Hi everyone! I’ve decided to do a Jane Austen series. These aren’t real academic essays, I’m just spouting my thoughts stream-of-conciousness style & I don’t often go searching for exact quotes.
So, Mansfield Park. I was inspired by watching Ron Lit on Youtube (link at the bottom) and some of her analysis of Austen. She was talking about the hunkyness of Henry Crawford so that got me thinking.
I wonder, if Henry HAD waited for Fanny, and hadn’t been such a douche with Maria; would Fanny have fallen for him? Thing is, Fanny is not a very trusting sort, she is very timid. And she isn’t fully in touch with her own sexuality, so I think that Henry’s overt sexuality frightens her.
In many ways, I think that she loves Edmund because he is very proper and his affection is not sexualized. Fanny is NOT comfortable being sexualized. And, I get that. Fanny doesn’t like being forced into this role of sex object for men, where she will be paid for by her husband and then he will keep her. She has very little autonomy, and she’s protective of what she does have. Besides this, Fanny is emotionally stunted due to the neglect she’s experienced. So she’s even younger, emotionally, than she is by age. She’s just a young girl, she’s not ready for sex.
Fanny has been emotionally abused, and neglected for most of her life, and so she doesn’t trust affection until it has been proven. You can see how her female cousins have treated her, and especially her other aunt. Abuse works this way: the abusive people are nice to you one day, and nasty the next. So you come to feel unable to depend on consistency. Edmund is the only person consistently kind, and therefore all her needs for parental love & acceptance, familial/brotherly companionship, and just plain friendship end up being placed on Edmund’s shoulders. Fanny’s brother is in the navy, she never sees any of her family, she has no connection to them. At Mansfield, no one cares about her. All her needs are being met by Edmund alone. He’s her father, brother, and friend.
Edmund was attracted to Mary because she doesn’t have as many needs as Fanny. He can just relax and be a guy. He doesn’t have to play father with her. And she IS comfortable being sexualized. She sexualizes herself, and so Edmund doesn’t have to. Edmund is not very comfortable with sexuality himself. His brother is a real ne’re-do-well and I think that forces him into this role of being the Good Son and following the rules. Mary lets him break these rules in a comfortable, fun way.
Mary isn’t a villain, but she is a modern woman. She fits into the 21st century far more easily than her own time. In fact, I would argue that Mary is Fanny’s shadow self. All of Fanny’s hidden desires, her unattractive thoughts, her selfishness, her vanity, her sexuality, her confidence, her desire for control and power—they all are formed in the character of Mary. Because of this, Fanny is both attracted and repulsed by Mary. Mary is the embodiment of all the things that Fanny has either cast off because she thinks they’re inappropriate/unkind, or hasn’t been unable to attain because she lacks the experience/skill.
This is also the reason why there are many scenes between Mary & Fanny which are somewhat suggestive. Mary IS Fanny, so it’s only natural that they would have moments of intense sexual chemistry.
Because of the ideals of femininity during the Regency period, Mary cannot be the heroine. Fanny, though, can take on aspects of Mary. And I think she does so when she refuses to marry Henry, rejects Mansfield, and proves that she is an autonomous human being.
She will not openly become Mary, but when Mary disappears from the story, and Edmund falls in love with Fanny, I would argue it’s because Fanny has accepted more of her own true character than she had in the past. Not perfectly so, but she has grown up.