by Jane Austen
Mansfield Park Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- Fanny is frequently silent in scenes, and the narrator often describes her speech to us instead of letting us hear Fanny speak herself. How does this technique affect the narrative? Does this impact how we know and understand Fanny as a character?
- While the narrator keeps us posted on Fanny's inner thoughts, we don't hear Mary's inner thoughts as often. On the other hand, while we often hear Mary speak, we often don't hear what Fanny says to other characters. Do you think that these contrasts help to emphasize different aspects of their characters? Do we know one character better than the other or do we just know them in different ways?
- After Henry runs off with Maria, Mary angrily says that if Fanny had just married Henry none of this would have happened. Do you think that Fanny's continued refusal of Henry, and her insistence that he had bad principles, acted as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, in which Henry behaved as Fanny ultimately expected him to? Or would Henry have eventually behaved irresponsibly even if he married Fanny?
- In a way, Edmund created Fanny. His influence is a dominant force in shaping her character. Are these characters ultimately just a reflection of one another or do they have distinct differences?
- Should Fanny have given Henry a real chance or was she right to refuse his proposal?
- The narrator often withholds exciting details and scenes from us. For instance, we get pretty limited information about the book's major scandals. What's the impact of this withheld or second-hand information on the narrative?
- What is the effect of the narrator holding back certain details about Fanny's bad treatment and rough childhood at Mansfield Park until later in the book? Do we have a different understanding of Fanny's character before we start getting these details?
- We get fairly limited information about Edmund and Mary as a couple, and most of what we know of their relationship is told to and through Fanny. Why do you think this technique is used to depict Edmund and Mary's relationship?
- Overall, how do you think the narrator really feels about Fanny?
- Moral behavior and "right" principles are major themes in this novel, and the novel shows us a lot of different kinds of moral behavior. Do you think Mansfield Park is something of a morality tale, a story that has a sort of moral lesson in it? Or is it making fun of morality tales? Why do you think so?
- We see lots of characters who are restless and who move around a lot, as well as characters who rarely move at all. How does movement, or a lack of movement, help to define certain characters?
- Does Fanny's shyness make her a sympathetic character, or does it make Fanny more of a frustrating character?
- Does Fanny grow as a person over the course of the novel?
- Is the ending of this novel believable? If not, why is this important?
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