by Jane Austen
Mansfield Park Theme of Principles
In Mansfield Park, narrow views of morality often clash with more open and lax moral codes. All characters deal with questions of how to behave and what is right or wrong, though some stress over it more than others do. For everyone, right and wrong principles are a matter of judgment. While characters like Edmund and Fanny feel that morals are universal rules, and are right for everybody, others take a much more relative view of morals. Making moral decisions and judging situations often leads to judgmental behavior. However, lax morals can lead to hurt. There's a fine line between making judgments about people and situations and just being judgmental.
Questions About Principles
- Fanny frequently judges people around her, and she's often overly-confident in her own moral purity. But this attitude can make Fanny judgmental. Do you think Fanny's moral principles and attitudes undermine themselves?
- Fanny isn't the only one who judges people in this book. What are the effects of judging others throughout Mansfield Park? On the flip side, are there any good or bad effects from not judging people? Is judging others a good thing or a bad thing?
- Do you agree with Fanny's judgment of Henry or Mary? Is her opinion of them confirmed by the end of the novel?
- What is the narrator's opinion of Fanny? Are we supposed to see her as principled and determined, or judgmental and stubborn? What's the narrator's opinion of Edmund? Of Henry and Mary?
- Edmund and Fanny are the most consistently "moral" characters and they often share their moral philosophies with others. Do other characters express ideas on morality that differ from Edmund and Fanny's thoughts? If so, who does and what do they say?
Chew on This
Fanny is one of the few truly moral people in the book because she sticks by her principles no matter what.
The narrator often treats Edmund and Fanny ironically, or with a lot of humor and criticism. Though they are presented as "moral," the narrator doesn't really agree with the morality of Edmund and Fanny.