by Jane Austen
Mansfield Park Theme of Language and Communication
This miscommunication and lack of communication play a bigger role in Mansfield Park than good communication. Whether communicating verbally or non-verbally, characters are frequently misunderstood, fail to make themselves clear, and misunderstand others. People assume things and hear what they want to hear. Sometimes they have to fill in the blanks, though. Silence is often a popular "communication" choice for characters who want to keep a secret or are scared to draw attention to themselves. But silence often speaks louder than words, so to speak, and silence is almost always much more inaccurate than words. However faulty language may be, silence often causes more problems.
Questions About Language and Communication
- Are Fanny's silences and her failures to communicate to blame for the bad things that happen to her? Is Fanny actually the cause of much of her own suffering?
- Fanny frequently has problems expressing herself and making others understand her. Do other characters have this problem as well? How do their problems expressing themselves differ from Fanny's?
- What is the effect of silence in the narrative? Does the narrative express any ideas or highlight any plot points through silence or through a lack of dialogue or narrator commentary?
- Do any characters seem to have good and effective communication skills? If so, who?
Chew on This
Fanny's silences, utilized to guard her secrets and to protect herself, just end up inviting people to make faulty assumptions about her, which causes more problems than speaking up would have caused.
If Fanny talks too little, then Mary talks too much and without any discretion or caution.