420 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 Paperback Release Date:07 Oct 2021 ISBN:9781988963358
Introduction by Sylvia Hunt
Few authors of the long eighteenth century have stood the test of time quite as well as Jane Austen. Readers and students continue to find great joy in Austen’s novels and the quotidian English way of life she describes. It offers the reader much more engagement with contemporary issues than Austen’s earlier novels. Austen was very aware of contemporary politics and social movements. Mansfield Park does focus on just a few families and it does take place in the English countryside, like other Austen novels, but it also takes on the issue of colonial oppression by doubling that topic with domestic female subjugation. In Mansfield Park, the English manor house is a microcosm of domestic oppression set against colonial oppression.
Fanny Price, the heroine of the novel, is an outsider. She is relatively impoverished, unwanted, plain, sickly, judgmental and silent. She represents a form of economic burden as well as a form of free labor to be exploited by her relatives.
In fact, all of her novels deal with women’s financial vulnerability, male economic and social privilege, and female education. Mansfield Park includes all of these topics, but it is unique in that it also takes on one of the most sensitive topics of the period: colonial slavery. This novel opens a window into her support for the abolitionist movement and connects the lives of slaves to the lives of English women in thought-provoking ways.
Mansfield Park represents Austen’s maturation as a novelist. Her early novels show her connection to the late eighteenth-century tradition of the novel of manners. This novel, however, shows that Austen was experimenting in her writing. The lovely England of the past was disappearing in the nineteenth century; landscapes were transforming and consumers were very aware of the colonial and domestic abuses taking place close to home and further abroad.