I wrote this piece a while back, but I didn’t want to share it right away, because it’s shorter and more of an overall look at Mansfield Park. More from my imagination of what could have been Austen’s point of view, rather than us as the entertained readers.
So, Lord Bertram. Lord Bertram is in trade, actually. Which is interesting for a Lord. I’m probably forgetting Austen’s explanations from the story. Where MP was inherited from, as well as the titles. But their money is, predominantly, from the slave trade in Antigua.
I would put forth that the dysfunctionality of the Bertram family overall, and all the troubles that befall them, actually stem from and are symbolic of this. The corruption comes from Lord Bertram himself–as the head of the household. The 1998 version dabbles in this–when it portrays Tom as an artist and his internal conflict with having seen his father enact atrocities against other human beings. But that is not an overt theme in the original narrative.
Someone should correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I watched a documentary that said Austen’s family had connections to the slave trade, and she herself benefited from this. Even if this is not the case, England’s economy at that time was definitely benefited by slavery in the colonies. So that would still be an indirect benefit to Austen herself.
We don’t allow slavery in the United States, but we still benefit from it today certainly. Almost all of our every day products are produced in sweat shops, or created by companies that have enacted horrific human rights violations. Check out some lovely info about Nestle, as well as other well known corporations, for some good examples.
Mansfield Park, then, might be seen to enacted her own turmoil upon the page. How life is tainted by human cruelty. I can’t be sure, but it’s interesting to think about.
P.S. It’s likely that others far more academic than myself have said this already, and better. I definitely recommend checking out some of them on Amazon.
- Janeite Thoughts for an Evening: Mansfield Park III
- Janeite Thoughts for an Evening: Mansfield Park II
- Janeite Thoughts for an Evening: Mansfield Park I