family and the estate while his father is away in the West Indies. He
spends most of his time at fashionable watering places gambling, drinking, and accruing
debts. When he is at Mansfield, he proves to be a master only in the arrangement of
pleasurable activities, such as an impromptu ball or theatrical, not business matters. It is
quite noteworthy that Tom is a rather marginal character in terms of his selfrepresentation
in much of... [continues]
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